Opinion | Macron’s Moment of Truth – By Sylvie Kauffmann – The New York Times

By Sylvie Kauffmann
Ms. Kauffmann is the editorial director of Le Monde.

Dec. 6, 2018


President Emmanuel Macron, center, inspecting the damage from protests over a planned fuel tax increase in Paris this month.CreditCreditEtienne Laurent/EPA, via Shutterstock
“PARIS — He was the savior of Europe. A 39-year-old maverick who rescued France from the populist tide, the newcomer who crushed his far-right opponent Marine Le Pen in a TV debate on the eve of a presidential election. The leader who would make liberal democracy great again. The visionary who had a plan to jump start the European Union. A 21st-century John Kennedy. Some joked that he could walk on water.

That was 2017. Eighteen months into his presidential term, Emmanuel Macron, faced with an uprising by a leaderless army of working poor in yellow vests and by violence unseen since the student riots of May 1968, is struggling to take back control of his country. The charismatic young president was jeered by protesters who tried to chase his car this week when he visited a public building set afire by rioters in Le Puy-en-Velay, in south-central France. “Macron, démission” — “Macron, resign” — has become the rallying cry of these modern-day sans-culottes, whose anger is directed at him, personally.

In a rare show of humility, Mr. Macron admitted a month ago that he had “failed to reconcile the people with its leaders.” Little did he suspect that the anger would turn into hatred, of the kind thrown in the face of dictators by the Arab Spring. As a fourth Saturday of protests looms, in spite of an olive branch offered by the government, nobody can predict whether this revolt will eventually give way to dialogue or degenerate into an even more profound and dangerous crisis.

What went wrong? Two sets of factors have come into play. One is not specific to France: an insurrectional wave that is now a familiar feature of Western democracies shaken by the disruptions of globalization, the aftermath of the 2008 economic crisis and the inability of our traditional political parties to adjust to these new challenges. Brexit, Donald Trump’s election, an emergence of the far right in Germany and a victory of anti-system parties in Italy — all, though less violent, are part of the same dynamics. Emmanuel Macron was initially seen as a bulwark against this trend. More determined than his predecessors, he would reform France with a progressive agenda that would do away with the injustices of the old world.”

via Opinion | Macron’s Moment of Truth – The New York Times

I love this piece by Silvie Kauffmann, but I found a comment which has a different view, which I also endorsed. It it difficult, to like two views that seem opposed to each other.

Times Pick

Emmanuel Macron has clearly miscalculated. He’s doing exactly what he said he would during the campaign. The carbon tax was also on most parties’ platform (especially on the left). However that was not enough for France to accept it. He may have thought he should cram as many reforms as he could early in his mandate. But he will have to change his plans.

For the past 20 years, all French governments have tried to reform but had to back down because of protests. The irony is that Ms. Kauffmann and her fellow French journalists bear a lot of responsibility.

Where in Le Monde columns can one read that France has not had a balanced budget since 1974? That government spending in France measured as the percentage of GDP is the highest in the western world? That public social spending is the highest in the OECD? That the income inequality is not that high and has been stable for 20 years? French people don’t understand the need for reforms and how urgent they are. The only things they hear from journalists is that Macron cares only about the rich and there is money in France and you just have to take it.

The truth is that the only way to maintain the generous French welfare state is to balance the budget and broaden the tax base by reducing unemployment and fostering economic growth. Ms. Kauffman should make that case.

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