The Corner


Vive la France

French labor-union members and workers on strike attend a demonstration in Marseille as France faces its eighth day of strikes against the government’s pension-reform plans, December 12, 2019. (Jean-Paul Pelissier / Reuters)

I had a post, earlier today: “Something’s Gotta Give. And It Will.” The post was about our national debt, driven by what we call “entitlements.” I quoted Erskine Bowles: “We face the most predictable economic crisis in history” — because it’s all in the arithmetic. I also quoted Mitch Daniels: “Look at the failed regimes of history. As often as not, this is what undid them. They took on obligations they couldn’t pay back and collapsed economically and societally. They were plunged into an emergency situation that they could not tax or otherwise oppress their way out of.”


I wrote that “no politician seems willing to lead on this issue — because the voters want big government and low taxes, which is a difficult combo to sustain. And politicians would rather follow the voters than lead anyone.”


In this light, I found it interesting to read an Associated Press report, datelined Paris:

French union activists cut electricity to nearly 100,000 homes or offices. Eiffel Tower staff walked off the job. Even Paris opera workers joined in Tuesday’s nationwide protests across France, singing an aria of anger as workers rallied against the government’s plan to raise the retirement age to 64.

Have another paragraph:

Despite 13 days of crippling train and subway strikes, French President Emmanuel Macron and his government stayed firm. The prime minister declared his “total” determination to reshape a pension system that unions celebrate as a model for the rest of the world but that he calls unfair and destined to collapse into debt.

A costume fitter at the Bastille Opera is quoted as saying, “The government is stuck on the reform. They are very arrogant.” Would that we, in America, had a government that was stuck on reform! It was bruited about that Romney and Ryan would be willing to sacrifice a second term, in order to do unpopular, necessary, possibly nation-saving things in the first. But we never got a chance to see.

Anyway, I admire politicians who are willing to lead. Everyone likes to “speak truth to power.” How often have you heard people brag about that? Almost no one likes to speak truth to the people — where, in a democracy, power really lies.


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