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Tag: france

Paul Krugman Explains How France Has 'Done Better' Ecnomically During Covid

Although former President Donald Trump and his MAGA ally Steve Bannon have been enthusiastic supporters of Marine Le Pen — the far-right National Rally leader and White nationalist who lost to President Emmanuel Macron in France’s 2017 presidential election — many on America’s right have been quick to bash France over the years, including the country’s economic policies. But liberal economist and New York Times opinion writer Paul Krugman, in his January 14 column, argues that France’s economic policies during the COVID-19 pandemic have been a succ

ess.

“For as long as I can remember,” Krugman writes. “U.S. media coverage of the French economy has been relentlessly negative…. The data never actually supported this negativism. What was really going on, I believe, was that business and economic discourse in the United States is strongly shaped by conservative ideology — and given that ideology, France, with its huge social expenditure, high taxes and extensive economic regulation, should have been a basket case. So, reporting about France seized on every negative development as a sign that the long-awaited disaster was finally arriving.”

Krugman adds, however, that the French government’s economic policies have worked well during the pandemic. France, he notes, has “not only managed to avoid a huge plunge in employment, but has also surpassed its pre-pandemic level.”

“My sense is that many Americans still imagine that France suffers from mass unemployment — a vision that had some truth to it 25 years ago but has long been out of date,” Krugman writes. “And prime-age employment is where France has done astonishingly well during the pandemic…. How did it do that?”

Krugman continues, “When the pandemic forced economies into a temporary lockdown, Europe, France included, and the United States took divergent routes toward supporting workers’ incomes. We offered enhanced unemployment benefits; France offered subsidies to employers to keep furloughed workers on the payroll. At this point, it seems clear that the European solution was better, because it kept workers connected to their employers and made it easier to bring them back once vaccines were available.”

The economist notes that although France has “its anti-vaxxers,” the country has a higher COVID-19 vaccination rate than the United States. Nonetheless, Krugman points out that American liberals and progressives shouldn’t think that France is idyllic.

“I don’t want to romanticize the French economy or French society, both of which have plenty of problems,” Krugman observes. “And liberals who like to imagine that we could neutralize the anger of the White working class by raising wages and strengthening the social safety net should know that France — whose policies are to the left of U.S. progressives’ wildest dreams — has its own ugly White nationalist movement, albeit not as powerful as ours.”

The economist adds, “Still, at a time when Republicans denounce as destructive ‘socialism’ any effort to make America less unequal, it’s worth knowing that the economy of France — which isn’t socialist but comes far closer to socialism than anything Democrats might propose — is doing pretty well.”

Republished with permission from Alternet

France’s Agony Over Submarine Deal Was Unavoidable

Reprinted with permission from Creators

About France and its submarines: Australia's decision to cancel a $60 billion contract to buy them and purchase American nuclear subs instead had to hurt. In response, France's foreign minister called the U.S.-backed move a "stab in the back," and President Emmanuel Macron recalled his ambassadors from both Washington and Canberra.

The backstory should take precedence over the drama flowing from the rift between America and its oldest ally. It centers on a growing alarm at Chinese aggression in the Pacific and how seriously the U.S. and its Pacific allies are taking it.

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As Liberal Macron Decisively Defeats Far Rightist LePen, Europe Exhales

 

PARIS (Reuters) – Emmanuel Macron was elected French president on Sunday with a business-friendly vision of European integration, defeating Marine Le Pen, a far-right nationalist who threatened to take France out of the European Union.

The centrist’s emphatic victory, which also smashed the dominance of France’s mainstream parties, will bring huge relief to European allies who had feared another populist upheaval to follow Britain’s vote to quit the EU and Donald Trump’s election as U.S. president.

With virtually all votes counted, Macron had topped 66 percent against just under 34 percent for Le Pen – a gap wider than the 20 or so percentage points that pre-election surveys had suggested.

Even so, it was a record performance for the National Front, a party whose anti-immigrant policies once made it a pariah, and underlined the scale of the divisions that Macron must now try to heal.

After winning the first round two weeks ago, Macron had been accused of behaving as if he was already president; on Sunday night, with victory finally sealed, he was much more solemn.

