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Politics

INSTITUTIONS. « IL FAUT ASSAINIR LE SYSTÈME DE FINANCEMENT DE LA DÉMOCRATIE »

Translated Sunday 30 December 2018

In her essay The Price of Democracy [1], economist Julia Cagé denounces the vicious circle created by the financing of political life. A circle that contributes to maintaining and strengthening the interests of the bourgeoisie. Interview.

Thursday, December 27, 2018. Interview of Julia Cagé, économist and professor at Sciences-Po, by Oliver Morin.

Huma: Emmanuel Macron’s policy is closely linked to the way his campaign was financed, You explain in your book...

Julia Cagé: La République en Marche is a party that has not been able to benefit from direct public funding, and I would like to stress this point. Because, when it was created in 2016, it could not count on the amount of money calculated according to the results of the legislative elections, for the simple reason that it has not yet participated in those elections. It therefore carried out a massive fundraising campaign. And it got almost nothing but donations of the maximum legal amount, that is, 7,500 euros. It was therefore financed by the most favoured. I looked at the structure of donations to political parties in France. And it turns out that donations of this amount are made by the richest 1% and even 0.1%. Emmanuel Macron’s economic policy corresponds to the preferences expressed by these rich people and not at all to the interests of the majority. In the City of London alone, he raised 800,000 euros (compared to 30,000 euros raised in the city of Lille). The consequences were rapid: abolition of the ISF, flat tax on capital and abolition of the exit tax.

Huma: So it’s a kickback....

Julia Cagé:Absolutely, except that it’s not corruption, since there’s nothing illegal. It is the system that is flawed. Especially since although Emmanuel Macron did not receive direct funding, he did receive public money. Those who gave 7,500 euros actually spent only 2,500 euros. The remaining €5,000 is refunded in the form of a tax reduction. Of the 13 million donations that financed the LaREM campaign, 8 million euros were paid by the French. This is one of the other injustices in the system, because only the wealthiest benefit from this tax reduction. When the most modest, who are not subject to income tax, want to give, for example, 300 euros, they pay 300 euros.

Huma: You also say that the more money you spend on an election campaign, the more likely you are to win...

Julia Cagé: We have studied all legislative and municipal campaigns since 1993. All other things being equal (gender of the candidate, outgoing or not, characteristics of the riding, etc.), the more a candidate spends, the more likely he or she is to win. This encourages the hunt for private donations and therefore to defend, once elected, those who have given the most: the richest. The use of private fundraising sirens has led to the working classes no longer feeling represented by some left-wing parties. The most striking example is the Democratic Party in the United States. There is almost no difference between his economic program and Donald Trump’s. Only societal differences remained. This led to this paradox: the working classes voted for the Republican candidate. The system of financing democracy must therefore be improved.

Huma: What solutions do you propose to achieve this?

Julia Cagé: Simple solutions exist. In my book, I propose "good for democratic equality". To avoid disparities between citizens, the same amount of public money is allocated to each citizen. And everyone can give it to the political party of their choice. The system would be annualized rather than frozen every five years based on legislative results. The other proposal is to drastically reduce the amount of private donations allowed. I propose to limit it to 200 euros. This is essential.

Huma: How does the current mobilization of Gilets Jaunes (Yellow Vests) affect the exercise of democracy?

Julia Cagé: There are purchasing power demands directly related to Emmanuel Macron’s policy. But the Gillets Jaunes also say that they are not heard, and that they no longer feel represented. They are right. This is what my third proposal proposes to solve. This is the establishment of a Joint Assembly. The same number of seats in the National Assembly is retained, but one-third of them are elected on a proportional basis from lists that will be socially equal. With workers, employees and precarious workers. To have MPs who are more reflective of society as a whole.

[1Le Prix de la démocratie de Julia Cagé. Éditions Fayard, 464 pages, 23 euros.


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