Friday, August 12, 2011

Cozy Sarko Support Group

Nicolas Sarkozy has agriculture minister Bruno LeMaire working on his official campaign platform, but it never hurts to have other minions at your beck and call. So a group of septuagenerians has been enlisted, led by Vivendi president J.-R. Fourtou and including Figaro editor Mougeotte and former Grenoble mayor and convicted felon Alain Carignon.

Sheesh. In what other country can a presidential campaign be advised by the editor of one of the country's major newspapers? Conflict of interest? Ni vu ni connu.

Aubry Responds to the Golden Rule

She makes some good points and offers some reasonable ideas--not new by any means, but reasonable.

Was SocGen the Victim of a Misread Fiction?

Truth is stranger than fiction, especially when a fictional account of the collapse of the euro published in Le Monde serves as the basis for a purported news article in The Daily Mail, which then becomes a rumor that takes down the bank's stock.

New Book

For a tour of the state of center-left parties in the US and Europe, have a look at the new book What's Left of the Left? Democrats and Social Democrats in Challenging Times, edited by Jim Cronin, George Ross, and Jim Schoch, just out from Duke. George Ross and I contributed the chapter on France. (Caveat: the papers are based on a conference held 2 years ago, so you won't get the most recent developments--such is academic publishing--but the arguments still hold up fairly well, I think.)

Baroin Joins the Tea Party, Economists Floored

Finance minister François Baroin knows who butters his bread. Nicolas Sarkozy has made "the golden rule" (not "Do unto others ..." but "Balance your budget at all cost") the watchword of his campaign, and Baroin has therefore become a spending slasher. But raising revenue is unthinkable:

«On ne touche pas à l'impôt sur les sociétés, on ne touche pas à l'impôt sur le revenu, on ne touche pas aux prélèvements sociaux et on ne touche pas à la TVA», a asséné le ministre. Il y a à cela «deux raisons», a-t-il ajouté : «c'est un choix politique assumé par le gouvernement de ne pas faire porter l'effort de réduction des déficits sur une augmentation d'impôts car c'est la solution de facilité».
You have to admire his faux forthrightness. The decision to cut expenditures without raising taxes is "a political choice for which the government assumes responsibility not to place the burden of reducing deficits on a tax increase, because that's the easy way out." So, instead, the burden will be placed on all those whose benefits will be cut and jobs eliminated as the government moves toward austerity without unduly burdening corporations or wealthy individuals. The distributional consequences of austerity are swept under the rug by casting the choice as one between "placing the burden on taxes" or resorting to the tough choice to cut expenditures. It's as if redistribution were between taxes and spending rather than between the better-off and the worse-off members of society. Baroin here seems to be borrowing his rhetoric from the Tea Party.

I suggest that he read the "Manifeste des Économistes Atterrés" (how to translate? Floored Economists? Dumbfounded Economists? Speechless Economists?), which was issued well before the current resurgence of crisis and which nevertheless raises questions that remain pertinent today.

Times Assesses Sarkozy's Challenges and Strategy