The real scandal in France

(Hint: It’s not François Hollande’s predilections)


French President Francois Hollande. (Alexander Widding/Polaris)

Here’s a game no one wants to play at home: Pretend to be François Hollande.

The French president is beset with a host of crippling problems, ranging from the personal to the political to the economic. Taken together, his challenges present a significant threat to France, and beyond.

Hollande’s messy private life has been generating plenty of salacious interest. While unmarried, the president installed his live-in partner, Valérie Trierweiler, as the country’s “first lady,” with an office and staff at the Elysée Palace. Now, however, revelations of his midnight visits with Julie Gayet, a French actress, appear to have severed his official relationship with Trierweiler, who wound up in the hospital from the stress.

Of course, infidelity need not be fatal to a politician’s career, especially in France. But the fallout from the affair has made Hollande look weak and foolish. (He was photographed riding to his trysts on the back of a scooter, wearing an enormous helmet and with little security in evidence.) All this has contributed to a free fall in his political popularity. Current opinion polls put his support at 15 to 20 per cent, the lowest recorded for a president since the founding of France’s Fifth Republic in 1958.

And yet, Hollande’s most pressing problems aren’t on the front pages of the tabloids. It’s the business section that’s giving him the biggest headaches.

Across most of Europe, the economic news has been slowly but steadily improving. The five sick men of Europe—Portugal, Italy, Ireland, Greece and Spain—are getting back on their feet, as government austerity, tax reform and measures to improve labour-market flexibility start to pay off. In December, for example, Ireland became the first of the five to emerge from the continent’s massive bank bailout program.

Unfortunately, as the sick men heal themselves, France appears to be heading in the opposite direction, due to a bloated public sector, high taxes and the famously rigid French labour market. Unemployment is now at a 16-year high, government spending accounts for an unsustainable 57 per cent of GDP, and last month’s Purchasing Managers Index (PMI) survey, a key indicator of private sector expectations, suggests France may be entering yet another recession—its fourth in six years. According to Chris Williamson, chief economist at Markit, which conducts the PMI survey, “France looks increasingly like the new ‘sick man of Europe.’ ”

One example of many reveals how the French combination of union intransigence and government regulation frustrates efforts at economic progress or renewal: A smartphone app that would allow Parisians to quickly order a private cab was recently saddled with a government decree imposing a 15-minute wait time on orders, so as to give unionized, roaming cabbies a chance to snap up the fare. Then, earlier this month, the union rioted to press demands that the government lengthen the mandated delay to half an hour. Business in France is increasingly at odds with the expectations of efficiency and customer service in the rest of the modern, global economy.

Even more troubling, young entrepreneurial talent is escaping to London, a short train ride away, where an estimated 400,000 French émigrés now live and work. A recent British academic study of these highly skilled migrants concludes that “most . . . have no plan to return to work in France.”

The marked divergence in economic activity and confidence between France and the rest of Europe has forced Hollande to take action. At the beginning of January, just as the details of his sex life were getting a full airing, the president announced a multi-year, $45-billion tax concession for employers. He also promised to cut public spending, saying the state has become “too heavy, too slow, too costly.”

All this sounds like the medicine France needs. But can Hollande really deliver on such reforms? The socialist leader won the presidency in 2012 with a platform of higher taxes for the rich—including a 75 per cent impost on high earners—and a reversal in earlier austerity measures. Now he’s trying to remake himself into a fiscal conservative. It seems a big ask, particularly given his slumping popularity, lack of political capital and that famous French resistance to economic change. A rapid turnaround seems no more likely than a reconciliation with Trierweiler.

It bears mention, of course, that France remains a significant First World power with a large and diversified economy. And its crucial alliance with Germany is still intact. Nevertheless, there exists a real risk that continued economic malaise and/or the inevitable street protests in reaction to any reform efforts could lead to a dramatic collapse in Europe’s second-largest economy; and such an event would wipe out all the hard-won progress to date by the continent’s other weak nations.

The fall of France could easily precipitate another international financial calamity. And no one wants that.


The real scandal in France

  1. Having failed completely on predictions for Greece and Italy and the UK…. and the Euro in general, I see it’s France’s turn.

    And it’s of course it’s another chance to promote old rightwing economic and social myths.

