Friday, September 5, 2014

Thirteen Percent

It didn't seem possible that things could get worse for François Hollande, but they have. A new poll has his approval rating at 13 percent. The new secretary for--get this for incoherence--foreign trade, tourism, and French living abroad apparently doesn't like to pay income tax and was forced to resign after 9 days on the job, when the ethics police caught up with him. Prime Minister Valls, whose popularity was supposed to boost the president's baleful numbers, lost 14 points in his own approval rating, which plunged to 30%. The most "approved" party in the country is the Greens (which doesn't mean that those who approve of it will vote for it, of course), after Hollande booted its leader, Cécile Duflot, and Valls trashed (not without reason) her signature act as minister of housing. The mood in Paris is grim.

And speaking of income tax, my fellow blogger Arun Kapil informs me that his income tax bill just doubled. The middle class was already groaning last year about tax increases under the Socialists, and now this, just as payroll taxes paid by firms are being reduced (again, not without reason).

On the vie privée front, as everyone surely knows by now, the ex-soi-disant Première Dame published her secrets d'alcôve yesterday, alleging that, yes, the president did drive her to a suicide attempt, and what's more, he was contemptuous toward the poor he is supposed to represent, allegedly referring to them as "toothless." In response, French journalism yesterday discovered the dental problems of the bottom decile of the French income distribution (apparently they have 15% fewer teeth on average than the rich--a distributional marker that Thomas Piketty somehow missed).

In foreign policy, Hollande yesterday was compelled to reverse his decision on the 2 Mistral amphibious assault vessels that France had been scheduled to deliver to Russia. With Russia on the march in Ukraine, the pressure from NATO to scotch the deal was too much. Again, it was the right decision, but it came only months after Hollande and his foreign minister Fabius had forthrightly stated that a deal was a deal, that international law forbade them to prevent delivery just because Russia was making menacing gestures, etc. So Hollande looks weak for standing strong.

To top it all off, the European Court of Justice ruled that a state subsidy to the semi-private ferry company SNCM was illegal, a decision that will likely drive the firm into bankruptcy. The illegal subsidy was paid by the previous government, but the current one will be left holding the bag when the firm collapses, throwing 2,000 people out of work. Hollande just can't catch a break.

This government is the Gang that Couldn't Shoot Straight, Les Pieds Nickelés, the Keystone Cops, and The Three Stooges all rolled into one. It would be amusing if it weren't so alarming. The loss of legitimacy has been precipitous. Disgust is mounting, as is unemployment, while deflation looms to the point where Mario Draghi was forced to take unprecedented action yesterday, dropping central bank rates to an historic low and commencing purchases of asset-backed securities, hitherto taboo in Europe. And meanwhile Europeans are worrying about whether they will be asked to "die for Donetsk," and a million Ukrainians have been displaced from their homes in a proxy war between Moscow and Kiev. And the specter of ISIS fighters returning from Iraq and Syria to wage jihad in infidel Europe is also weighing on people's minds. Dark times.


Anonymous said...

Our monthly prélèvements have indeed doubled, or almost, but my wife and I are now thinking that the DGFP made a mistake, that an increase of this magnitude is not possible. We're going to see an agent at our local Centre des Impôts about it. So on this, affaire à suivre. But even if there has been an error and our tax bill is reduced, the increase over what it was last year will still be significant. Friends and colleagues with whom we have spoken over the past few days - and more of whom vote for the left than the right - are, in their majority, stunned at the sudden increase in their income tax bills. I should also add that our local taxes (taxe d'habitation) have risen by 50% over the past five or so years (and I live in a UMP-governed commune).


Anonymous said...

Will '#sansdents' become '#sansculotes'?

That's what people are asking over on Twitter where disrespect for Hollande seems to be reaching an unprecedented high.

The book (no one on high will admit to reading) is nearly sold out and headed for a second print run; the agitated masses, left and right, are planning to march on the Elysee today bearing toothbrushes; there is renewed talk of a 6th Republic. If France blows, so will the eurozone and probably the EU. Disturbing times.

Mitch Guthman said...

@ arun,

Mistake as to this exact amount or not, my prediction is that your taxes are going up considerably in the near future as the economy weakens further and tax revenues shrink. Eventually, of course, things will stabilize when the economy hits bottom and the social welfare state winds down so that the cost of providing government services will shrink accordingly. But in the meantime, taxes and deficits are going to increase very painfully.

For the past five years, Europe has served as a living laboratory for every crackpot Austrian economic theory with disastrous results. Yet the political and economic elites persevere, seemingly in celebration of the pain they are imposing on everyone else rather than despite it. At this point, it's difficult to deny that the elites are less interested in restoring prosperity than in using the economic crisis to dismantle the social welfare state.

Anonymous said...

I believe seriously that Hollande should be on suicide watch.

Anonymous said...

The guy really can't catch a break.
I don't like him that much but really, you gotta think, when is he going to catch a break?

That woman should audition for "Wives of Paris County", she'd be great. This is venom and lies, nothing that's in this book can be proved. She could have made it up and no one can prove anything. But she has all her journalist friends ready to promote her and her book. It's disguting.
(I don't especially like Hollande and I think that the way he dumped her is bad, but she does seem a harpy.) I still remember her tweeting to support an opponent of the socialist candidate because said candidate was her partner's ex and she was jealous. Really, what pettiness.

My taxes went up astronomically this year, too. And I'm really not what you'd consider "well paid" - my kids would qualify for Pell. It was a shock such as it's hard to fathom - they more than doubled and I only made about €1,600 more.

The only good news is that Najat Vallaud Belkacem was named Minister of Education. She knows what she's doing and, when I met her, she didn't treat us like rubes but was smart, kind, open-minded, able to listen, and just the kind of person you want for a ministre. Plus, she's an immigrant, like Valls, and it's high time France had a government that looked like its actual people (vs. fantasy France from a 1930s novel).

Anonymous said...

I attest to the rise of tax this year. Me and my wife make about 4000 euros a moth with one child and our taxes more than doubled. Add to that the tax d'habitation that is around 1700. And we have always voted for the left and now have a communist Mayor, who still refuses to give up his east at the Conseil régional.
What to do?

Anonymous said...

The guy has such bad luck that, when I heard he was going to Iraq, my first response was "Oh no, he's going to get shot at".

His chances at winning a primary in the PS or getting elected in 2017 are so slim that even Martine Aubry is speaking up. Raising one's presidential profile may also explain Montebourg's declaration of independence. It also means that in many circles Valls is seen as "cooked", too.

Anonymous said...

about the Thevenud guy: he just paid his taxes late. Big deal, don't many people do that? Listening to the news, I thought he hadn't paid his taxes at all!

Mortimer Randolph said...

the countries with liberal labor markets have lowr unemployment the the countries with "decommodified" labor markets. the countries with aggressv monetary policies have lowr unmployment than the countries without

France needs PS to lose, but not quite as much as the world needs MLP to lose. Draghi's printer or Sark's ticket!