Cutting the Welfare State
Paris Dithers While London Shows Us How To Cut Spending
by Eric Margolis
PARIS – Strikes, demonstrations, and blockages of fuel deliveries continue here in Paris, and across France. However, the protests and strikes this week are not as intense as the ones over past weeks. But are promised this month and until year end. More disruptions of ground, underground and air travel are threatened.
A third of France’s 12,000 gas stations are low or out of fuel. Unions have blocked France’s most important entry point for petroleum at Marseilles.
President Nicholas Sarkozy’s increasingly tough-sounding government is using its head-bashing CRS riot police to break the oil blockade, further provoking the union’s anger.
Read Britain’s tabloids, and you’d think France is ablaze with rioting and chaos. London’s sensationalist media loves to trumpet bad news about the French.
In fact, things are reasonably calm here, except for angry motorists, a few big, noisy, but non-violent union rallies, and scattered vandalism by young street hoodlums. Amazingly, up to 70% of the French public still expresses sympathy for the striking unions.
While France’s protests are over plans to raise the minimum retirement age from a laughably low 60 to 62 (67 years is the EU average), the deeper cause is fear of much deeper spending cuts the center-right government will be forced to make.