French Unions Put Their Own Interests Ahead of Workers’

Paris France demonstration
French workers demonstrate against proposed pension reforms in Paris, December 17, 2019 (PS/Mathieu Delmestre)

French metro and railway workers have been on strike for almost a month to preserve privileges from an era when the trains ran on coal.

The people who suffer the most are workers on modest incomes who don’t own a car and normally commute into Paris by train; small businesses and shops which are understaffed; families that couldn’t get together for Christmas.

The unions behind the strikes claim they are fighting a “president of the rich” — Emmanuel Macron — on behalf of “the people”.

They aren’t. Trade unions are trying to preserve retirement rules that benefit their workers at the expense of everyone else. Read more “French Unions Put Their Own Interests Ahead of Workers’”

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 “Macron’s Pension Reforms Are Eminently Reasonable”

Greece Rejects Creditors’ Call for Pension Cuts

Mark Rutte Manuel Valls Alexis Tsipras
Mark Rutte, Manuel Valls and Alexis Tsipras, the prime ministers of the Netherlands, France and Greece, meet at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, January 21 (WEF/Valeriano Di Domenico)

Pensions are at the center of Greece’s latest dispute with its creditors.

The Greek Kathimerini newspaper reports that the International Monetary Fund’s managing director, Christine Lagarde, stressed to Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras during a recent meeting at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland that his government’s proposal for pension reform was inadequate.

The IMF jointly administers Greece’s €86 billion bailout with the European Union.

But Tsipras has said Greece won’t succumb to “unreasonable and unfair demands” and reportedly told Lagarde “there is no way” he can cut pensions for current retirees.

“One pension is a whole household’s income in the present circumstances,” the far-left leader told parliament last month. Read more “Greece Rejects Creditors’ Call for Pension Cuts”

Projections Underscore Need for Entitlement Reform

The sun sets on Washington DC
The sun sets on Washington DC (Shutterstock)

Projections released by the Congressional Budget Office on Tuesday underscore the need for comprehensive reform of America’s biggest spending programs.

The CBO, an independent outfit, warns that the federal deficit will jump to $544 billion next year, or 2.9 percent of gross domestic product — the first time since 2009 that the shortfall is expanding relative to the size of the economy.

Over the next ten years, deficits would add up to $9.4 trillion unless significant policy changes are made.

The CBO sees the debt rising from $13.1 trillion last year, or 74 percent of GDP, to $23.8 trillion, or 86 percent, by 2026. Read more “Projections Underscore Need for Entitlement Reform”

Unfunded State Benefits: America’s Next Fiscal Crisis

The sun sets on the Texas State Capitol in Austin
The sun sets on the Texas State Capitol in Austin (Shutterstock/Ryan Conine)

America’s fiscal crisis looks less pressing than only a few years ago. A combination of spending restraint and tax increases that has resulted from messy compromises between President Barack Obama, a Democrat, and the Republican Congress should help push the deficit down to a manageable 2.5 percent of economic output this year.

Longer term, the rising costs of health and pension programs still look worrisome. But before the problem reaches Washington DC, it could wreak havoc at the state and local-government level. Read more “Unfunded State Benefits: America’s Next Fiscal Crisis”

Between the Crazy, Serious Ideas in Republican Debate

Wednesday’s Republican presidential debate hosted by CNBC was easily the worst so far this year. The moderators seemed more interested in catching the candidates in hypocrisies and discrediting their looniest proposals than encouraging a substantive debate — but at the same time let some of the most outlandish claims go unchallenged.

Between the crazy, though, there were glimmers of a reform-minded conservative platform taking shape. Read more “Between the Crazy, Serious Ideas in Republican Debate”

Democrats Resist Weakening Decades-Old Social Model

Democrats in the United States are deluding themselves and their voters if they vow to resist changes in the economy over which politicians have little control.

From their doubts about a transpacific trade pact to fights against flexible labor relations, Democrats are showing themselves to be uncomfortable with many of the tenets of globalization that have redefined the world economy since the 1980s. Read more “Democrats Resist Weakening Decades-Old Social Model”

French Farmers’ Protests Divide Europe

French president François Hollande answers questions from reporters outside the Elysée Palace in Paris, April 13, 2013
French president François Hollande answers questions from reporters outside the Elysée Palace in Paris, April 13, 2013 (Valsts Kanceleja)

Protests by French farmers against low dairy and meat prices are dividing Europe. While similar actions are expected in neighboring Belgium, Germany and the Netherlands are irked that the Paris government is enacting protectionist measures in an attempt to quell the unrest. Read more “French Farmers’ Protests Divide Europe”

France’s Hollande Unlikely to Risk More Reforms Until 2017

François Hollande
French president François Hollande answers questions from reporters outside the Elysée Palace in Paris, April 13, 2013 (Valsts Kanceleja)

Elections in France this year and next could doom any chance of deeper economic reform even as the country seems incapable of bringing down unemployment.

Stuck at over 10 percent since he came to power in 2012, the high jobless rate has weighed down on President François Hollande’s popularity. With an approval rating under 20 percent, the incumbent seems unlikely to win reelection in 2017. But he is still running and should want to avoid dividing his Socialist Party on economic policy.

The next regional elections are due in December. Called after a reorganization that saw the number of regions cut from 22 to thirteen, the Socialists are gearing up for another defeat. They have lost all local elections since Hollande beat the conservatives’ Nicolas Sarkozy in 2012 with 51.6 percent of the votes.

Party unity has been tested by Hollande’s late conversion to liberalization. Read more “France’s Hollande Unlikely to Risk More Reforms Until 2017”

Time to Let Greece Go: It Doesn’t Belong in the Euro

Greek flags in Athens, February 16
Greek flags in Athens, February 16 (Lefteris Heretakis)

Despite Greece’s resounding “no” to more austerity, European leaders are trying one last time this week to get the country to sign up to another bailout and keep it in the eurozone.

They shouldn’t bother.

If Sunday’s referendum made one thing clear, it’s that Greece just doesn’t belong. After more than 60 percent of Greeks allowed themselves to be deluded by far-left leaders who said the vote wasn’t about the euro at all but rather a chance to stick it up to the faceless institutions that have “humiliated” this nation of eleven million for five years by trying to make it see reality, the generous thing to do would be to prepare for an orderly Greek exit from the single currency. Read more “Time to Let Greece Go: It Doesn’t Belong in the Euro”