Tuesday, December 13, 2011

"Superbonuses" at Sciences Po

According to Médiapart, ranging from 10,000 to 100,000 euros, paid to 9 members of the executive committee. "We're not Goldman Sachs," said one.scholar. Indeed not. What was the basis of these "performance bonuses?" Just a few days ago Sciences po announced measures to further increase diversity in the student body--France's future leaders. A good thing. But this "bonus culture" seems rather alien to the spirit of academia.

Sigmar Gabriel on Europe

While François Hollande has thus far responded rather disappointingly to last Friday's Brussels pact, the German opposition leader, Sigmar Gabriel of the SPD, has published a long article in the FAZ attacking the deal and calling for a broad rethinking of the basis of the European Union. Instead of a "fiscal union," which he (rightly) believes is necessary, he argues, in a nice phrase, that Sarkozy and Merkel have given us a "sanctions union."

Diese dringend notwendige Fiskalunion hat Angela Merkel am letzten Wochenende zu einer reinen Sanktionsunion degradiert.
Hollande was in Berlin last week for the SPD party meeting, but he doesn't seem to have returned with anything like Gabriel's analysis, since he's still promoting austerity with a human face rather than "fiscal union." A huge mistake.

Fais gaffe!

(h/t Catherine Moreau)

Decentralization and the Working-Class Vote

Bernard Girard offers a fascinating insight into the alarming statistic that the Front National now claims almost a majority among working-class voters. The key is this map, which Bernard takes from a business journal called L'Usine nouvelle (interactive version here--try it for an interesting glimpse of the state of French employment):


The map shows job losses in various places in France. Bernard's interpretation is that state policies of aménagement du territoire (a difficult-to-translate term for which regional planning is a fair approximation) have led firms to locate in small towns and semi-rural areas by offering them important incentives (free land, tax breaks, and reduced labor costs). The problem is that these firms are often the only industrial employers near where they locate, so when they close their doors or lay off workers, it is difficult for the unemployed to find new jobs near their homes. That is why Marine Le Pen's rhetoric of "deindustrialization" resonates so well with working-class voters. "France no longer exports anything. Our industries have all been outsourced," she claims, falsely: France, the world's 5th largest economy, is also its 5th largest exporter. But workers who suddenly find themselves without work and with no other employer nearby may be excused for concluding that they live in an industrial wasteland.

Would relocation incentives help? It's an idea that the Socialists might want to consider.

The Nuclear Debate

Review of a book by Dessus and Laponche, who argue that an end to French nuclear dependence is possible.

French Income Map

The bluer the area,  the higher the median household incomes; the redder, the lower. Details here.

Big Losses at Areva

Areva, the French nuclear flagship. 87% state-owned, announced losses of 1.4 to 1.6 billion euros. Although the poor performance has been blamed on the downturn in the nuclear industry caused by the Fukushima disaster, Areva's problems are deeper, with major losses incurred from design flaws and other problems with the EPR construction in Finland and Flamanville as well as from a uranium mine acquisition in Canada.