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France and the defining moment

Gavin Hewitt | 16:47 UK time, Monday, 11 October 2010

French port workers strike

Round 5 Tomorrow, once again, the French are en greve. The unions will be back on the streets fighting plans to reform pensions. They hope that this time the protests will amount to a general strike.

On four occasions the unions have held massive demonstrations but the legislation - raising the pension age from 60 to 62 - is winding its way through parliament. Within a couple of weeks it will have received final parliamentary approval and, after that, the time for protesting will be over.

So this round appears to be the critical one - the "defining moment" as many papers are describing it. Some of the unions are flirting with the nuclear option: a rolling strike where unions, particularly in the transport sector, vote for an open-ended strike beyond a strike on the 12th. On Saturday they are planning another day of protest.

As has happened before, the issue of controversial reform will be settled on the French street. In 1995 President jacques Chirac backed down over pension reform in the face of a three-week transport strike. And then in 2006, Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin withdrew employment contracts, after students turned out in huge numbers to fight the measures, which would have made it easier to remove workers.

So, if some unions go for an open-ended strike, it will be a straight clash between demonstrators and the government. The government has made its concessions; the unions have rejected them. As the paper Le Monde says "pension reform is the turning point in Sarkozy's presidency". "Failure," the paper added, "will sink him".

France cannot afford its current pension arrangements and this reform is intended to be a hallmark of Nicholas Sarkozy's presidency. If he were to back down he would be an empty suit, a bundle of energy without purpose.

His opponents are divided. Some are against a rolling strike. The UNSA union - drivers of the metro - have voted to work normally. However there are attempts to enlist high-school students in the protests. And then there is an ongoing strike involving port workers that threatens to close off fuel supplies. La Mede oil plant will have to shut down in a couple of days. Workers at most French refineries have backed rolling 24-hour strikes from 12 October. If France were to experience fuel shortages, the pressure on the government would mount quickly.

But polls suggest the public won't support rolling, wild-cat strikes that brings France to a standstill. President Sarkozy will be hoping that there is a silent majority who back him.

There are wider implications to what happens. It could influence others in Europe. On one level, there is not much sympathy for French workers who protest at a pension age going up to 62. Much of Europe is settling for a retirement age of 67.

Many other Europeans raise an eyebrow over the French refusal to compromise on what they see as the French way of life.

But this particular strike is a weather vane. If the protestors were to succeed it would embolden others. There have already been general strikes in Greece and Spain. A general strike is due in Portugal. In the UK, the rail union leader Bob Crow suggested that British workers follow the French in opposing pension reform.

So this is a critical moment. Increasingly workers are understanding that cuts may not be a one-off. Some countries like Spain and Ireland may have to embrace years of cuts to regain competitiveness, while the unemployment queues refuse to shrink.

Europe's unions know, too, that there are sharp divisions over the wisdom of embracing austerity. Cutting the deficits remains the new orthodoxy in Europe but there are plenty of economists who are arguing that demanding greater austerity will undercut the uncertain recovery.

So as the battle lines are drawn up in France, Europe will be watching.


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  • 1. At 6:14pm on 11 Oct 2010, cool_brush_work wrote:

    Mr Hewitt says, "..France cannot afford its current Pension arrangements.."

    Mr Hewitt, France has been unable to afford its entire Welfare-Social-Employment policy for the last 3 decades.

    France has survived by the extensive use of exploitative & under-the-counter subsidies from the EU, the fiscal largesse of Germany and the wilfull turning-a-blind-eye by the rest of the EU member States who did not wish to rock-the-boat of Brussels' self-proclaimed Economic miracle.

    Only 2 things are guaranteed irrespective of the strikes: Ireland, UK, Spain, Italy, Estonia, Greece, Portugal etc. WILL "..have to embrace years of cuts to regain competitiveness..", but led by corrupt Politicians who have lied through their teeth for years to ordinary French Citizens about the bankrupt nature of the France Economy it will continue to hive-off huge chunks of EU Funds & Policy initiatives to continue to defraud the rest of EUrope and maintain the laughably preposterous proposition of the last 30 years that France 'pays-its-way'!

    Mr Hewitt, I respectfully remind You, a Pulitzer & the esteem of EUropean Citizens everywhere awaits the Journalist with the courage to research and expose the Economic-Fiscal liability to EUrope that is France.

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  • 2. At 7:05pm on 11 Oct 2010, Jukka Rohila wrote:

    To cool_brush_work (1):

    You do know that you loose huge amounts of your credibility with you anti-France stand. I don't know where it comes from, maybe you can't connect the French culture and way of doing things to their achieved economic position. Whatever it is, at the end of the day France works and the French have a great number of results to proof it: from educated and healthy population to great infrastructure and leading international corporations. They produce a lot and they contribute much to the EU, they are a net contributor and there has been never a doubt about that.