“I know the divisions in our nation, which have led some to vote for the extremes. I respect them,” Macron said in an address at his campaign headquarters, shown live on television.

“I know the anger, the anxiety, the doubts that very many of you have also expressed. It’s my responsibility to hear them,” he said. “I will work to recreate the link between Europe and its peoples, between Europe and citizens.”

Later he strode alone almost grimly through the courtyard of the Louvre Palace in central Paris to the strains of the EU anthem, Beethoven’s Ode to Joy, not breaking into a smile until he mounted the stage of his victory rally to the cheers of his partying supporters.

His immediate challenge will be to secure a majority in next month’s parliamentary election for a political movement that is barely a year old, rebranded as La Republique En Marche (“Onward the Republic”), in order to implement his program.

Outgoing president Francois Hollande, who brought Macron into politics, said the result “confirms that a very large majority of our fellow citizens wanted to unite around the values of the Republic and show their attachment to the European Union.”

Jean-Claude Juncker, president of the European Commission, told Macron: “I am delighted that the ideas you defended of a strong and progressive Europe, which protects all its citizens, will be those that you will carry into your presidency”.

Macron spoke by phone with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, with whom he hopes to revitalize the Franco-German axis at the heart of the EU, saying he planned to visit Berlin shortly.

Trump also tweeted his congratulations on Macron’s “big win”, saying he looked forward to working with him.

The euro currency, which had been rising for two weeks as the prospect receded that France would elect an anti-EU president, topped $1.10 in early Asian trading for the first time since the U.S. elections.

“Fading political risk in France adds to the chance that euro zone economic growth can surprise to the upside this year,” said Holger Schmieding, analyst at Berenberg Bank.

The 39-year-old former investment banker, who served for two years as economy minister under Hollande but has never previously held elected office, will become France’s youngest leader since Napoleon.

Le Pen, 48, said she had also offered her congratulations. But she defiantly claimed the mantle of France’s main opposition in calling on “all patriots to join us” in constituting a “new political force”.

Her tally was almost double the score that her father Jean-Marie, the last far-right candidate to make the presidential runoff, achieved in 2002, when he was trounced by the conservative Jacques Chirac.

Her high-spending, anti-globalization ‘France-first’ policies may have unnerved financial markets but they appealed to many poorer members of society against a background of high unemployment, social tensions, and security concerns.

Despite having served briefly in Hollande’s deeply unpopular Socialist government, Macron managed to portray himself as the man to revive France’s fortunes by recasting a political landscape molded by the left-right divisions of the last century.

“I’ve liked his youth and his vision from the start,” said Katia Dieudonné, a 35-year-old immigrant from Haiti who brought her two children to Macron’s victory rally.

“He stands for the change I’ve wanted since I arrived in France in 1985 – openness, diversity, without stigmatizing anyone … I’ve voted for the left in the past and been disappointed.”

Macron’s team successfully skirted several attempts to derail his campaign – by hacking its communications and distributing purportedly leaked documents – that were reminiscent of the hacking of Democratic Party communications during Hillary Clinton’s U.S. election campaign.

Allegations by Macron’s camp that a massive computer hack had compromised emails added last-minute drama on Friday night, just as official campaigning was ending.

While Macron sees France’s way forward in boosting the competitiveness of an open economy, Le Pen wanted to shield French workers by closing borders, quitting the EU’s common currency, the euro, radically loosening the bloc and scrapping trade deals.

When he moves into the Elysee Palace after his inauguration next weekend, Macron will become the eighth – and youngest – president of France’s Fifth Republic.

Opinion surveys taken before the second round suggest that his fledgling movement, despite being barely a year old, has a fighting chance of securing the majority he needs.

He plans to blend a big reduction in public spending and a relaxation of labor laws with greater investment in training and a gradual reform of the unwieldy pension system.

A European integrationist and pro-NATO, he is orthodox in foreign and defense policy and shows no sign of wishing to change France’s traditional alliances or reshape its military and peacekeeping roles in the Middle East and Africa.

His election also represents a long-awaited generational change in French politics that have been dominated by the same faces for years.

