Strikes in France
Lost in the furor regarding such things as Barack Obama's surge in Iowa, the crisis and Pakistan, and even the Hollywood writers strike is the situation in France. Thousands and thousands transportation workers have gone on strike, paralyzing the country, which relies heavily on public transportation.
Adding to the crisis in France is a general strike set for today. Many teachers, hospital workers, tax agents, bank tellers, postmen, telecommunications, airport and other public-sector workers, and weathermen are set to engage in a monster strike to intended to paralyze the country.
The reason for these strikes is a drastic reduction in benefits and pensions. Public transportation workers used to receive government benefits not shared by private employees. French President Nicolas Sarkozy. Any reduction in government aid is just unconscionable for these poor French laborers, thus the strike. Sarkozy, going against ninety years of constant surrendering by French leaders, refuses to back down. His word, he swears, will be law.
Of course, its hard to make sure your word is law if there aren't any judges. Next week, many French lawyers and judges are also set to strike, as the Sarkozy regime will also ruthlessly terminate over 200 courts. (But if you are one of the lawyers who shows up, you have an easy case).
And it is not as if France doesn't need economic reform. France's public debt is skyrocketing faster than anywhere else in Europe- and with the attitude that European governments have towards spending, that is saying something. France also features 8.4 percent unemployment. Among its youth however, unemployment sits at an unbelievable 22 percent. In 1939, near the end of the Great Depression, our unemployment rate was 15 percent. In some neighborhoods, unemployment is over 60 percent.
The French national debt is enormous. Their national debt is 48 percent of the GDP- not counting French Social Security. If you factor in Social Security, some estimates place the debt at 200 percent of the GDP. France, in addition to high unemployment and excruciatingly slow economic growth, also has a huge national debt.
It is clear that France must do something. The only tenable option is to trim some of the
Brobdingnagian French welfare system, a strategy that Sarkozy is pursuing.
The strikes are the response of a French people that have wholly dependant for government for everything. Even after Sarkozy reduces benefits, the government help that French will still receive make even the most extreme Democrat demands seem completely insignificant by comparison.
The French rely on government for healthcare, education (college students are striking too, it seems that Sarkozy is planning on reducing financial aid for students), and transportation. They even look to government for what to think- there is a reason there is no French Rush Limbaugh. Any dissident voice is quickly shut down. They let government control the countries wealth. The top tax rate in France is around 65 percent. The French, and virtually all of Europe, give government near complete control of their lives.
And that is why the Nicholas Sarkozy's reduction is government benefits is so important. By itself, it is insignificant. But seen as a possible precedent, it could very well be a move that changes France permanently. It may represent the start of the weaning of France from the allure of the welfare state.
No socialist country can survive long. If the country is despotic, it can string out its existence for a few more years by squeezing every last drop out of its inhabitants, if benign, it falls more quickly. France's policies have, historically, placed it in the "falling more quickly" category.
However, if Sarkozy can even begin to reverse the disastrous economic policies that France has embraced, he may give France a new lease on life- literally. Lower benefits may force some of the populace to provide for themselves, an ideal that has been lacking in recent decades. If Sarkozy can reinstill some of that spirit, he can count his Presidency a success.