What’s the French work­ing class endgame

Orlando Sentinel - - OPINION -

their hard-earned money be­cause ul­ti­mately it’s re­cy­cled back to them and oth­ers in the form of nanny-state ben­e­fits. But as a res­i­dent of France, I’ve seen ben­e­fits (par­tic­u­larly health care ben­e­fits) dwin­dle over the last 10 years to cover less and less, with­out a com­men­su­rate re­duc­tion in taxes. I’ve also seen French peo­ple in true need con­tinue to suf­fer while the gov­ern­ment di­verts its re­sources to newly ar­rived mi­grants.

The Ja­cobin il­lu­sion of one in­di­vis­i­ble French repub­lic un­der which all are equal is a myth. The work­ing poor are pay­ing a dis­pro­por­tion­ate share.

Some in­ter­na­tional ob­servers find it hard to be­lieve that an in­crease in the fuel tax could set off such a re­ac­tion, ar­gu­ing that there must be some in­vis­i­ble in­ter­ven­tion­ist hand be­hind this re­volt. Look, France is one of the most highly taxed coun­tries in Europe. The amount of money that the av­er­age per­son gets to keep once the state takes its cut makes sur­vival nearly im­pos­si­ble for many in the work­ing class. You have to live here to un­der­stand that this was a tick­ing time bomb. The sur­prise isn’t that protests are oc­cur­ring now, but that they didn’t start years ago.

The flip side of de­mand­ing lower taxes is po­ten­tially get­ting more au­ton­omy — mem­bers of the French work­ing class would be re­spon­si­ble for man­ag­ing their own re­sources rather than hav­ing the gov­ern­ment take care of them. The French can’t have it both ways. If they want the nanny state out of their wal­lets, they need to cut the um­bil­i­cal cord. Are they will­ing to do that? Are the work­ing­class French pre­pared to re­nounce gov­ern­ment en­ti­tle­ments and ben­e­fits in ex­change for lower taxes?

The French gov­ern­ment has pro­posed a mora­to­rium on the fuel tax in­crease. This doesn’t mean it will stop finding ways to stuff its pock­ets with tax dol­lars to fund the vague prom­ise of con­trol­ling the Earth’s ther­mo­stat.

The Yel­low Vests may have won the bat­tle, but they have yet to win the war. Vic­tory can’t be de­clared un­til the French gov­ern­ment sig­nif­i­cantly low­ers taxes across the board — and in ex­change the Yel­low Vests agree to in­creased fis­cal re­spon­si­bil­ity over their own lives.

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