Today's the Day for Brazil

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SAO PAULO: Maybe the fourth time will be the charm. President Fernando Henrique Cardoso tries again to yank the budget-deficit bottle from his country's mouth on Wednesday as Brazil's congress vote on his fiscal austerity plan. The plan's last failure, in December, sparked the capital flight that forced Brazil into its current currency debacle; another one would cause a full-fledged meltdown. Foreign investors have given a cautious blessing to the real so far, but the country's near future depends on investors' confidence in Brazil's economy over the long term.

The vote promises to be close. Cardoso loyalists in congress already had to delay a planned referendum on the bill Tuesday because they couldn't be sure it had the votes; now the austerity plan looks headed for a vote late Wednesday. The problem? Its centerpiece is a money-saving reduction in the cushy social security benefits of civil servants -- and in Brazil's congress, that's about as popular as rounding the workers up and shooting them. The plan has broad popular support -- Cardoso was reelected as a budget-cutter -- but legislatures, as America well knows, don't always listen to that pesky vox populi. Perhaps they'll listen to that wolf that's been pawing at their door all week.