Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Restoring the Balance

As if he had read my previous post on his unbalanced presidency, President Macron went yesterday to Amiens to underscore his commitment to workers. Or perhaps it was Thomas Legrand's radio editorial, which made the same point I did. Or Marcel Gauchet:
« C’est la limite actuelle du macronisme : il parle à la France qui va bien, mais il n’a pas grand-chose à dire à l’autre », met en garde le philosophe et historien Marcel Gauchet dans le numéro de septembre-octobre de la revue Le Débat.
Or maybe it was just the promise he made in the heat of the campaign to return to Amiens, the site of his dramatic confrontation with Whirlpool workers whipped into a frenzy by the prior visit of Marine Le Pen.

In any case, here was a golden opportunity to keep faith with the spirit of en même temps. Firms will get tax breaks, but at the same time they will create more jobs. In Amiens the theory has supposesdly been put to the test: the Whirlpool plant has found a buyer, who has agreed to save some jobs, and Amazon, though being dunned by the EU for taxes, has agreed to open a new installation. Was this a response to Macron's policies or to the high unemployment rate in Amiens, which ensures a decent supply of workers ready to work for whatever wage Amazon is willing to pay? Who can say? The economists have yet to do their regressions. In the meantime, Macron can take credit. His friendly reception suggests that he may not have alienated the entire working class, as Jean-Luc Mélenchon claims. His approval rating has bounced back a bit off its low. But most of all, the new president has shown an ability to learn from his mistakes and correct his course. This was a successful coup de comm', as they say, but it may also be something more: an indication that the president really is willing to meet the opposition half-way.

3 comments:

Geoffy4T said...

"This was a successful coup de comm', as they say, but it may also be something more: an indication that the president really is willing to meet the opposition half-way."

Or...

It could be that Paul Greenberg's famous capture of the inner Bill Clinton is apropos to EM: "It is not the compromises he has made that trouble so much as the unavoidable suspicion that he has no great principles to compromise."

Anonymous said...

Well, the visit to GM&S in Creuse showed the resolution was short-lived. Although the media are making a mountain out of a molehill, the molehill is there. The full dialogue has been posted by Bruno Roger Petit, showing that there's a context to the "Let them look for jobs, f..." but there's no escaping the fact he's speaking about men tethered by their mortgages to a place where there aren't any jobs. GM&S was the main employer in the whole département. There are a handful of jobs elsewhere, as Rousset was saying, but it means the men need to leave their family and may not be paid enough to even pay for their hotel and their family's expense. I don't know if you've been to Creuse, but saying the solution is to look for jobs is similar to "let them eat cake".
For a long time people from cities came to Creuse to send their young men do the dangerous labor needed. People are proud of their "expats" and have a strong local culture of protest. When the last minister came and said "we'll retrain you", one of the men said "you'll retrain us to become unemployed" and hte minster scoffed. Training can be a solution but training isn't always possible nor does it lead to anything.
These men built their whole social network (in the primary sense) through colleagues, whom they've lost. They left school at 16 when that was what you did when you came from the countryside and were a man. They have an 8th grade education, at best. And they're 45 to 55 - an age most French companies consider too old to hire, even if you have qualifications.
Emmanuel Macron doesn't seem to understand all of that. All that weight and grief and anger.
This isn't Whirpool in Amiens - a desindustrialized region with empty factories. This is one of the most rural areas in France, where many places don't even have cell phone reception let alone broadband access, and where going to high school is a minor victory.
Besides, there ARE jobs in Creuse, but impossible for most: what Creuse desperately needs is doctors (especially specialists in rural medicine and old age medicine), vets (specialized in large animals), nurses who don't mind driving on terrible roads all day long to go fom patient to patient, osteopaths, and social workers.
So, judicious use of that visit could have been the announcement of a Rural Medicine Faculty in a Creuse town with excellent numerus clausus numbers (like 40%)-- the medicine programs are all oversubscribed and Rural medicine is overdue as a specialty in France --, and/or making the full cell coverage and broadband access a priority with a check point 3 months hence. THAT would have made sense to people in Creuse.

bert said...

Additional evidence: this week's coverage in the Economist.
Contrast with this sort of thing.
He's their absolute boy.