Thursday, February 9, 2012

Second Mise en Examen for Eric Woerth

Eric Woerth, former budget minister and Sarkozy's 2007 campaign treasurer, has been mis en examen a second time. The first was for "passive influence trafficking" in connection with the sale of a race track in Compiègne. The second cuts closer to the president himself, because the charge is "concealment of illicit financing of a political party."

After letting Woerth twist in the wind for an extended period in 2010, Sarkozy finally cut him loose without so much as a farewell, and now it is clear why.

Back to the Workhouse

President Sarkozy appears to be launching his campaign with an interview granted to Figaro Magazine, to appear this Saturday. Le Monde outlines the major points. I can only describe the tenor of this program as Bonapartist. Apparently, Sarkozy has taken the comparisons with Napoléon le Petit to heart and is proposing to become Napoléon encore plus petit.

His conception of reform in his second term is predicated upon a series of great referenda, in which proposals for fundamental change will be submitted to the people, whom the Prince-President assumes will back him, bolstering his legitimacy and autocratic power through a series of plebiscitary confirmations. The first of these fundamental changes is an overhaul of the system of unemployment compensation. After a few months out of work, recipients of unemployment benefits will be required to sign up for job retraining in exchange for further benefits. The unemployed will be required to choose from a menu of "qualifying employments" to be defined by a national committee. Training may indeed be a useful thing to offer to the unemployed, but what purpose is served by making it compulsory? The idea seems to be to transform unemployment compensation from an insurance program offering protection against the vagaries of the economy to a disciplinary tool. Many so-called job retraining programs exist already, and often they are useless and misguided. The reform will make submission to the useless and misguided compulsory and deny the unemployed the freedom to choose how they wish to adapt to changing market conditions.

The second major reform concerns immigration: Sarkozy wants to transfer all competence in matters of immigration to administrative bureaus and to subject applicants for residence permits on the grounds of marriage to housing and means tests.

The third major reform will be in the area of education. Details are scanty, but it seems that he wants to tighten the "working conditions" of teachers, whose vacation time he may be seeking to shorten.

Curiously, after five years in power, Sarkozy seems to be saying that the major problems that France faces are best addressed by discharging responsibility onto scapegoats: the unemployed, the immigrants, and teachers. In 2007 he came into office promising to evaluate the performance of government and to fetch "growth with his teeth." Now, he says nothing about whether government has passed or failed its test, and the problem of unemployment due to lack of growth is to be dealt with by cracking down on unemployed workers and immigrants.

It is hard to see what constituency he thinks will respond to this appeal.