    Canada would be far better off if Macleans stopped being The Family Herald of yesteryear, and prepared this country for the world that is rapidly coming into being….so these continuing disasters won’t be such a shock to Canadians.

    • Emily,
      Anyone who understood Hollande’s plans before he became the President wasn’t the least bit shocked about what’s currently happening in France. In fact, we predicted it repeatedly, only to be told we were simply wrong. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to predict that people with money, and business would pick up and leave if they were taxed into oblivion.
      and that is exactly what happened.
      Only the socialists appear to be shocked….though they will no doubt blame someone else for their failed policies.

      • You back again?

        Perhaps you’d better check N Europe….top countries in the world….and socialist.

        • Emily,
          Socialism is always doomed to fail. It may work for a while (as Maggie thatcher said, it only works until you run out of “other peoples” money)
          Why it fails:
          1. You cannot legislate the poor into prosperity by legislating the wealthy out of prosperity.

          2. What one person receives without working for, another person must work for without receiving.
          3. The government cannot give to anybody anything that the government does not first take from somebody else.
          4. You cannot multiply wealth by dividing it!.
          5. When half of the people get the idea that they do not have to work because the other half is going to take care of them, and when the other half gets the idea that it does no good to work because somebody else is going to get what they work for, that is the beginning of the end of any nation.
          Socialism…ALWAYS fails in the end, Emily. Always.

          • Cute bumperstickers. Just not true.

            However we are moving to a new economic system now anyway, so it no longer matters.

          • Emily, every word of that is true. As for the new economic system…please let us know what it is to be called?
            I won’t spend any time trying to explain micro or macro economics to you, Emily, as frankly, one would have more success trying to teach the PASHTUN language to Helen Keller.
            And she’s dead.

          • Fantastic! Stop explaining other things as well because you talk rubbish. You and Dave are a great team….talk to each other and leave me out of it.

          • It would be easy to leave you out of the discussion…..but you feel the need to insert yourself into discussions for which you are completly unqualified to comment upon.
            You don’t “get” economics…..ok, we all understand that. If you don’t want us to point out how wrong you are….then stick to topics you are familar with, such as hawking goods on Kijiji.

      • Agreed. A socialism we have is embedded with corruption. Socialists are not really socialists, just a bunch of statism greedy looking for other peoples money and grand kids debt selling the tax greed under the ruse of socialism.

        Its why I know Canada will fail, too much economics ignorance and government as a deity mentality. All about the greed of other peoples money, not enough people question what their governments cost them.

        Socialism in Canada is a self fulfilling philosophy of self desruction.

        I am just glad I stepped off the carrot wheel and no longer pay the huge taxes I once paid like a slave. As being disabled, I know the farce of Canadian socialism-statism well. Modern day taxation, hidden and real, has become modern day slavery for excessive government and their back room buddies. Our governments don’t serve the people, they serve their back room buddies and lobbyists.

        And you got this from a 2%er, no need to be tax slave any more.

    • But think, at Macleans they are not as bad as statism CBC propaganda. More Macleans articles are less dripping wet statism as a deity. Less censorship too as CBC looks at itself as Canada’s statism socialist conscious.

      Fact is we too are a government consumptive economy of low value and why the dollar dropped 10 cents for 11% inflation. But government will lie to us about real inflation. Too many in Canada are far too trusting of our corrupt governments.

      But the Roman’s in the Roman Empire too ignored reality.

      • DO stop with the nonsense.

    • Paul Krugman debunks these neo-con attacks on France which are founded on the country raising taxes on the rich (to levels Canada and the US had during the post-war era up until the 1980s — back when the economy was successful.)

      France’s recovery from the 2009 recession is stronger than the UK’s, which was worse than what the UK suffered during the Great Depression. But you don’t hear right-wing ideologues saying anything about that. Why? Because the UK implemented steep austerity measures they favored, even though that’s what worsened their recession.

      Krugman: Running Economies Into the Sand

      • Neo-cons are still doing ‘freedom fries’ crap….they don’t even bother to find out what’s going on economically.

        Neo-cons….Libertarians…have a one-track mind. Taxes.

        • Socialism experiment.

