INSEE announced today that France is back in recession, with another quarter of negative growth. Meanwhile, Le Monde has adopted the tone of those whom Paul Krugman calls Very Serious People. In an editorial today, the paper gravely clears its throat and calls for ... structural reform, while warning readers that--surprise--these take time to produce results. France has been talking about structural reform for twenty years. The editors might have aimed to be a little more specific.
But sometimes one has the impression that nothing ever changes in France. Is it so long ago that Sarkozy supposedly took care of the so-called special retirement regimes? Yet last night they were all back in the news, on France2's JT de 20h. Every one of them, including the SNCF's, whose reform was the centerpiece of Sarkozy's effort.
But of course as I wrote at the time, Sarkozy headed off more serious trouble with the unions by buying some (the train drivers) off with side deals, while delaying the effect of reform for others by many years. Austerity means that these arrangements have proved too costly, so Hollande will be forced to undo them. Now we will hear the Right criticizing the Left for redoing what the Right previously did badly under volleys of catcalls from the Left. Is it any wonder that people distrust politicians?