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  • 3. At 7:31pm on 11 Oct 2010, Benefactor wrote:

    @ 1 cbw

    I knew it!

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  • 4. At 7:37pm on 11 Oct 2010, cool_brush_work wrote:


    Re #2

    What can I say?

    You are right & You are wrong!

    You are probably right about people not liking my anti-France stance: There is a fixation among most EU States & 'pro-EU' that Paris-Berlin must not be challenged too strongly on any issue of policy. This stems to preferring not to enquire too deeply about the methods France uses to exploit every facet of EU membership to its own ends. The 'don't-rock-the-boat' syndrome that is key to the Brussels entity's survival.

    A situation demonstrated par excellence by the EUro-zone debacle: How else could anyone explain 11 of 15 EUro-zone States NOT qualifying for the EUro membeshipo, but they got in anyway? And for a dozen years nobody noticed the 'double-accountancy' in Greece & the Fiscal foul-ups in some others!?

    My stance also comes from the knowledge France's Economic sums have not added up for at least 3 decades - - To work LESS hours, apparently produce MORE & at LOWER price whilst paying HIGHER wages & benefits year-after-year is an Economic-Fiscal policy that denies all reality.

    France is such a Nation & therefore You are wrong about the "great number of results prove it..": They prove nobody is really taking a serius look at France's accounts!

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  • 5. At 7:38pm on 11 Oct 2010, MariaTee wrote:

    Welfare institutions are not adapted to the actual organization of work and economy. They are all in dire need of reform. Unfortunately, in France, the opposition systematicaly undermines all efforts of saving French economy. They don't care about the well being of their fellow citizens, or about the future of the country; all they want is brainwash everyone and generate as much mayhem as possible in order to improve their chance of being elected.

    What is really dramatic is that it's not better in other European countries, or in the EU institutions. We need cool heads, competent people, who are given a chance to reform in a progressive manner. It won't happen.

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  • 6. At 8:19pm on 11 Oct 2010, Jukka Rohila wrote:

    To cool_brush_work (4):

    Why work when machines can work for you? If you haven't noticed France three decades ago, after the oil crisis, invested heavily into nuclear power that has enabled it to produce most of its electricity via nuclear power and even export it to neighboring countries.

    In the same time UK, Germany and Italy haven't invested to nuclear power, thus giving the French economy a competitive advantage over them, namely cheap energy. Do remember that Finland too is using that advantage, our energy prices lower than our competitors thus giving our industries an competitive edge which is especially important not only in wood and mineral processing, but also in machine building industries.

    Then there are other competitive advantages that the French have, for example highly concentrated urban population that are connected with great public infrastructure that allows people and material to move from and place into another efficiently. Of course other countries could have made the same investment, but they chose not to, i.e Britain and the USA haven't invested to ubiquitous high speed rail networks or to actually any train connections, thus population uses cars and sends huge amounts of money to middle-east to have oil.

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  • 7. At 8:24pm on 11 Oct 2010, Nik wrote:

    CBW ok, France et al did so but how about Britain et al - they have acted supposedly differently but have the same if not more trouble.

    You do not correct an economy by making cuts CBW and that you should know it very well. You make money by opening traderoutes and having control over them, by securing the provision of energy ressources and other first materials at preferential prices, by protecting you inner production from others while you make sure your excess production is sold to others (you cannot do this linearly but there is always some balance there to keep - there is a lot of "international cheating" there to do and gain and get the upper hand).

    For Europe and for European countries separately there is no big choice out there: they go bad because they have no clear goals geostrategically. What is their defense policy? What is their energy policy? What is their space policy? How do they manage the volatily of international investors avoiding getting mingled with counter productive businesses? How do they invest in real economy? Etc. etc.

    Playing with wages and pensions and other such depressive stuff and preeching about "high level of life that needs to get reduced" is idiotic. I only need to start giving you paradigms of doing the same work with 1/10 ressources to make it clear for you that there is no such thing as "China got bigger and now Europe has to go smaller", it is idiotic. If China gets bigger it is also because of Europe apparently. Europe has still one huge card to play and that is to make deals with what is about the 1/5th of the earth's landmass, that is Russia with which it can develop a complementary approach - petrol, gas, steel, space, weapons and above all traderoutes. Such a collaboration becomes the defining block on the earth de facto and we won't have such a discussion but for the Chinese, the Americans and the Brazilians...

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  • 8. At 11:14pm on 11 Oct 2010, oldcynical wrote:

    the last strike was very interesting the bbc showed a slideshow the first picture was people trying to get to work with the stress clearly obvious the rest of the pictures of the strikers looked as if they were on a pleasant day out the difference between them was colour of the people and the disposition to work

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  • 9. At 06:36am on 12 Oct 2010, Huaimek wrote:

    #2 Jukka Rohila

    What do you mean C_W_B will lose credibility for criticising France ?
    Your statements re France here , don't enhance your credibility either .