          An economics professor at a local college made a statement that he had never failed a single student before, but had recently failed an entire class. That class had insisted that Obama’s socialism worked and that no one would be poor and no one would be rich, a great equalizer.
          The professor then said, “OK, we will have an experiment in this class on Obama’s plan”.. All grades will be averaged and everyone will receive the same grade so no one will fail and no one will receive an A…. (substituting grades for dollars – something closer to home and more readily understood by all).
          After the first test, the grades were averaged and everyone got a B. The students who studied hard were upset and the students who studied little were happy. As the second test rolled around, the students who studied little had studied even less and the ones who studied hard decided they wanted a free ride too so they studied little.
          The second test average was a D! No one was happy. When the 3rd test rolled around, the average was an F. As the tests proceeded, the scores never increased as bickering, blame and name-calling all resulted in hard feelings and no one would study for the benefit of anyone else.
          To their great surprise, ALL FAILED and the professor told them that socialism would also ultimately fail because when the reward is great, the effort to succeed is great, but when government takes all the reward away, no one will try or want to succeed. Could not be any simpler than that.

      • The fact you pay attention to idiots like Paul Krugman is all we need to know.
        May as well as the NDP what their view on Capital gains is.

        • Believe me, I know what idiots not to pay any attention to…

  2. There you go, bleeding heart Emily1, another liberal who wants to protect the public from the shocks of having their heads in the sands of their own superficial miseries.

    • LOL well Macleans does allow Canadians to hide from reality….but that just means it’s going to be even worse when something blows up beyond disguising.

      • Yes, but Macleans isn’t as bad as CBC, Global or CTV cleaned news broadcasting managing people like dumb scared sheep.

        We don’t manage government, government manages us. And they are not doing a good job for us….

        • Do us all a favor and move to NZ.

  3. I can’t speak to France’s economic problems. But if you absolutely must scratch the sort of late middle age itch Hollande seems to have I suggest you avoid riding on a scooter to a midnight tryst. The only way you could make this look even more silly is to ride on the back of the scooter with a helmet on the size of a prize pumpkin…the error was compounded by being photographed in this absurd play on Romeo and julie by the seine
    It seems to me the poor people of France will forgive a lot, but the sight of a late middle age lothario pouncing around on the back of a frickin’ scooter of all things is going too far. The other way it might have looked worse if he’d ridden in on a moped. French manhood may need a long vacation in Tahiti after this…on national credit card of course.p

    • It’s odd how one’s manhood in N America is measured by the size of the toys one has to play with. The NRA insist that men should be allowed to own huge weapons and the obvious question is what are they compensating for? Car manufacturers and journos equate cc and horse power with a high reading on the macho scale, as if a mechanical exo-skeleton raises the actual manhood of its operator.
      Both a scooter and a Harley are means of transportation, one is cheap and easy to use in crowded streets; the ownership of the other by a man of Hollande’s age is definitely compensating for a lack of something in other departments.
      The French are much more sophisticated in their expectations of their politicians and tend not to have such a childish view of what constitutes a secure state of mind in its men and women.
      We should also think twice when it comes to questioning the French on this too, can anyone remember the photo of our PM in his cowboy suit? http://31.media.tumblr.com/tumblr_lidh18yZBN1qi926ro1_400.jpg Or even the one of him in his blue jumper complete with accessorised kitten? http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v175/cyclona/stephen-harper-kitten.jpg

      • Exactly !
        A Conservative PM of Canada who dares live with his wife and family has a picture taken of himself with a kitten—-you have every right to wonder if he`s going to cuddle with that kitten or maybe he`ll eat it later.

        A Socialist French president leaves his wife and 4 kids a month after his wife loses her job, then shacks up in the presidential palace with a member of the French media and then a couple years later jumps on his scooter to jump some old floosy actress in her dumpy flat. There`s no reason to question his character or leadership ability—-he`s just acting like a leader of a country with a ” bloated public sector, high taxes and rigid union control ” . He`s just letting out his inner child. He only rides a small scooter because he has a big d!ck,—- right hairball !
        Move to France.

