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Editorial

ORIGINAL FRENCH ARTICLE: L’imposture

by Jean-Paul Piérot

The Imposture

Translated Thursday 10 November 2011, by Isabelle Métral and reviewed by Bill Scoble

The austerity plan presented yesterday [1] by François Fillon, the French prime minister, constitutes a further stage in the enterprise of social destruction that has been wrought since the beginning of president Sarkozy’s term of office in 2007. Familiar as those deceptive ploys have become, as has the dramatic staging of their delusive announcements, the enormity of the manoeuvre to which the completely discredited government just now resorts leaves one flabbergasted.

Short of being able to persuade the lower or lower-middle-class electors to whom he owes his victory in the presidential election - “I stand for purchasing power”, “work harder and earn more” - Nicolas Sarkozy thinks he has struck a note of fear that will enable him to evade the doom that awaits him in the polls. The Greek Crisis serves as a threat brandished against the social movement. “The word ‘bankruptcy’ is no vain word,” François Fillon deliberately warned, somewhat imprudently at that, since the remark exposes the team that has presided over France’s destiny for the last five years to the risk of being blamed by the better informed of our citizens for bringing down this dire prospect upon us. The French sovereign debt is inordinate? The deficit unacceptable? But who is to blame for the inadequacy of the public revenue if not those who under Sarkozy’s leadership have multiplied fiscal exemptions for the benefit of the richest and spread the cost of their largess on the rest of society through cuts in the social benefits.

This short-sighted policy has largely contributed to hampering growth, and hardly justifies Fillon’s prescribing “the acceleration of our efforts”. This headlong rush towards yet more austerity will push France down into a deadly spiral. The austerity plans stifle consumption and call for more austerity plans in the future. The scenario the Government is unrolling is very similar to the Greek scenario, only to a lesser degree, even though Nicolas Sarkozy is presented as the man who allegedly wants “to protect French people from the serious difficulties several European countries are labouring under.” What nerve!

The aggravation of the pension reform is sure to postpone the retiring age for salaried workers born between 1952 and 1956 and push up the unemployment rate for young people looking for jobs. The upgrading of benefits proportionately to the growth rate instead of the cost of living means that child benefits will increase by half the expected rate in 2012. The rise in the the lower VAT rate to 7% from 5.5% will cost low-income workers as much as billionaires. Likewise the uncoupling of the income tax from inflation will result in an undifferentiated increase in the tax pressure. The new cuts in public expenses and health care will be felt first and foremost by low-income families. Parallel to this, the “exceptional” rise in the tax on large companies and in the fixed levy on dividends, supposed to offset these dispositions, seem merely appetizers when compared to the extravagant bill footed by labour for these liberalities.

What cannot be denied is this government’s stubbornness. François Fillon slipped an ominous sentence into his speech: “Our growth model must be redefined: it has become unsustainable after being too long fuelled by consumption - itself stoked up by social benefits.” This is a major confession. Five years ago Denis Kessler, then at the head of the bosses’ association, hailed Nicolas Sarkozy’s election as the opportunity to give up the platform of the Resistance’s National Committee…Nicolas Sarkozy has not disappointed that component of the Right on this point!

[1Monday, November 7.


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