France: Strike Three

by Denis Boyles

What France needs is a Prius that burns low-octane metaphors: The country is running on empty as the country’s third major strike in recent weeks is driven forward by strikers targeting fuel supplies. The result is that a strike by the usual malcontents — state employees and students — is beginning to be felt severely in areas far from Paris. This morning in western France, diesel was nearly non-existent, and in some places where there were supplies, access to the pumps had been blocked by trucks. In small villages, where sleepy garages keep a pump or two for the locals, cars lined up dozens deep. According to this report in Le Figaro, as many as a quarter of the country’s service stations were out of fuel and the Fillon government announced a plan to tap strategic reserves as heating fuel prices spiked above $5 a gallon.

The strike is the best showing in years by the unions, dominated by old poseurs of the far left. The grievance is one that you’d think would embarrass the French: The strikers are demanding that the government leave untouched the unfunded retirement scheme that kicks in at 60. That’s the lowest in Europe. Sarkozy’s radical plan: Slowly raising the age to 62. That’s also the lowest in Europe. 

The reform is necessary if France is to avoid the kind of catastrophic debt disaster that has befallen Greece. It’s also necessary if the EU’s rules are to have any significance beyond the confines of a pretentious office block in Brussels. The strikers know that their enemy is in Brussels, but the wee Frenchman with the pretty wife is the guy staring into the headlights. In France today, that’s probably the safest place to be.

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