He will be the youngest leader in the current Group of Seven (G7) major nations and has elicited comparisons with youthful leaders past and present, from Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to British ex-premier Tony Blair and even late U.S. president John F. Kennedy.

But any idea of a brave new political dawn will be tempered by an abstention rate on Sunday of around 25 percent, the highest this century, and by the blank or spoiled ballots submitted by 12 percent of those who did vote.

Many of those will have been supporters of the far-left maverick Jean-Luc Melenchon, whose high-spending, anti-EU, anti-globalization platform had many similarities with Le Pen’s.

Melenchon took 19 percent in coming fourth in the first round of the election, and pointedly refused to endorse Macron for the runoff.

France’s biggest labor union, the CFDT, welcomed Macron’s victory but said that the National Front’s score was still worryingly high.

“Now, all the anxieties expressed at the ballot by a part of the electorate must be heard,” it said in a statement. “The feeling of being disenfranchised, of injustice, and even abandonment is present among a large number of our citizens.”

The more radical leftist CGT union called for a demonstration on Monday against “liberal” economic policies.

Like Macron, Le Pen will now have to work to try to convert her presidential result into parliamentary seats, in a two-round system that has in the past encouraged voters to vote tactically to keep her out.

She has worked for years to soften the xenophobic associations that clung to the National Front under her father, going so far as to expel him from the party he founded.

On Sunday night, her deputy Florian Philippot distanced the movement even further from him by saying the new, reconstituted party would not be called “National Front”.

(Additional reporting by Ingrid Melander, Andrew Callus, Marina Depetris, Bate Felix, Sybille de la Hamaide, Mathieu Rosemain, Sarah White, Matthias Blamont, Julien Pretot, Geert de Clercq, Adrian Croft, Leigh Thomas, Helen Reid, Tim Hepher, Jemima Kelly, Maya Nikolaeva, Dominique Vidalon, Cyril Altmeyer and Gus Trompiz; Writing by Richard Balmforth; Editing by Kevin Liffey)

4 Scary Implications Of The French Election

Reprinted with permission from Alternet.

With the first round of voting in France’s presidential election marked another step in the emergence of a new political world in the Western democracies. While the leaders of France’s traditional right- and left-wing parties were routed, the two frontrunners, Emmanuel Macron, a centrist newcomer, and Marine Le Pen, the standard-bearer of the right-wing National Front, will face each other in the May 7 runoff election.

The French establishment is confidently recalling the 2002 presidential election when Le Pen’s father, Jean-Marie Le Pen, finished ahead of all the left-wing candidates. In the run-off, French leftists held their noses and voted for Jacques Chirac, the embodiment of complacent French conservatism. Chirac won with 80 percent of the vote.

But France has changed much in 15 years, and the old certitudes may no longer apply.  The first round results demonstrated how and why, in four different ways.

1. All Politics Is Global

In the 1980s, House Speaker Tip O’Neill was famous for his aphorism, “All politics is local.” Le Pen certainly played to local French values, advocating a ban on all legal immigration and protectionist economic policies to insulate  French producers from international competition. But the French campaign also showed that in the internet age, all politics is global, too.

President Trump all but endorsed Le Pen when he said an ISIS-inspired terror attack in Paris that left one policeman dead would help her chances of winning.

Russian President Vladimir Putin was more open in his support. When Le Pen visited Moscow in March, she was received as if she had already won. Olga Bychkova, deputy chief editor of the independent radio station Echo of Moscow, said the reception accorded Le Pen in Russia was impressive.

“She first had meetings with the leaders of the Duma [Russia’s parliament], then she was taken to an exhibit devoted to France at the Kremlin, then she met with Putin,” Bychkova told the Daily Beast. “That is a kind of program Moscow organizes for state leaders.”

Le Pen’s international agenda dovetails with Putin’s. If elected, she has said she will seek to withdraw France from the European Union, the basis for a continental economy that dwarfs Russia’s. Le Pen has doubts about NATO, which is music to Putin’s ears, especially now that President Trump has discovered the value of the Euro-American military alliance he once called “obsolete.”

