Thursday, April 5, 2012

A Bold First Step

François Hollande has shown the world that he has the right stuff to be president. Yes, his bold proposal to cut his own salary by 30% has shown the world that he means business. To be sure, €100,000 is but a tiny fraction of the €100 billion by which he has promised to reduce the French deficit (1 one-millionth, to be exact), but one can easily imagine the next steps: flying coach to the next G20 meeting, taking the Métro to work instead of a limo with police escort, state dinners catered by Quik, and lowering the Élysée thermostat by 2 degrees during the winter months. Who needs une règle d'or when the head of state is prepared to set such an example of frugality. Sarkozy's slogan is "la France forte." Hollande's could be "la France pingre."

7 comments:

brent said...

Your examples bring to mind a couple of home-grown examples from the 1970s: Gov. Dukakis taking the T to the State House, Pres. Carter turning down the thermostat and wearing sweaters. Both were trying to lead by example at a time when oil seemed to be a limited and problematic resource. But then came Reagan, the solar panels came down from the White House ... and sure enough the oil problem just went away, didn't it? So why use the bully pulpit of the Elysée as a symbolic forum, as we try once again to come to terms with an age of increasing scarcity, when you can just bluster and deny your way to popularity? But maybe that doesn't work so well in a time of structural crisis ...

TexExile said...

Given that Hollande dislikes the rich, I thought perhaps the pay cut was just a way of ensuring that he need not indulge in any unhealthy self-hatred.

Arthur Goldhammer said...

Monti and Hollande will become allies immediately after the election. Monti wants more stimulus from Germany; so does Hollande. Rajoy in Spain needs all the help he can get. The Southern Front will form quickly against the Teutonic Knights. We'll see who blinks.

TexExile said...

You may be right. I think Monti's approach is probably right -- Italy needs more structural reform but I do not believe it needs austerity. Its problem is not a public finance problem (the primary budget has been in surplus for 20 years) but a growth problem. If Italy does not grow, it will default regardless of its budgetary position, because the debt burden will just mount. And while I do not have much faith in fiscal stimulus to jump start things, severe austerity will definitely undermine growth.

Anonymous said...

The régle d'or as originally proposed had so many loopholes it was virtually pointless. This, at least, even if it doesn't solve anything, will be done (no loophole). There's a sense taxpayers have been asked for sacrifices while Sarjozy bought himself tons of things - lots of uxury cars, a plane with a €20,000 pizza oven in it... (I found the name, not Air France One but Air Sarko One, to be significant.
Leading by example is important. There's a difference between flying coach to far flung distances, and flying a private plane to an under 1hour by train destination and spending €4,000 A DAY on food for a couple people... Why not consider it's okay for the president to take the train? I remember from pre-thalys times, an image of Jospin taking a regular flight from Brussels, sure, 1st class, but a regular flight nevertheless. Returning to normal expenses -1st class regular flights, 1st class train, €200 meals - is not quite frugality on par with Quik and low temperatures, it's returning the presidency to normal.

Cincinna said...

 @Art
   Your sense of humor and irony is much appreciated.
 But leading by example is not such a bad idea, especially when you are living on the public dime. 
   Perhaps our own President might try and lead by example and cut back on the lavish entertaining, the $200K/hr in jet fuel to take AF1 to campaign fundraisers where his fellow elites fork over $35K per plate for dinner. Not to mention the endless extravagant vacations. 

  

Merlin said...

Hollande could have started to pay taxes at full rate rather then using tax loopholes and saving about 50% of his tax bill (Thanks to the Canard Enchainé). He could as well properly value his real estate and pay ISF.

But you know, do as I say, don't do as I do.