Greetings from Obamaland!
Actually, that’s wrong in two respects. First, I’m actually in France. And even though I’ve joked that Obama wants to make America like France, technical accuracy requires me to admit that my real location is Paris, where I participated earlier today in the latest stop on the Free Market Road Show.
Second, I used the “Obamaland” joke when writing a few days ago about my visit to Greece. So I should probably not over-utilize any literary crutch.
With those caveats out of the way, allow me to wax poetic about troubles in the land of wine, cheese, and 35-hour work weeks.
Actually, I won’t wax at all. Let’s look at what a former Frenchwoman has to say.
Veronique de Rugy of Mercatus, a native of France who escaped to the United States, has a column looking at the turmoil and angst in her home country.
…another European Union member is quietly slipping into economic despair. After years of fiscal mismanagement, France is in a bad, bad place. …France spends more of its GDP on government-57 percent-than any other country in the Eurozone. The country’s unemployment rate is at a 16-year high of 11 percent, and a startling number of richer and younger French people are leaving for more hospitable economic environments abroad. …Since the creation of the Eurozone in 1999, France has only managed a 0.8 percent annual growth rate.
The statists in France seem to think the right way of dealing with this crisis is to double down on statism.
…the French government’s response to anemic growth and higher unemployment has been to tack toward less economic freedom, not more. …President Francois Hollande of the Socialist Party has refused to trim France’s social-welfare spending-the highest of all developed economies-and has chosen instead to chip away at the country’s huge deficit by raising taxes.
Hollande’s statism doesn’t seem to be earning him any friends.
Hollande’s commitment to big government hasn’t won him any friends. The French rank him as the least popular president of the Fifth Republic, and young people are voting with their feet. According to the data from French consulates in London and Edinburgh, the number of French people living in London is probably somewhere between 300,000 and 400,000. That’s more than the number of French people living in Bordeaux, Nantes, or Strasbourg.
I know one reason they’re running away.
Taxes, mandates, and regulations make everything so expensive that a McChicken sandwich at McDonald’s, which costs only $1 in the United States, costs about three times as much in Europe based on current exchange rates (as you can see from the pictures I snapped in the metro).
Anyhow, the people of France seem to understand that’s something’s amiss.
And in recent local elections, President Hollande’s party took a bath.
Here’s some of what the New York Times reported about recent local elections.
French voters dealt a blow to the government of François Hollande on Sunday, rejecting left-leaning candidates for local office in at least 155 cities while embracing more conservative politicians…the Socialists lost former strongholds like Toulouse and Limoges, as well as many smaller towns. …Economic troubles cast a long shadow over the elections, as Mr. Hollande’s efforts to reverse the trend showed few results… Overall unemployment in France at the end of 2013 was about 11 percent.
Doesn’t sound like the socialists are doing so well. So does this mean Hollande may get tossed out of office in a few years?
Perhaps, but the real question is whether that would make a difference. It seems that the so-called right-wing politicians in France (and elsewhere in Europe) are so squishy and statist that they make Republicans look like paragons of principle.
Here’s some more of what Veronique wrote in her Reason article about Hollande’s predecessor.
…data compiled by tax-watchdog groups and the media in 2012 show that during Sarkozy’s rule, from 2007 to 2012, taxpayers were subjected to 205 separate increases, including excise taxes on televisions, tobacco, and diet sodas, multiple increases in capital taxation, and a wealth-tax hike. Sarkozy is also responsible for increasing the top marginal income tax rate from 40 to 41 percent in 2010, and again to 45 percent in 2012.
In other words, Paul Krugman is right that there’s a plot against France.
But he’s wrong to imply that folks like me are in the cabal. The real threat to France is French politicians.
P.S. The best April Fool’s humor I saw was this “story” sent by a friend in the Bahamas. Sounds like it could have been written by John Stossel.
In an absolutely astounding announcement today, Janet Yellen made a stern and heartfelt apology for 100 years of asset bubbles, depressions, recessions, panics, banking crises, and all-around inflation caused by the Federal Reserve.
Flanked on both sides by former Fed Chairmen Ben Bernanke, Alan Greenspan, and Paul Volker, Ms. Yellen stated emotionally, “As grand wizards of the financial system, we must accept full responsibility for the consequences that our decisions have had on the lives of ordinary people around the world…”
“Frankly,” Ms. Yellen continued, “I can’t believe in this day and age that total control of the money supply is awarded to a tiny handful of unelected central bankers. It is a most undemocratic system and should be abolished immediately.”
If you like Federal Reserve humor, allow me to call your attention to this video from the Fed Chairman’s childhood, this special Fed toilet paper, Ben Bernanke’s hacked Facebook page, the Bernanke-who-stole-Christmas image, a t-shirt celebrating the Fed Chairman, and the famous “Ben Bernank” video.