Macron’s Pension Reforms Are Eminently Reasonable

Then-Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni of Italy is received by President Emmanuel Macron of France at the Elysée Palace in Paris, September 27, 2017
Then-Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni of Italy is received by President Emmanuel Macron of France at the Elysée Palace in Paris, September 27, 2017 (Elysée)

Having liberalized labor law to make it easier for companies to hire, reined in labor migration from Eastern Europe to protect low-skilled workers in France and shaken up intercity bus service and the state-owned railway company, President Emmanuel Macron — just fighting his way back from the reactionary Yellow Vests protests — is taking on a reform of France’s sprawling pension system.

You can’t accuse the man of not trying. Read more

Democratic Primary News

Democratic senator Kamala Harris of California visits the aircraft carrier USS Teddy Roosevelt, June 2, 2017
Democratic senator Kamala Harris of California visits the aircraft carrier USS Teddy Roosevelt, June 2, 2017 (Office of Senator Kamala Harris)
  • California senator Kamala Harris has ended her presidential bid.
  • Support for Massachusetts senator Elizabeth Warren has fallen from a high of 26 percent to under 15 percent since she announced her Medicare-for-all plan.
  • Former New York mayor Michael Bloomberg is officially in the race and trying an unconventional strategy: bypassing the first four primary states.
  • Former vice president Joe Biden remains at the top of the field with 25 to 30 percent support. Read more

Britain’s Health Care Debate Is Broken

London, England at night, February 14, 2012
London, England at night, February 14, 2012 (Warren Chrismas)

When it was revealed last week that the British government had not ruled out giving American pharmaceutical companies more generous patent rights under a post-Brexit trade agreement with the United States, the opposition Labour Party was up in arms, accusing the ruling Conservatives of putting the National Health Service (NHS) “up for sale”.

The Conservatives rushed to deny it.

“The NHS is not on the table,” said Health Secretary Matt Hancock. “We are absolutely resolved that there will be no sale of the NHS, no privatization,” said Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

The episode was emblematic of the British health care debate: Labour mischaracterizes any proposed change as a step toward privatization while the Conservatives, rather than make the case for choice and competition, try to convince voters they care about the NHS even more. Read more

Small Victory for Catalan Separatists in Spanish Coalition Talks

Spanish party leaders Pablo Iglesias and Pedro Sánchez speak in Madrid, February 5, 2016
Spanish party leaders Pablo Iglesias and Pedro Sánchez speak in Madrid, February 5, 2016 (PSOE)
  • Spain’s center-left Socialist Party has agreed the independence crisis in Catalonia requires a “political” solution.
  • This is a small victory for the separatists, whose support the Socialists need to form a government.
  • The Socialists and the far-left Podemos won 155 out of 350 seats in the lower chamber of Congress on November 10. Regional parties hold the balance of power.
  • The two intend to form a coalition government with the Socialists’ Pedro Sánchez as prime minister and Podemos leader Pablo Iglesias as deputy prime minister. Read more

Subscribe to Our Weekly Newsletter

Enter your details below to receive Nick Ottens’ newsletter every Wednesday.

Germany’s Social Democrats Elect Left-Wing Leaders

Norbert Walter-Borjans, then finance minister of North Rhine-Westphalia, addresses the Bundesrat in Berlin, February 20, 2014
Norbert Walter-Borjans, then finance minister of North Rhine-Westphalia, addresses the Bundesrat in Berlin, February 20, 2014 (Bundesrat/Frank Bräuer)

Earlier this month, I argued that lurching to the left would be a risky strategy for Germany’s Social Democrats (SPD), but that the alternative — staying in a grand coalition with the center-right — is too.

A change could scare off centrist voters, who have an alternative in Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrats or Germany’s pragmatic Green party. But the grand coalition has wearied leftists, who have an alternative in the Greens and the far-left Die Linke.

Not making a clear choice has been worst of all. The SPD has fallen below 15 percent in recent polls, behind the Christian Democrats and Greens and neck and neck with the far-right Alternative for Germany. Read more

Macron the Secret Islamophobe

French president Emmanuel Macron attends a meeting in Paris, May 16
French president Emmanuel Macron attends a meeting in Paris, May 16 (Elysée/Soazig de la Moissonniere)

French president Emmanuel Macron has startled observers with a number of policies that might seem to contradict his previously held beliefs.

Despite being pro-EU, he blocked membership talks with Albania and North Macedonia. Once clear-eyed on the Russian threat, Macron now argues for dialogue with Moscow and calls Islamic terror NATO’s number-one enemy. He even made made a point of attacking political Islam.

Some hear dog whistles to the far right, assume bad faith and call Macron an Islamophobe. That is unfair to the most liberal president France has had since Valéry Giscard d’Estaing. Read more

Republicans Run Out of Excuses to Defend Trump

American president Donald Trump attends a meeting in Helsinki, Finland, July 16, 2018
American president Donald Trump attends a meeting in Helsinki, Finland, July 16, 2018 (Office of the President of the Republic of Finland/Juhani Kandell)

There is no doubt American president Donald Trump tried to bribe Ukraine into launching an investigation of his Democratic rival, Joe Biden, whose son, Hunter, did work for an Ukrainian company. The impeachment inquiry conducted by the House Intelligence Committee has established the facts in under two months.

Trump held up congressionally mandated military aid to Ukraine (which is fighting a Russian-backed insurgency in its east), asked President Volodymyr Zelensky to do him a “favor” by investigating the Bidens, and aid was restored after news of the attempted blackmail leaked.

It’s a straightforward abuse of power.

So Trump’s Republican allies have been doing all they can to complicate the story. Read more