August 27, 2014
François Hollande's Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Week (ARTHUR GOLDHAMMER, AUGUST 25, 2014, American Prospect)
Posted by Orrin Judd at August 27, 2014 2:15 PMAt the center of Hollande's domestic policy is the so-called Responsibility Pact, which proposes shifting employer-paid payroll taxes to individual taxpayers, coupled with unspecified cuts in government spending. The measure is deeply unpopular, especially on the Left, so much so that it triggered a fronde, or insurrection, in the ranks of the president's own Socialist Party. Prime Minister Manuel Valls nevertheless succeeded in mollifying the hundred or so dissident deputies, only to see the provisions of the Pact that were intended to ease the additional tax burden on the poorest taxpayers struck down by the Constitutional Council, a French judicial body that determines whether legislation conforms to the nation's Constitution.The president's uncompromising interview with Le Monde may have been intended to send a signal of resolute firmness, but its immediate result was to stiffen the resistance of the frondeurs.The government was therefore already facing a restive majority, half of whose members were insisting on a major revision of this key measure before voting on a new draft designed to pass muster with the Constitutional Council. The president's uncompromising interview with Le Monde may have been intended to send a signal of resolute firmness, but its immediate result was to stiffen the resistance of the frondeurs. Then, on Thursday, the day after the interview, a new book harshly critical of the president's leadership appeared. The author was Cécile Duflot, a leader of the Green Party, who had been the environment minister until she walked out in protest, ending her party's coalition with the Socialists.On Friday, Arnaud Montebourg, the minister of the economy, also spoke to Le Monde, openly repudiating the president's "stay-the-course" rhetoric. Hollande had called for "an acceleration of the reforms," but as far as Montebourg was concerned, the reforms were leading France straight into a wall--although unemployment was continuing to rise, the deficit was only getting worse, not better--and acceleration would simply increase the damage. On Saturday, education minister Benoît Hamon joined Montebourg in calling for a change of policy, and on Sunday evening the two appeared together at Montebourg's Festival of the Rose, an annual event in which he celebrates socialism in his Burgundian fiefdom with lofty rhetoric lubricated by good red wine.For Prime Minister Manuel Valls, the sight of his two ministers on the evening news, wine glasses in hand, jocularly proclaiming loyalty to a president whose policy they simultaneously denounced, was the last straw. He had made "governmental solidarity" a tenet of his leadership and had no intention of tolerating the open insubordination that had made his predecessor, Jean-Marc Ayrault, with whom Montebourg had previously locked horns, a laughingstock. On Sunday night he informed the president that it was "either Montebourg or me," and on Monday morning he announced the dissolution of the government.