Thursday, August 30, 2012

No Longer Passing Between Raindrops

On his inauguration day, François Hollande was drenched by heavy rains, but in the ensuing months he seemed to passer entre les gouttes, as they say. No longer. His approval rating has been falling sharply:

Un effritement à l'ifop (moins 2 points), un fléchissement chez CSA et TNS Sofres (moins 5 points), un affaissement pour Ipsos (moins 11 points).
The reasons will be clear to anyone who has been reading this blog over the past few weeks. Hollande's program has been looking increasingly incoherent. Any pretense to combat Europe-wide austerity seems to have been shelved. He has meekly accepted the fiscal pact, which he had promised to renegotiate. While that promise has been forgotten, other promises--to subsidize youth employment, roll back gasoline prices, hire new policemen and teachers--have been kept, but so has the insistence that the budget will somehow be balanced to respect the fiscal pact. Some tax increases have been announced, but not enough to compensate for the new spending.

The next few weeks may well prove decisive. Either he has a real plan in mind, or he intends to hold these contradictory good intentions together with chewing gum and baling wire, in which case the whole contraption may well fall apart, triggering protests from both his left and his right. I wish him well, but at this point it is hard to see where he is headed. If, in fact, his goal is the "balance-budget stimulus" recommended by Joseph Stiglitz, then he really owes it to the country to lay out in detail how he will shift government spending priorities to bring about growth while at the same time raising revenues to meet the requirements of the fiscal pact, which he now apparently supports.