        • “A Socialist French president leaves his wife and 4 kids a month after his wife loses her job, then shacks up in the presidential palace with a member of the French media and then a couple years later jumps on his scooter to jump some old floosy actress in her dumpy flat.”
          As opposed to a Conservative, Mennonite Minister of justice and promoter of family values who pleaded with us to think of the children; who left his sick wife and children to shack up with his babysitter mistress who was pregnant and barely more than a child herself.
          And our supreme leader who is so pro-family values not only accepted this behaviour he supported the fellow to the hilt.
          Reform hypocrite heal thyself.

          • Maybe you should document yourself before posting, “kids” from living with Mme Segolene Royal are 30, 28, 27 and 22 years old
            and Holland and Royal never get married

          • Well, that little tidbit of info make all the difference in the world.
            So, now knowing this, I can see how having the man you chose to lead your country run around Paris banging old actresses as perfectly normal behavior.

          • It is over there. There is a saying that if you can’t get laid in France, you can’t get laid anywhere. Sexuality is much more open in Europe than prudish Canada.

          • I was quoting the comment before mine.

          • I`m not sure how you jump from the leadership problems in France to the rumours and innuendo about a former Minister in the Conservative government. But I suppose I should expect that from someone who appears to keep numerous photos of our present PM at the ready.

          • 1: Because you decided to bring the morals of a single man in France into the equation when defending the wholesome goodness of the sweater man. I just highlighted his real commitment to family values.
            2: It wasn’t innuendo, it was brute facts.
            3: Don’t need to the intertubes never forgets.

        • Cawn….
          While you didn’t state it outright, you have stumbled upon the socialist mindset. While they always proclaim they are looking out for the “workers” or “families” the truth is that they have a tendency to look out for themselves first. They are inherently selfish…but would never admit to it, nor in fact, many of them simply don’t recognize it in themselves.
          They are alwasy afraid that somewhere, someone is doing better than they are, or have more “stuff” to which they are not entitled to.

          • Just because people disagree with that doesn’t make them a socialist James; just sensible.

          • Agreed. Not many REAL socialists in Canada, just a lot of able bodied dependents on government sucking hard on peoples wallets and hidden taxes willing to support statism managing people like chickens.

            Real socialism puts people ahead of political war machines, ahead of inflated contracts, fake expense reports, government bloat, waste and political crime. That is, Candian socialism is wwithout ethics and no morals. Even will to saddle unborn kids with debt for todays delusional greed.

          • As the only real attempt to cut any debt has been by the slightly less right wing party in past recent history, while the debt has increased under the extreme right wing party I’m not sure I follow that assertion. Canadian socialism doesn’t exist and even if it does it has never held office.
            Where we find ourselves today is through the works of the right and even further right.

          • Yep, so very little gets back to displaced workers, families, disabled and retired…..

            Just enough gets back to provide the illusion government works for ya while they really steal from you. Increase taxes for [ insert what you need ] and 90% of it ends up in waste, bailouts, inflated contracts for stuff that will not benefit you ever.

            Its about deception. It is clear to me, now early retired, I have the time to study the deceptions, the ruse, the illusions politicians push for statism…the art of bilking people out of their money. Modern day taxation has become modern day slavery be it hidden taxes on everything including food, to incomes…

            We are economic slaves of state as our ballots are rigged, statism, is the only option presented to us.

        • Yep, and the gullible public votes for it as he lies and deceives people well, and has charisma.

          Really boils down to too many voting with dependency of government, fear, envy, personal greed and lets face it, while politicians almost never deliver on promises, your average memory is too short and run by illogical biases to fix it.

          Politicians know this. The art of deceptions and conflict management is what successful politicians do.

      • You should change your name to hare brained after making a nonsensical post like that. How many Freudian “compensating” references do you need to make in a single post? Is a kitten “compensating” for something too? Please expand on the kitten with another 2 paragraphs of pychobabble. It’s so enlightening for us unsophisticated Canadians.

        • My response was just a counter to the extremely simplistic post by kcm2 equating the size of the vehicle between one’s legs to one’s virility. It’s a shallow game that anyone can play and I felt shallow enough at that point to play along.
          Mea Culpa.

          • Great…..
            Now all girls who read and belived that post will start dating the guys with a bus pass.

          • And now someones manhood is linked to the fact that they use public transport… okay then?

    • Not really much choice for poor people, they have zero political power and get bombarded with media designed to brainwash people in not questing how their governments spend the huge amounts of money on corruption, bailouts, waste and inflated contracts.