    So What if France has Atomic power Plants , or highspeed trains . I think you are sidestepping the argument .

    Yes , France is a Net contributor to the EU . France is also the biggest recipient of funds from the EU , almost to the point of nullifying their net contribution .

    It is rediculous that France should be raising the retirement age to 62 , 65 would be more to the point .

    I suggest that your firm support of France , is that together with Germany she is a Kingpin of the EU , knock France and your knocking the EU .

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  • 10. At 07:40am on 12 Oct 2010, cool_brush_work wrote:


    Re #6

    You haven't been to the UK, have You?

    50 weeks of the year, Monday to Friday, 3 times the population of Finland use the British Railway network. Given UK's relative size the need for High Speed Network (& its practical implication among 60,000,000) isn't that of Germany or the USA. For sure the UK's 'oil' & general 'energy' supply problem is looming large, but that is a separate issue from France's situation.

    Again, the idea France has solved never mind actually paid for its Nuclear Energy is fanciful. Low Energy costs will never explain France's totally unrealistic Economic model: You should know from Your own expertise in this field that France's sums do not add-up - - actually, whenever any Economist examined France's figures for the last 20 to 30 years they have always reported this gap between Real Figures & France's claims for its Economy.
    Only nobody in the EU has been willing to take this matter seriously. The EUro-zone is a case in point: Set-up at the behest of France to ensure it kept some sort of cloak of secrecy over its proclaimed parity with a unified Germany when everyone knows nothing of the sort has been Economically feasible for 2 decades.

    Yes, I've noticed Finland is about to commit itself to another generation of Nuclear Reactors: Only, I also find Finland hasn't resolved what to do with declining Nuclear reactors its already got!? Just because of Finland's vast size enabling it to tuck the Reactors away from high density populations does not make for any less issues around the future 'waste product' disposal - - or are You suggestung Finland & France have come up with a method no one else has known about!?

    I'm aware the UK infrastructure is not top-notch, but then I'm aware France's infrastructure has never been paid for & it is attempting to redress that massive gap by tinkering with its Pension schedule.
    Sooner or later, all EUrope will have to face upto the fact of Economic-Fiscal life that France, 1 of the 2 pillar Nations of the EU, has been living beyond its means & relying on enormous EU subsidisation.

    Sorry, but the example of Finland with its vast geographical range and relatively small population concentrations (even Helsinki) is simply not compatible with the Economies of Germany, France, UK, Spain, Poland, Italy.
    Finland is an almost unique Nation within the EU - - achieving a highly credible & efficient Economic-Fiscal stability exceeding almost any other member - - there are lessons of economic parallels Finland can justly be proud of, however the idea 2010 UK or France for that matter would or should be able to follow its methods is wholly unrealistic given the present pressures on the Economies of either Nation.

    The UK at least appears to be facing up to its Economic difficulties: Though I'm bound to say I oppose much of the present 'Cuts' as utterly unfair & liable to do more damage than secure better Economic prospects.

    Meanwhile, France playing around with a few Pension rules is merely making a show of addressing its critical Economic-Fiscal position. France will, as ever, expect Germany and the EU to bail it out because the France Citizens have been misled for so long they are actually striking believing their 'Retirement' Rights should be 'Improved' not 'Reduced' - - that is the level of Fiscal artificiality France has now reached.
    A 'level' of unreality whereby all France knows the rest of EUropean Nations are cutting Public Expenditure to assist recovery from the Recession, but France's Populace insist any 'costs' of recovery must be achieved without any effect on their Work & Welfare conditions. These are People not living in the real World: It is through no fault of the average French man & woman who is as industrious, able as any other nationality - - it is a state-of-mind created over years by Paris Governments who have done nothing but borrow against their Spending Revenue & never explained the Bills must be paid at some stage.

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  • 11. At 07:55am on 12 Oct 2010, Henri wrote:

    If I may, one thing should be noted here, as regulations are very different from one country to another and as it looks very easy to judge without knowing all the context.

    For the time being, retirement is at the age of 60 if and only if you have worked for 40 years or more. If you do not fit in there, then it's whenever you reach these 40 years, or when you turn 65.
    While 60 may be in the low end of the EU, 40 years is not. 40 years is a lot more than in many European countries.

    The current project is to make those 60 turn into 62, which doesn't seem that hard, right ? .. and 65 to 67. 67, that sounds a little harder already.

    That was for the context.

    A ground for protest is the following : a majority of people actually stop working before the age of retirement (between 60 and 65 depending on their situation as stated before) because they are out of job. Once fired, it is really complicated for 50+ workers to get a job in France. The years remaining until the age of retirement are covered by the unemployment funds.
    As a consequence, this reform will only turn Pension deficit into unemployment deficit, saving about nothing. So best case is : nothing is changed budgetwise, but people stay longer on unemployement, with all the negative feelings that come with it (uselesness, guilt, ...). But more realisticly, the next government will find unemployment costs too much and will reduce that too.
    This reform would work in times of full-employment. But then, there wouldn't be a need for it.

