Thursday, August 23, 2007

Ouf!

Two months flat out, two weeks vacation, and now the tough slog begins. Of the leading measures taken by Sarkozy in the first 100 days, only one met with disapproval in the polls: the proposed elimination of 27,000 civil servants. Now come the first details. 11,000 posts will go in National Education, 8,000 of them teachers, mainly in the junior high and high schools, already beset with problems of discipline in many places. This will be a very unpopular measure, especially in view of the harsh report on the primary schools just submitted to the government. The teachers' union SNES-FSU denounces the reductions as an "attack" on education.

Sarko has also swallowed his first reversal. Having vowed at first to find a way around the Constitutional Council's decision against the retroactive mortgage tax credit, he has now thrown in the towel. "Blame the Constitutional Council," he says to those who accuse him of failing to make good on a campaign promise.

The proposed social VAT promises to be another sticking point. Copé continues to make threatening noises, no doubt reflecting the worries of other UMP deputies that the price hikes will be far more evident than any highly hypothetical price reductions resulting from the elimination of taxes on overtime.

Downward revisions of expected growth will also upset budget deficit calculations and lead to renewed friction with other EU countries.

So the honeymoon appears to be over. The intoxication of ouverture has worn off. The realities of governing have returned. The rentrée is not yet chaude. Worse for Sarkozy, it is tepid. He thrives on speed, sweat, and show. Emotion is but a temporary substitute, and the affairs of petit Enis and the Sokalique will soon fade from memory. The next big enchilada is to be unveiled on August 31 before the big bosses at the MEDEF's summer university. Then the rentrée can begin in earnest, and it may indeed turn chaude.