Meanwhile, former President Barack Obama, while staying out of American politics, inserted himself into the French elections with a well-publicized phone call in which he wished Macron “all the best.”

Likewise, officials from the European Union and Germany have abandoned the tradition of not interfering (at least publicly) in national elections and endorsed Macron.

2. Vindication for Bannon

The French vote is a vindication for Steve Bannon, the White House adviser who has fallen out of favor with the president, perhaps because he was getting too much press attention.

As a policymaker, Bannon has proven inept. He and his staff produced the president’s first travel ban on immigrants from Muslim-majority countries. The incompetently drafted measure was immediately repudiated by the courts and had to be rewritten. His gambit to get himself onto the National Security Council was thwarted by national security adviser H.R. McMaster. And his dream of a massive infrastructure jobs programs is receding into 2018, as Trump pursues higher priorities, namely the repeal of Obamacare and tax reform.

But Le Pen’s strong showing affirms Bannon’s strengths as a political strategist. The former Breitbart publisher has long argued that European politics is not a contest between the left (which favors a strong government and social solidarity) versus the right (which favors strong markets and social competition) but between populists, who favor local and anti-liberal values, versus elitists, who favor cosmopolitan and liberal (or neo-liberal) values.

“If the most important political divide, in France as almost everywhere else, was once over the size of the state,” says Anne Applebaum of the Washington Post, “the new political divide is not really about economics at all. It is about different visions of the identity of France itself. “

Bannon has long predicted and welcomed the rise of white Christian identity politics. He publicized Le Pen’s visit to Trump Tower in January. He has nurtured the administration’s ties to the right-wing populist parties of Europe through his Special Initiatives Group. George Lombardi, the Trump supporter who arranged Le Pen’s visit, described himself to Politico as a liaison between Trump and far-right parties in Europe. “I’m in contact with just about everybody,” he told Politico.

Le Pen is Bannon’s kind of candidate. The two share a revulsion of immigrants, especially Muslims, and a resolve to preserve what Bannon calls the “underlying principles of the Judeo-Christian West.”

The fact that pollsters say Le Pen will lose in the final round, just as her father did, does not refute Bannon’s analysis. Rather, it confirms the trend he has long foreseen.

3. Europe’s Old Order Is Dying

Established political parties of left and right are seeing an erosion of support everywhere, but France’s case is especially profound. Regardless of who wins the French presidency, the French establishment has been even more decisively defeated than the American establishment was defeated by Trump. After all, Hillary Clinton won 52 percent of the vote. By contrast, the two candidates of the French establishment received less than 30 percent of the votes cast.

The real story, says the German newsweekly Spiegel Online, “isn’t just that an elite system is coming to an end, a system that no longer seems suitable for current and future challenges. At times, it has also seemed as if a different, fundamental concern is even more pressing, namely that of whether the French political system is even capable of performing the tasks assigned to it anymore.”

“This is a frightening question, one that until recently, seldom got raised in highly developed democracies. But today it is a crucial factor in some of the world’s largest, oldest democracies: in Britain, in the U.S. and now in France. In newspaper editorials and talk shows, the French are discussing whether their country’s institutions have maneuvered themselves into a pre-revolutionary plight as a result of the continued incompetence of public officials. They wonder whether today’s state is in fact more similar to the monarchy of old—to the rotten Ancien Régime shortly before the French Revolution.”

4. Le Pen Can Win

After the Brexit vote last June and Trump’s victory in November, French pundits are reluctant to proclaim Macron a shoo-in, even though he is running up to 25 points ahead of Le Pen in some polls. Macron, a talented politician at 39, has demonstrated the political dexterity of Tony Blair or Barack Obama in fashioning a centrist political persona, and it may carry him to victory.

But Macron, who once worked for the Rothschild banking empire, can also be cast as an elitist par excellence, an ideal target for populist revolutionaries. As Fox News notes:

“Le Pen’s opponents will now circle the wagons and throw their support behind Macron. That might be enough to send him to the Élysée Palace. Then again, Le Pen supporters, like those of Trump, have demonstrated a loyalty and enthusiasm that none of the other candidates can claim.”