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  • 12. At 08:02am on 12 Oct 2010, Ross wrote:

    It is a shame that even the BBC is being sloppy and not comparing like with like. As a Brit, in my 50s, I CAN retire from 55, but I will not get a FULL pension until 66. THe French proposal is to lift the EARLIEST age to 62, and the FULL rate at 67. These figures are hidden in other BBC reports. Suddenly, the French exception does not look all that scandalous. Less histrionics, more accuracy, please.

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  • 13. At 08:06am on 12 Oct 2010, squeezy wrote:

    I live in France and my wife is French. She is a strong supporter of Sarkozy as he is the first president who is doing something positive to sort out the country's financial problems. She has even written a supporting letter to Sarkozy.
    The problem is it is a small minority who have all the attention. Public sector workers here retire much earlier and have many perks, like rail workers have FREE travel all over europe!
    I hope he sticks it out like Maggie.

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  • 14. At 08:26am on 12 Oct 2010, Cracklite wrote:

    Huaimek "Yes , France is a Net contributor to the EU . France is also the biggest recipient of funds from the EU , almost to the point of nullifying their net contribution ."

    Wrong, check your facts mate, France is truly a net contributor, very close indeed to the likes of Britain, but far from Germany, again like Britain.

    Cool brush "Low Energy costs will never explain France's totally unrealistic Economic model"

    There is nothing mysterious about France's economy, nothing miraculous, it always was a power to contend with, long before the EU even existed, and still is to a certain extent, (except for Germany, japan the us or China, goes without saying!), but it's in decline, mostly because of it's huge debt. If everything was hunky dory, I would agree with you, the numbers would not add up, but it's not the case here. And, please, stop with those paranoid and ludacris talk of subsidies under the table, they make you look pretty dumb, and kind of remind me of irrational and fearful talks about a certain ethnic group before the second world war...

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  • 15. At 09:07am on 12 Oct 2010, Benefactor wrote:

    Post 14, subtle reference to the Nazi's.

    It's a real shame that that isn't a record...

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  • 16. At 09:26am on 12 Oct 2010, threnodio_II wrote:

    #12 - TottenhamRosspur
    #13 - David Cunningham

    Two interesting points. Yes certainly we should be reading the small print before making spurious comparisons with other systems. However, this is becoming increasingly about perceptions. The French are perceived to be work-shy and over-dependent on an over generous welfare state. It may not be true but it is the prevalent view. You only have to read some other comments here to see that.

    However, there is a political dynamic going on here. In Spain, Portugal and Greece, the view of the social safety net has been something akin to a god given right. For many, the idea that is no longer affordable is heresy. The cold light of day has brought a sense of realism in Greece but there may be harsh lessons ahead elsewhere. Widespread wildcat strikes could further increase the length of dole queues and spark a downward spiral which will kill off any recovery.

    France, though, is a different case. I think there is a perception on the French right that the trade union movement has been too powerful. The unions, on the other hand, see the pension system as one of a number of hard won rights not to be given up lightly. The stage is set for some kind of confrontation. Sarkozy, I am afraid, is no Thatcher. If this comes down to a 'make or break moment', I suspect that Sarkozy will end up in pieces.

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  • 17. At 09:36am on 12 Oct 2010, Erlindur wrote:

    @TottenhamRosspur (12)

    I think it is simply because you are next in line. And when all those people that yell today against those lazy French, start to object about their own pensions going up on age requirements, they will get the answer that they must do it in order to stay competitive with those lazy French.

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  • 18. At 09:42am on 12 Oct 2010, cool_brush_work wrote:


    Re #14

    Pardon me!

    My referring to the EU-Brussels' funds being unscrupulously exploited by successive France Governments to pay for its over-hyped Economy & Welfare system reminds You of 1930s anti-jewish attitudes!

    Have You taken all leave of Your senses?

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  • 19. At 09:42am on 12 Oct 2010, Erlindur wrote:

    I wrote something back in May. I think it is time to repeat it.

    The rally is over and doubts resurface after only one day of joy. Greeks probably cooked the books in another topic. The actual number of Greeks around. Apparently there are vast numbers of them all over the eurozone. Portugal and Spain are swarmed with them. Ireland and Italy are suspected to have huge numbers of them in hiding. Rumor says that no country is free from that horrible infection. Not even Germany is free of that terrible pest.

    Don't worry though. The markets are here. Working close with local governments, the EU commission and the ECB, have started their hunt. Every Greek will be found and taken care off. We will reduce his income, cut his benefits and tax him. Order will be restored. The system must survive, Greek free.

    The rest of the West is watching carefully. Intelligence reports confirm that there are sleeper Greek cells in every advanced country. Lessons from the battle of eurozone will be studied carefully and implemented. The Greek menace will be dealt with.

