Monday, January 25, 2010

Mistral on the Situation in the US

This is about American rather than French politics, but I recommend to French readers this article about the state of affairs in the United States by my friend Jacques Mistral. I share his pessimism.

The Coming Week in French Politics

Here's what promises to be an hour of compelling television: first Sarko fields some softball questions from the charming Laurence Ferrari, then he sits down for a little back-and-forth with hand-picked representatives of "the people." As I said a couple of posts back, it's the hour of populism, and something must replace the Proglio affair in the headlines. Thursday will be a big day: the Clearstream verdict will be announced, and either Villepin will be ready for that butcher's hook or he will come roaring out of the Palais de Justice ready to stake his claim to the presidency. À suivre.

Copé Bio

If Sarkozy is the "omnipresident," then Jean-François Copé is the "omni-heir apparent." He flaunts his ambition as though it were the chief qualification for the job--and this could be the definition of chutzpah. A biography has appeared, and the story of his life is excerpted here. Interesting reading

Implications of the Proglio Affair

Henri Proglio has now renounced his Veolia salary but will remain as chairman of the board. But the opposition smells blood and is pressing its point home, and Christine Lagarde said last not that this situation will not last. So the question now is what will become of Proglio's "retraite chapeau," or supplementary retirement, from Veolia, which is valued at between 13 and 20 million euros? The whole notion of la retraite chapeau (the legalities of which are explained here) comes up at an awkward time for the government, as it is about to enter negotiations with the unions on raising the retirement age, in which it has just received a fillip from Martine Aubry, who has recognized the need for such an increase in the name of the Socialists. But here is the government, bending over backwards to save Proglio's golden retirement bonus, while insisting on the need for higher contributions from workers to preserve their retirement benefits. To be sure, there is no logical link between the two situations, but the emotional resonance is clear. As "populism" has become the label for the political turn in the US, so it may be in Europe, where favoring the wealthy and squeezing the less wealthy is as unlikely to please the many as it has proved in the United States. The only question is which unions and above all which political parties will be the first to exploit the opportunity.