Macron, malgré tout
March 21, 2022
Ania Nussbaum raises the right question about French election Bloomberg, Why-it-s-hard-for-a-French-president-to-get-reelected, A. Nussbaum
1. How strong is Macron’s position?
Very strong, he will win.
2. What role has the war in Ukraine played?
Very important, the French are proud to see that their country plays a role in the international scene.
“Macron has maintained France’s voice in international politics, which is over-sized compared to its economic and military heft, largely because of its historic ties to countries that won independence after being colonized more than a century ago.”
Not very diplomatic but true. France GDP (PPP) 2.2% of world GDP. France high public debt ratio does not make the country very credible in terms of sustainability; but it works. France has an atomic bomb; it has a place at the UN security council. The French ties to French-speaking Africa is waning. France is fighting above its weight, and it works (not always, look at the submarine and Germany who prefers US fighter jets rather than French...).
3. How big an issue is the economy in the campaign?
That is the question. Not very big.
“Labor and tax reforms may finally be delivering results” well, yes there is a decline in unemployment from 9% to 7%, this is not a small achievement for France, but unemployment rate is 3.8% in the US, the same percentage in the UK and 3.1% in Germany. France is far from full employment.
The decline in unemployment will not continue if some major structural reforms are not done. The tax reform is far from done; France tax ratio is higher than in other developed nation (52% of GDP against 31% in the US). These taxes weight disproportionally on enterprises (“charges sociales” and taxes on production). To reduce unemployment, you need to reduce them, but to reduce tax you need to reduce the public expenditure ratio which is the highest in the world (France 61% of GDP against 42% in the US, if you prefer to compare France to a more “welfare-oriented country” Germany, 53% of GDP). Therefore, you need: -to curtail the tremendous number of useless civil servants (their status which explains a lot), -to reduce pension expenditure (14% of GDP), -to reduce various subsidies and duplication of bureaucratic institutions (ARS). President Macron is silent on that. The only candidate, who has the courage to speak about public expenditure reduction, is Valérie Pécresse (11% of intention of the vote in the first round versus 30% for Macron (March 19).
Therefore, the tax reforms depend on the expenditure reduction, not considered seriously today by Macron. Yes, he will have to do something, whether he likes it or not, because the country cannot continue to have a fiscal deficit of 9% a year cum an expenditure ratio amounting to 61% of GDP, so something should be adjusted, whether you raise tax or you reduce expenditure. The traditional Keynesian argument that deficit will increase growth is a farce.
4. What else are people taking about?
Two items: security (domestic) and purchasing power.
Security means curtailment of immigration (from Africa) and tougher implementation of existing laws against delinquents. Ex. in a French city of the center of France, gilets jaunes put the fire to the “Préfecture’’, the prefect saw and know them. None have been convicted, and Macron, President of the French Republic, acknowledged it in an interview with LCI.
5. Why is the left no longer the force it was?
The working class is voting for the extremist (Le Pen, Zemmour, Mélanchon).
The French socialists are advocating US wokism and extremist ecologism.
6. What does Macron stand for?
A mixture of socialism and liberalism. A man of the center without strong convictions but articulated and courageous. Why to say that he will be obliged to take unpopular measures if he knows that he is going to win?
7. What else should we watch for?
The presidential voting is limited to two rounds in France, at the second round, limited to two candidates, the first wins. But this is not the end of the story, there is a “third” round, the legislative election (June 12) will follow the presidential one. If the party of Macron (En Marche, EM) wins the legislative election, then the President Macron selects the PM. If the party EM does not have the majority in the parliament, then the PM will be issued from the opposition and the elected President cannot rule as usual, he is obliged to name a PM in the opposition (right or left). Therefore, the Macron’s victory is not secured.
One should not forbid that if Macron is elected, he will gather about one third of the vote in the first round, it means that he will be elected with two third of the population against him. The French electorate may not vote en masse this time for the Macron’s party, EM, which is not known for its performance. It has been deliberately underrated by the President and the executive power.