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  • 20. At 10:01am on 12 Oct 2010, Buzet23 wrote:

    #11. At 07:55am on 12 Oct 2010, Henri

    Interesting post and especially the bit about unemployment versus pension, as you know for cadre the chomage only lasts for three years which was why many are fired at 57. That means to stay in unemployment etc they would need to work until 59. Therefore in the case of cadre there is a difference due to the length of unemployment they are entitled to. As for white and blue collar workers I understand that unemployment conditions are somewhat more limited although I don't know the actual figures for those.

    Consequently I suspect that the change of two years will have an effect on all three levels of staff in France since their unemployment is of limited duration. Maybe someone can correct that assumption?

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  • 21. At 10:11am on 12 Oct 2010, cool_brush_work wrote:

    In my #4, I wrote concerning, "..the 'don't-rock-the-boat' syndrome that is key to the Brussels entity's survival",

    And added, "..a situation demonstrated par excellence by the EUro-zone debacle: How else could anyone explain 11 of 15 EUro-zone States NOT qualifying for membership.."

    Further in my #10 I wrote, "..France's sums do not add-up - - actually whenever any Economist examined France's figures for the last 20 to 30 years they have always reported this gap between Real Figures and France's claims for its economy.
    Only nobody in the EU has been willing to take this matter seriously..."

    Today, EUro-group Chairman, Jean-Claude Juncker is reported to have told an IMF forum meeting in Washington that:

    'EUrozone leaders knew that Greece was facing tremendous fiscal problems, but it decided to keep quiet.'

    Juncker is directly quoted, "It was obvious that Greece would one day have to face this kind of problem, and we knew that this problem would occur," and Juncker went on, 'German & French officials had been discussing with ECB Chief, Trichet a Greek crisis...' and he concluded by saying, "..the Greek crisis could have been avoided, but not starting last year, starting 2 or 3 decades ago."

    Sorry, but any 'pro-EU' contributing on here who continues to maintain there is no wilfull 'under-the-table' or 'turning a-blind-eye' by the EU to inappropriate Economic-Fiscal activities & deals concerning EU Funds is simply denying reality.

    If the EU authorities could let a relatively insignificant State such as Greece slide for so long goodness knows just how bad is true Economic-Fiscal plight of France!?

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  • 22. At 10:40am on 12 Oct 2010, Buzet23 wrote:

    #21. At 10:11am on 12 Oct 2010, cool_brush_work,

    "If the EU authorities could let a relatively insignificant State such as Greece slide for so long goodness knows just how bad is true Economic-Fiscal plight of France!?"

    You're not alone in wondering that, a French born Belgian friend of mine has just moved back to Belgium after having spent the last 8 years in Northern France with the last three being on unemployment as he was cadre. He went totally pro France and pro EU but now thinks France is teetering on the brink and the EU is a farce, and he was the IT director of a large French company for 5 years so knows a bit about finance.

    #19. At 09:42am on 12 Oct 2010, Christos,

    Your sleeper cells are probably Greek restaurants, it's time we started protecting the poor lambs and boycotted those dastardly irresponsible Greeks who serve up such nice lamb dishes and make us forget they were once lovely fluffy little lambs, what devious cunning from this financially catastrophic country.

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  • 23. At 10:41am on 12 Oct 2010, MaxSceptic wrote:

    Of course the French are on strike: this month has an 'r' in it*.

    (By tradition, French workers strike usually during May to August - or whenever there is an 'r' in the name of the month.)

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  • 24. At 10:57am on 12 Oct 2010, Freeman wrote:

    How anyone can take a politician at face value is beyond me. Boggles the mind.

    #19 Christos: Welcome to your new position of EuroPunchbag. Makes change from perfidious Albion I suppose...

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  • 25. At 12:05pm on 12 Oct 2010, MarcusAureliusII wrote:

    Shortly after Sarkozy became president of France, he said that the French government was broke. Was he right? Is it still broke? If it isn't anymore, how did it become unbroke? Here's an interview with Sarkozy, one that is one of the best interviews of anyone I've ever seen. I think after you watch it, you may feel you know about as much as you need to about him. Personally I don't like him, I don't trust him, I don't think he is very smart. I think he lives in a world that is not real like most French, like most Europeans. His opponent Segolene Royal seemed to be even further out of touch with reality than Sarkozy was. It seems typical to me that an irrational society creates its problems by flying in the face of the consequences of its actions and then can't deal with them effectively because it is irrational itself or is pressured by an irrational constituency which will not allow it to take the harsh measures it must to fix things. Its actions are based on emotion, not dispassionate logical analysis. European pipe dreams of how the world exists is epitomized by France's problems and how unlikely it is that it will recover from them.

