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ORIGINAL FRENCH ARTICLE: Les allocataires, nouvelle classe dangereuse

by Lina Sankari

Are Child Benefit Recipients To Be the New Dangerous Class Then ?

Translated Wednesday 5 May 2010, by Isabelle Métral and reviewed by Henry Crapo

Problems at school, poverty, crime, dependence on public charity …. all lumped together! Nicolas Sarkozy is at it again, in an attempt to regain his popularity.

This is a poor remake. After the UMP majority’s debacle in the regional elections, the right is in a state of panic and is using heavy field artillery. Or even mining the old seams. Thus Nicolas Sarkozy paid a much publicized visit last week to the department of Seine Saint Denis with a view to whipping up fears about security. The real aim being to re-unite right-wing voters and promote a view of French society’s cohesion based on the exclusion of the under-privileged. Once more he is putting on the tough-guy act and deliberately sowing confusion by lumping crime together with poor performance at school.

But for years now, schools have been left to shift for themselves as the parents’ free choice of their children’s schools has been encouraged, and dozens of thousands of teachers’ and assistants’ posts have been slashed. But the president would have us believe that the great plague is the terror struck by young delinquents.

Don’t statistics irrefutably support the President’s demonstration? Since last January, 663 cases of drug-dealing have been brought to light, 1,500 persons taken in for questioning, one ton of cannabis resin seized, 57 kilos of cocaine, 16 kilos of heroine, two million and a half euro in cash. And then comes the juxtaposition: “40% of the département’s young people have at least one immigrant parent”, so the President observes.

In such a context, withdrawing child benefits for truancy may well seem a deterrent. Just like the enrolment of more policemen. How could national solidarity be relied on to help parents who have no authority over their children?

Quoting an expedient IPSOS poll, the ministry of education reveals that 65% of the French actually support the temporary withdrawal of child benefits in case of truancy. If we are to follow that logic, school attendance should be considered as a weapon against crime. A strange logic!

In the book of political records, this compares with Ségolène Royal’s proposal during her presidential campaign of military discipline for delinquents. But now, without refuting the president’s terminology, even Ségolène Royal says she doubts that “to starve the younger brothers of delinquent teen-agers” by withdrawing child benefits would be a solution.

The withdrawal of family allowances and child benefits is one of the right’s old favourite ploys. For it makes it possible to broach the public charity theme, which was abundantly used in 2007 presidential and general elections. In this respect, the accusation launched against Lies Hebbadj a few days ago (a citizen of Nantes whose several wives are suspected of receiving the single parents’ allowance) comes in the nick of time. This allowance is no longer a right. It must be deserved. Down with criminals, the poor, truants, polygamists. It’s one and the same war. The tactic is all too obvious.

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