      There is a reason why Ottawa owns CBC……Canadians Bull—ting Canadians.

  4. The French are not upset about Hollande’s trysts. Julie Gayet is an attractive and sympathetic woman. Hollande gets admiration for his good taste and his success in this department.

    It’s the flailing economy which was killing his popularity before the so called scandal. I think Hollande might even have enjoyed a small poll bump after the affair.

  5. I challenge MacLean to dig more on Canadian politic, I bet they will uncover lots of craps,

  6. Of course the French should be more Anglo-Saxon. Whatever
    are they thinking ?

  7. By any reasonable economic measure the French economy has done better that the UK during the entire period post 1997. The UK economy has only recently increased up to the level of the French one. Of course, this is not saying much since the entire EU economy (minus Germany) has suffered worse since 1997 that the equivalent period during the Great Depression. The maniacal emphasis on austerity and debt reduction during a time of depression has done great harm. To say that these policies have “allowed” the European economies to finally “improve” (after 5 years) is like breaking a person’s leg and then crowing that this has cured them because the person can finally stand on it after being bedridden for 5 months.

    • Hear, hear, Rhinanthus. As a North American who’s lived in France for close to two decades, I can confirm this piece smacks of the usual take you get on France and the French economy in the English-language press, namely the problem is big gov, the unions and coddled workers. Pretty simplistic picture of the situation here, to say the least. The reality is, of course, much more complex. Suffice it to say that though there are serious problems with over-sized bureaucracies and governments filled with technocrats (certainly not unique to France), the overarching problem is more the crisis of the capitalist system than the French welfare-state model. I can tell you, whenever I visit North America or the UK and then come back to France, I’m always struck by how much more civilized everything seems here (and that’s despite the often less-than-cheerful natives). Quality of life in France is simply better, hands down. And I think it boils down to the importance the French accord to the common good. Something that has fallen to the wayside among ‘les anglo-saxons’, as the French call us. Perhaps it’s due in part to the importance of history in France. After all, it’s the only country in the world to have overthrown its monarchy (pre-20th century). The history of 19th century Paris can be summed up by one word: bloodbath. The ruling classes continually attempting to crush the masses, who were constantly fighting for more power and a better life. So the French people today are definitely not going to lie down and let the ruling elite take their hard-fought gains away from them without a fight.

      • we need more people like you with a open mind, and the fact you lived over two decades in France give you the right to talk about what you know.
        in other hand some people should keep quiet.

  8. The French elect an open Socialist and they are surprised that their economy is in the toilet? France is the poster child for why Socialism doesn’t work economically and socially. France i guess wanted to be more like Greece.

    • N. Europe….top countries in the world. Socialist.

      • And it is a a socialism that doesn’t exist in Canda. Comes with unions cannot strike without cause, jail for those that try to get too greedy. It also means mandates balanced budgets, no sliding the debts to the grand kids mentality. Bailouts often get real jail time for fraud.

        I know, I lived and worked in Norway for a term. Isn’t at all like Canadian’s socialism of other peoples money for nothing greed. You will not find $500k governemtn employees, no FN as everyone including Sami are equals in taxation, services and law….no government defining classes of people.

        We are not even close to what real socialism is. We just use the words to bilk people out of money in hidden taxes and income taxes so the politicians can play big shots and power brokers. Few Canadians even know how governemtn really spends our money..

        • Canada is listed as a socialist country….altho we’re actually Third Way.

          And Norway is not Canada.

      • Single culture large scale tribalism(Norway) doesn’t work in real world melting pots Hence the stringent immigration standards countries like these have.

        • Norway is like most countries in the world….Canada is the outlier being the second largest country on the planet, and with a pluralistic society. That’s why I said Norway is not Canada.

          They do welcome immigrants….and Norwegians are now all krone millionaires.

  9. Don’t worry about Hollande. He’ll probably blame every economic problem on African immigrants or a few Hungarian, Romanian or Bulgarian gypsy camps.

    Racism always blinds people to true problems. It’s not the first time he’ll do it. The problem is that England is doing the same thing now. wink-wink

    • That is actually taught in political books, get two or more groups fighting with each other and they will hate you less, while you use the tax system to get more out of the people.