    Will California fall prey to the same mentality? How many other places will this "I want what I want and I don't care what else happens" ifintilism prevail? Eventually reality comes crashing down and now is the time when there is no more credit from the private sector to inflate these bubbles.

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  • 26. At 12:37pm on 12 Oct 2010, qmaqdk wrote:

    Oh, finally there was something for Gavin to write about. A strike in France. Couldn't be much better than that.

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  • 27. At 12:37pm on 12 Oct 2010, Englishman in Strasbourg wrote:

    Some reasons why France works, and will continue to work :

    1, people are paid very little within both the public and private sectors; therefore public money goes much further than it would in say the UK, where civil servants are paid extremely well for doing next to nothing

    2, everyone is legally obliged to pay massive pension contributions - unlike in the UK,[e.g. I paid 33% of my earnings for 2009 into my pension]and pension funds here are not about to be gambled away on the markets either - as in the UK.

    3, you can't get credit in France - it simply doesn't exist - so much of the economy is driven by disposable income, not by house prices or bankers flogging air as 'financial instruments'. This means there is no boom and bust economy - unlike in the UK.

    4, the majority of EU subsidies go straight into maintaining France's massive agricultural industry - helping the farmers sell their goods at a price that affords them a living wage. The subsidies in the UK however are squandered by an incompetent government which has almost destroyed it's own agricultural industry - primarily by leaving it at the mercy of free market economics - yet they blame the EU!

    5, The French value their quality of life above all - which means they are prepared to take to the streets to defend it when it becomes threatened. This means every citizen actively follows political discussion - unlike the sawdust-for-brains British electorate who happily let a corporate-lead government stream-roll over their apathy for short-term profit.

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  • 28. At 12:39pm on 12 Oct 2010, quietoaktree wrote:

    Take your pick--


    or God save the Queen ?

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  • 29. At 12:46pm on 12 Oct 2010, powermeerkat wrote:

    Mr Hewitt says, "..France cannot afford its current Pension arrangements.."

    CBW:Mr Hewitt, France has been unable to afford its entire Welfare-Social-Employment policy for the last 3 decades.

    PM: And that's why there's no guarrantee that current v. limited refomrs (too little, too late) will result in an economic recovery within next 3-4 years.

    That's what happens if you convince your electorats that people are ENTITLED to perks they are not really entitled to, and then try to take some of those perks away.

    There are plenty of people in Europe who honestly don't believe that their countries can't afford to continue as they are and suspect that governments they've elected simply don't want to give them what they've become accustomed to.

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  • 30. At 12:55pm on 12 Oct 2010, quietoaktree wrote:

    Here is the other candidate-

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  • 31. At 1:06pm on 12 Oct 2010, powermeerkat wrote:

    CBW: "Sorry, but the example of Finland with its vast geographical range and relatively small population concentrations (even Helsinki) is simply not compatible with the Economies of Germany, France, UK, Spain, Poland, Italy."

    By the same token suggestions that U.S. should have invested in railways is simply silly.

    Trains are simply non-competitive in the U.S. nowadays as means of transportation, especially when time is of essence.

    Huge cargo loads go on ships (container, tankers, etc.) crusing between Boston, New York, Baltimore, Corpus Christi, Long Beach/Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle, Anchorage. Big ones which have to be delivered fast go on cargo Boeing 747s and 777s.
    (Ditto for US Postal Service, UPS, FedEx, etc.)

    Only the rest on 18-wheelers.

    BTW. When countries like China, Russia, Japan, India etc., were asked, all of them (incl. their airlines) replied they'd like to have new Boeing 747-8Fs (freight) first, and passenger version (747-8I) only later.

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  • 32. At 1:14pm on 12 Oct 2010, Buzet23 wrote:

    #28. At 12:39pm on 12 Oct 2010, quietoaktree,

    Neither, try Land of Hope and Glory, a far better song than either of those two.

    BTW, the Belgian PM Yves LeTerme started to sing La Marseillaise when it came to the time to sing the Belgian anthem some while back and he's Flemish.

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  • 33. At 1:16pm on 12 Oct 2010, powermeerkat wrote:

    Re #19

    Christos, although your comment is sarcastic, if one replaced 'Greeks' with 'Turks' (spreading like a pest all over EU, creating sleeper cells, have to be found out and dealt with, etc.) your comment would have been typical of many we've read so far here, emanating from...hmmm...:)

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  • 34. At 1:21pm on 12 Oct 2010, quietoaktree wrote:

    And for the American among us --

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  • 35. At 1:22pm on 12 Oct 2010, powermeerkat wrote:

    (Max Sceptic observes:

    "By tradition, French workers strike usually during May to August - or whenever there is an 'r' in the name of the month."

    Too bad a year has only 12 months, and none of them is called Janualy, Feblualy, ,Malch, Aplil, Septembel, Octobel, Novembel or Decembel.

    But as it is no foreign tourist can or should rely on TGV, Air France, or even Pris metro.

