Macron should prepare for an early retirement: Spiked
The French "president of the rich" is implementing the pension reform bill that reduces benefits for people, especially the middle class.
A report written by Spiked, reveals that more than a million people demonstrated against French President Emmanuel Macron's proposed pension reform bill last Thursday. Public sector employees, train drivers, teachers, refinery staff, and other striking workers joined the protesters.
What does this mean?
The changes will cause millions of people's benefits to be significantly reduced and the retirement age to rise from 62 to 64, making them work longer for a smaller pension, according to Spiked.
The working classes will be most impacted by the bill, which will penalize those who began working earlier in life. It has been difficult for Macron to highlight any advantages of his strategy.
What did Macron do?
Despite coming up short in the legislative elections last June, Macron has continued to push forward with his reform agenda. He asserts that because of France's significant budget deficit, "the current system is in danger" unless pensions undergo serious reform, according to Spiked.
The report states that the public is informed that there is no other option, that pensions are too expensive, and that there is no magic money tree.
What about public debt?
The public debt has increased by a startling €600 billion since Macron took office in 2017, despite his support for austerity policies and deficit-reduction measures. Whether it's tax breaks for the wealthiest 1% or government support for French industry and green investments, the French state has managed to find endless lines of credit to finance its own priorities.
Macron's true priority is to support large corporations rather than to protect workers or even to balance the budget. Consider Bernard Arnault, the head of the high-end clothing company LVMH. Arnault, whom Macron knows personally, is currently the richest person in the world.
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Macron's last straw
In recent years, his business empire has benefited from massive state subsidies. LVMH even planned to use the French government's furlough scheme to pay its employees during the Covid pandemic in 2020, but it later backed down in the face of public outrage. Such obvious transfers of wealth from the working classes to the wealthiest have become all too common in Macron's France.
The pension reform is considered the last straw for many. It has even managed to unite the trade unions in opposition to it.
This is more unusual than you might suspect, given French workers’ international reputation for bold and disruptive tactics. In truth, French unions are often deeply divided and suffer from low recruitment levels.
What are the consequences?
In France, only 11% of workers belong to a trade union, which is less than half of the figure in the UK. And the five largest unions, which range from the Catholic CFTC to the Communist CGT, rarely agree. It took Macron's attempts to force his pension bill through to bring them together.
What is Macron expected to do, will he do?
Macron is under pressure to make concessions ahead of another national day of protests on January 31. And, given that the French economy is nearing recession, the government may struggle to maintain its position as the economic cost of the walkouts rises.
The French president has so far attempted to ride out the storm. When asked about the strikes during a Franco-Spanish summit in Barcelona, he stated that he was still committed to his reforms.
On the other hand, he may find it difficult to hold the line. He is in a much weaker position in his second term than he was in his first, not least because his party does not have a majority in the National Assembly.
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That said, since her appointment in May, his prime minister, Élisabeth Borne, used the deeply undemocratic Article 49.3 of the French constitution no less than ten times. This provision, established by Charles de Gaulle, allows the executive branch to pass laws without a debate or vote in parliament. This is what allows Macron to maintain power and implement his reforms. At this point, only a vote of no confidence could bring his government down.
Although public opposition to Macron's reforms is growing, opposition parties in parliament are less united. The center-right Republicans, who hoped to implement similar reforms under President Nicolas Sarkozy in 2010, have largely supported the pension reforms. Parliament would need to work together in unprecedented numbers to stall Macron's agenda.
In France, parties from all political stripes rarely find common ground; the last successful no-confidence vote in a French government occurred in 1962. However, if Macron continues to unite his opponents as he has, he has the potential to make history. This would raise the potentially humiliating prospect of early parliamentary elections.