      Tax group A, then group B supports it. Then tax B and group A supports it as you feed the envy, greed and statism dependency. Then group A and B fight each other while governemtn runs off with the wealth for bailout buddies, inflated contracts and the power.

      We don’t manage government, government manages us. Even our ballots are rigged so only statism, more government getting more money and you getting less is the only option we have. A faux illusion of democracy as we have become economic slaves of corrupt state.

      • There is another concept for political control of the people governments will include when using ‘divide and conquer’ and that is, ‘repeat a lie often enough and eventually people believe it as a truth’. As you can see all around you, in Canada, it works! Throw in a few red herrings and you’ve got a government who, as you stated, manages us.

        Once ‘divide and conquer’ begins to work within the ranks of the population, it doesn’t take much for the people to follow along with the repeated lies and get distracted by the red herrings.

        eg Rob Ford has repeatedly stated he has saved Toronto millions of dollars. His captivated audience now believes it even though a number of economists have disproved his numbers.

        eg Stephen Harper and his party have repeatedly attempted to insinuate there was no financial surplus when they took over as the leading party in 2006. After 8 years, many Canadians now believe there was no surplus.

  10. This is gossips, not journalism. France is not the US.

    • But they have the same addiction to ponzi fraud debt.

      Debt is an addiction, like Heroin, just one more fix to keep government bloat feel good….while it economically destroys you. But all they see in blinding greed, is more debt and more of other peoples money for nothing but waste.

  11. France has always been corrupt. Its how their politics works. No real news other than France’s debt is going to end up like Greece in due time. As governemtn bloat, deception, lies are now being exposed as there is no money left to pay the bills. They just create it out of thin air and hope people don’t notice. But 7+ years of debt fraud, the old deceptive tricks are no longer working. Just a bigger debt hole exists.

    But hey, we love politicians and their deceptions, it bought 7+ more years of governments living beyond their means and lots of wine and cheese parties, let the people have taxes, debt, and servitude to corrupt western failing empires of debt fraud.

    Few people realize the reason banks, their or ours do not pay interest, is they know the future value of US/Can/Euro fiat fraud currencies is zero. You can’t have government creating no value thin air money forever….only delusional greedy think that way.

    We are witnessing the fail of the US/Can/Euro economies of debt-tax slavery. Too many decades of corruption, bailouts, waste to stop it now.

  12. Little by little, socialism is dying in europe. Over the last 30 years, Sweden has cut taxes(personal and corporate), introduced a school voucher system, and reduced government’s share of gdp from 80% to 52%. Denmark has also greatly reduced the size of government, cut the corporate tax rate to around 26%, and reduced the time limit on unemployment from 4 to 1 year. Finland has also been gradually reducing the size of government. The only exception is Norway where drilling for oil in the North Sea has filled the government coffers. The newly elected center-right government is simply promising to not cut any programs. The economic disasters in Greece and Spain have completely reshaped the political climates there. In both countries, most of the public leaned left(since the military dictatorships in both countries ended in the 1970’s) and the dominant parties were Socialist(PASOK in Greece). Now, in both countries(after some serious cuts in government), polling shows the public either evenly divided or leaning slightly right. The marker in western europe is Germany where the government underwent a series of labor and tax reforms in the 1990(now the SPD is almost indistinguishable from the center-right Christian Democrats). As for eastern europe, the left is unable to politically compete in countries like Poland and Hungary. In many of the others, the politics is more in line with the U.S. The right-wing parties tend to talk pro-business and socially conservative policies(pro-life, religious instruction in schools, opposition to gay marriage, and even some calling for reestablishing the death penalty). The so-called social democrat parties in these countries run to the right of the Democrat Party on economic issues. In the end, the question in europe will be over the size of government not whether socialism or capitalism triumphs. Also, pay attention to how the rising power of socially conservative eastern europe ends up affecting EU policy.

  13. Germany is highly unionized and doing quite well as their union made cars are well loved by the wealthy.

  14. I would like to know how many young French entrepreneurs have come to Canada and I do NOT mean Quebec but I refer to Ontario and Alberta. Any one know ? I have personally met a few who set up their business in Toronto. Your thoughts ?

Sign in to comment.