    [have a bike, will travel]

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  • 36. At 1:30pm on 12 Oct 2010, Buzet23 wrote:

    Please, if you actually live in France do a bit of research before coming out with statements like
    "3, you can't get credit in France - it simply doesn't exist - so much of the economy is driven by disposable income, not by house prices or bankers flogging air as 'financial instruments'. This means there is no boom and bust economy - unlike in the UK."

    Just take a look at [] for instance as this is the credit arm of BNP the very large French bank. Also, don't forget that France started the Mastercard credit card company.

    As for your point 2 about 33% of your income going on pension I just don't believe you, a cadre friend of mine from France probably paid about that in total (30-40%) for his tax, social and pension. Unless of course you paid huge voluntary payments into a secondary pension?

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  • 37. At 2:05pm on 12 Oct 2010, Commodus wrote:

    I think there is a big discrepancy between your perception of french people attitude to work and the reality, for various reasons including ignorance and blind hate.

    For a start, working hours. There is a 35 hours week law, however in reality it means people have more holidays and work longer hours. For Management people, that means often 11 or 12 hours work per day. For engineers that means often 10 hours work per day. Concretely when I used to work in the UK at 4.30 pm people started leaving R&D floor on most days. In France at 6.30 pm it is still bursting with activity, and without having a 2-hour lunch break.

    Then there is productivity. France has a lower productivity than the US, but higher than Germany and much higher than the UK. (Fact check: OECD estimates of labour productivity levels table).

    Finally there is taxation rate. People in France pay higher taxes than in the UK and therefore enjoy better public services. Nothing unrealistic in this, simply a choice of society, even though the conservatives are bent on destroying this.

    It is not difficult to understand why people go in the street to protest against the reform. I don't define myself as a communist, however when I see banks and traders filling their pockets with obscene amounts of money, greedy fat cats (hello RBS) pocketing pensions of millions of pounds, boards of directors with 10-25% salary increase every year while the staff get 3% when lucky... How long is that sustainable? Seems like capitalism is going in a self-destructing spiral, and that worries me because I can't see an alternative system.

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  • 38. At 2:10pm on 12 Oct 2010, stvin_s wrote:

    As a Brit living in France for the last 20 years it seems that most people are missing the point here.
    It is obvious even in France that the figures for retirement don't add up and that governement is living beyond it's means.
    BUT what the French are clearly saying is that the British/American models are not necessarily the right solutions to this problem.
    Destroying the social network, solidarity and the institutions that help everyone in France is not the solution. Making cuts that only really affect the poor and low paid is not going to fix the problem long term.
    What is mis-understood is that the French still believe in a society that helps each other, in education for everyone, in a health service that is (in)efficient BUT fullfills its purpose of healing ALL people.
    For the French retirement age is the thin end of the wedge. It is the first step in following a corrupt, heartless system that destroys the fabric of society. The prevelant idea is that if they can stop this then maybe another solution, a Gallic, French solution can be found.
    This really is all about NOT ending up with a society like the UK, driven by money.
    As an cadre in France I have asked my colleagues if they would pay more tax to keep the current situation viable. At 90% poeple see the interest in paying more NOT to end up like the UK and the US. When a caring model of society is presented people support it and make the efforts necessary to maintain it.
    This is what the strikers are doing in France.

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  • 39. At 2:12pm on 12 Oct 2010, Commodus wrote:

    Back to the pensions.

    This is also a choice of life. Maybe people in the UK think it's normal that old people have to work until they die. I know some relatives in the UK that have to work past 70 because with their basic pension they haven't got enough money to live, even though they have worked all their life.

    Maybe UK and US people love to be slaved to death. French people just want to be able to enjoy a few years of retirement before they are too old to do anything. Nothing wrong with that. There is money in the system, a lot of it.

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  • 40. At 2:19pm on 12 Oct 2010, cool_brush_work wrote:

    Bath Bart

    Re #27

    You cannot be serious!

    Points 1 to 3 about France are factually inaccurate - - the France Economy & Welfare system are not run on those lines (& the 33% Pension Contribution is complete nonsense).

    Point 4 & the CAP has little or nothing to do with the France's Welfare system - - it serves only as a reminder France benfits more than any other EU Nation from CAP!

    Point 5 may be the case for French people, but has little or nothing to do with the reality that France has failed to pay for their "quality of life" for 3 decades.

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  • 41. At 2:34pm on 12 Oct 2010, powermeerkat wrote:

    "When a caring model of society is presented people support it and make the efforts necessary to maintain it.
    This is what the strikers are doing in France."

    If they want to maintain the current French welfare state they should work, not almost permanently strike, and pay much higher taxes to boot.

    Any good accountant would tell you that.

    P.S. It's been noticed that some some French labor unions (not exactly small) refused to join the current wave of strikes.