Le Monde, France’s leading newspaper, notes that Le Pen’s National Front exceeded 20 percent of the votes for the first time. She received a record 7.6 million votes, 2.8 million more than her father won in the first round of the 2002 election.

Le Pen’s appeal, like that of Trump, is strongest in rural areas and among less-educated voters, but she also demonstrated strength among young people, who face a tough job market and uninspiring leaders. The most left-wing candidate in the race, Jean-Luc Mélenchon, ran on a nationalist slogan (“Unsubmissive France”) not unlike Le Pen’s.

As the Post’s Applebaum observes, “There is a part of the old left, including those who voted for the Trotskyist, Jean-Luc Mélenchon, who sympathize with her objections to trade, bankers and international business; there is a part of the old right, including those who voted for François Fillon, who prefer her ostentatious endorsement of ‘traditional values.'”

Le Monde says that Le Pen’s success marks the second time in 15 years that “a nationalist and xenophobic party, manipulated by a cynical, businesslike family clan” has reached the final round of presidential elections, proof that the French political system is expiring.

If Le Pen wins on May 7, it will be the death of the idea of European unity, born in the ashes of World War II.

Jefferson Morley is AlterNet’s Washington correspondent. He is the author of  JFK and CIA: The Secret Assassination Files (Kindle) and Snow-Storm in August: Washington City, Francis Scott Key, and the Forgotten Race Riot of 1835.

This article was made possible by the readers and supporters of AlterNet.

#EndorseThis: John Oliver Takes Down Marine LePen In Appeal To French ‘Superiority’

John Oliver, who hosts the most intellectually rigorous of America’s comedy news broadcasts, is worried about France — specifically, the French national election coming up next week. In the latest episode of Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, he elucidates this complicated and crucial contest in a way that is both enlightening and entertaining.

After profiling the various candidates, including a sharp takedown of creepy racist weirdo Marine LePen, he concludes with a moving plea to the French voters, in more or less their own language, telling them to seize “the chance to prove your superiority to Britain and the U.S.,” since both have made grave “populist” errors in recent elections.

Exhaustive and sobering but very funny — as Oliver always is.

Danziger: That French Paradox

Jeff Danziger’s award-winning drawings are published by more than 600 newspapers and websites. He has been a cartoonist for the Rutland Herald, the New York Daily News and the Christian Science Monitor; his work has appeared in newspapers from the Wall Street Journal to Le Monde and Izvestia. Represented by the Washington Post Writers Group, he is a recipient of the Herblock Prize and the Thomas Nast (Landau) Prize. He served in the US Army as a linguist and intelligence officer in Vietnam, where he was awarded the Bronze Star and the Air Medal. Danziger has published ten books of cartoons and a novel about the Vietnam War. He was born in New York City, and now lives in Manhattan and Vermont. A video of the artist at work can be viewed here.

U.N. Atomic Agency Chief Confirms Iran Is Fulfilling Nuclear Deal

PARIS (Reuters) – Iran has kept to a nuclear deal it agreed with six world powers last year limiting its stockpiles of substances that could be used to make atomic weapons, the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) told French daily Le Monde.

Confirming the findings of a confidential report by the U.N. agency seen by Reuters last month, IAEA Director-General Yukiya Amano said Tehran had observed the deal which was opposed by hardliners inside Iran and by skeptics in the West.

“The deal is being implemented since January without any particular problem,” he told Le Monde in an interview published on Saturday.

“There was a small incident in February: the stock of heavy water very slightly exceeded the limit set – 130 tonnes. But we immediately signaled that to Iran which took all the necessary measures,” he said.

Under its July deal with the United States, Russia, China, France, Britain and Germany, Iran is allowed to have 130 tonnes of heavy water, a moderator in reactors like the one it has disabled at Arak and a chemical it produces itself.

The stock briefly reached 130.9 tonnes, the agency reported in February.

“Apart from that, I can certify that Tehran respects its commitments to the letter. The Iranians are doing what they promised the international community,” Amano said.

(Reporting by Michel Rose; Editing by Richard Balmforth)

IMAGE: Iranians celebrate on the streets following a nuclear deal with major powers, in Tehran July 14, 2015.  REUTERS/TIMA