Tuesday, July 2, 2013

The Restive Left

As one might expect with presidential popularity at an all-time low, the parliamentary wing of the Socialist Party is increasingly restive. Several groups of left-wing deputies, representing more than 1/3 of the Socialist group in the Assembly, have banded together to call for tax reform in the direction of greater "social justice." Specifically, they want to see a reduction of the CSG for lower-income groups and a corresponding increase for higher-income groups--a "revenue-neutral" reform in US parlance.

This is hardly a radical proposal. Compared with some of the more comprehensive tax reforms being discussed during the campaign (as in the debate between Hollande and economist Thomas Piketty organized by Mediapart), it's hardly a reform at all. But that may be its virtue: it's simple and quickly doable, and Hollande needs something to redorer son blason before the next round of elections. So it might just happen. If it did, it would have the added virtue of suggesting that the Assembly is not completely passive or useless. One of the banes of the Fifth Republic has been the demotion of the Assembly to a limp appendage of the presidency when the president's party also controls the legislature. It's good to see the stirring of some initiative on the part of legislators at a time when the government seems to be caught up in its various schemes for welfare-state retrenchment (pension reductions, labor-market reforms, etc.).

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