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ORIGINAL FRENCH ARTICLE: Pas de miracle à Pittsburgh

by Patrick Apel-Muller

No miracle in Pittsburgh

Translated Thursday 8 October 2009, by Isabelle Métral and reviewed by Henry Crapo

Nicolas Sarkozy should have listened to Beethoven’s advice: he chose instead to order the drums to be beaten before he had won the victory. Today he comes out of the G20 meeting divested of all glory. The arms he waved about and the banners he claimed he would plant on the heights of Pittsburgh lie piled up outside the White House. He did not even obtain satisfaction on the scandalous bonuses of traders - whom he intended to scapegoat so as to protect the financial markets.

No ceiling at all! Simply, long-term value creation is to be taken into consideration to a larger extent… if bankers so decide. Even the fantastic dream of regulating capitalism has been waived. The heads of State who set themselves up as the world’s economic governors have decided to move quickly towards the conclusion of the Doha cycle negotiations, namely to speed up “a more inclusive liberalization of trade”. “Free and undistorted competition”, which is meant to destroy all social safeguards and to curb the peoples’ freedom to make their own decisions has been set up as a dogma.

Replacing the G8 with the larger G20 might have raised hopes that the day would come when the 172 other peoples now deprived of influence within the world economic institutions could make themselves heard at last. No such signal was given: the reform of the IMF shall be settled among the twenty, including the US – despite its central part in the economic perversion - still has a blocking minority and has preserved its capacity to play havoc. It can still use the dollar as a weapon to pass on its debt to the rest of the world, and indeed further continental crises already loom ahead, whether in South America or in Asia. The IMF reform is not due until 2011 and might consist in the transfer of 5% of the shares and suffrage only.

Worse still, the 5-trillion-dollar bill for the rescue plans for the economic system is now being presented to the peoples. The G20 has proved incapable of taking the full measure of the environmental risks but Nicolas Sarkozy again praised his carbon tax before obedient cameras. He has pushed up the overall bill by promoting the taxation of the compensation money for accidents at work, even though the victims’ incomes are 40% lower than were their wages before they were injured. The same logic was applied when it was decided to raise the daily contribution inpatients are charged. Nicolas Sarkozy takes money from the disenfranchised to shore up the great fortunes that enjoy the benefit of his tax shelter.

True, there is no more chance of meeting up with victims of industrial accidents among Fouquet’s patrons than there is of meeting building site labourers or foundry steelworkers in his posh suburb of Neuilly. The Right’s plans for local government reform are primarily aimed at drastically reducing public investment (the investments of the towns, departments, and regions make up 73% of the total) and at keeping citizens at a further remove from the institutions where decisions are made. The regulation of capitalism, as promoted by UMP, Sarkozy’s right-wing party, consists in massively channelling the country’s resources to the financial markets. All the rest of his talk has a merely decorative function.

The endeavour, however, is risky. If the governing party still benefits by the weakness of the opposition, it nevertheless sounds somewhat alarmed. “We are practically halfway through the president’s and the assembly’s term. And I know by experience that this is always a difficult time,” François Fillon warned yesterday at the UMP deputies ‘convention. “Everywhere in Europe I see governments each and every one of which is given a rough ride by its opposition and public opinion." By rallying up and mobilizing energies, the prime minister concedes he might be defeated. I bet he can.

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