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  • 42. At 2:42pm on 12 Oct 2010, Nik wrote:

    41. At 2:34pm on 12 Oct 2010, powermeerkat wrote:

    """If they want to maintain the current French welfare state they should work, not almost permanently strike, and pay much higher taxes to boot.
    Any good accountant would tell you that."""

    Correct powermeerkat. But you keep ignoring some basic realities: Really do you think that Frenh (and every other) syndicates represent the interests of the working people? The last thing that syndicates were formed were to protec the workers' rights. Remember Henry Ford? He had given more than a double pay rise on a 8-hours shift - un heard increase back then as today! - and unions called the workers to abstain from work and demand a 6 hours shift for that money... to the point that Henry Ford got so mad that he gave finally the increase only to those who did not abide to the unions in a desparate effort to single out the trouble-makers and keep only the people who really wanted to work. Because Henry had learnt well his lesson that sundicates are not there to negotiate for working rights and salaries but to do politics for the account of others.

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  • 43. At 2:49pm on 12 Oct 2010, Huaimek wrote:

    #14 Cracklite

    Perhaps you should read more carefully what I wrote .

    France contributes €19 Billion to the EU .
    France receives back from the EU €14 Billion , including agricultural subsidies . Being a net contributor is not so significant when you take nearly all of it back .

    France is in danger of not being able to continue making such a contribution to the EU because of her huge deficits .

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  • 44. At 2:55pm on 12 Oct 2010, Norman Conquest wrote:

    France maybe having a decisive moment. But let's put things into perspective here -- there is no denying the fact that France has a much higher standard of living than, say, the United States unofficially -- and soon to be officially -- known as the Estados Unidos.

    Consider this.

    In the USA there are close to 30 million unemployed. Over 50 million people are officially recognized as living in poverty, the real number is much higher than that. One million families don't have enough to eat year in, year out. Plus millions of homeless, sick, mentally handicapped, drug addicts, etc. Even though some of these groups overlap, the overall picture is horrible and is getting even more so with every new day and every new hour.

    The United States is officially one of the world's three poorest nations, along with China and India, as measured by the number of those living in poverty.

    France has problems? What problems?

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  • 45. At 3:05pm on 12 Oct 2010, Nik wrote:

    37. At 2:05pm on 12 Oct 2010, Commodus wrote:

    """For a start, working hours. There is a 35 hours week law, however in reality it means people have more holidays and work longer hours. For Management people, that means often 11 or 12 hours work per day. For engineers that means often 10 hours work per day."""

    Exactly. Even non-"cadres" (workers) may work an 8-hour shift and be given time allowances or some divide the year into high-season and low-season (depending on periodicity of work load) while cadres really do work as much as everybody but are given the so called "RTT days" which are not exactly holiday days to be taken whenever (though this may happen too) but actually are agreed between the employee and the employer and usually are given at low workload periods etc. Consultants working for clients for example may take a defacto RTT day in those days when the client site is closed for x reason. In other countries this is called a working day still but the resulting productivity in both cases is the same, i.e. zero. And in 90% of professions there are certainly 12 days per year that roughly enter that category. In the 90% which are linear and strictly depended on working hours, indeed the 7 hours may bring a decrease in productivy which is maximum equal to the time subtracted but not really always. But even in those cases, the question is more of a reorganisation of time and workflow rather than of sitting and passively dealing with the issue.

    Speaking of working hours remember Greece? We were here saying that Greeks work by far more hours than any other so called western country in the world with timescales being actually equal or higher to east Asian countries. To give an example, France, Germany and Britain are areound 1500-1800 annual hours, Greece is around 2250 annual hours breaking the myth of underworking lazy Greeks. Does it do any good for Greece's productivity or prosperity? No.

    """Concretely when I used to work in the UK at 4.30 pm people started leaving R&D floor on most days. In France at 6.30 pm it is still bursting with activity, and without having a 2-hour lunch break."""

    Lunchbreak on average is 45 minutes at France. Same at Belgium, same at Netherlands. I see no difference. And yes 18.30 the office is still full of people. Only those that come at 07:00-08:00 have left earlier than 18:00. Usually a guy who comes at 08:00 does a break at 12:00 returns to his post at 12:45 and continues up to 17:00. Managers are the big losers who really appear at 08:30 maximum and leave after 19:00 so even after the RTT their real work time is more since they do not tend to look at the clock when they come and when they leave.

    """Then there is productivity. France has a lower productivity than the US, but higher than Germany and much higher than the UK. (Fact check: OECD estimates of labour productivity levels table)."""

    First hand, I saw no difference in productivy between France, Belgium and Netherlands for the sector I am moving.

    """Finally there is taxation rate. People in France pay higher taxes than in the UK and therefore enjoy better public services. Nothing unrealistic in this, simply a choice of society, even though the conservatives are bent on destroying this."""

    Well what is fantastic is that they actually ask to pay more for receiving less.

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  • 46. At 3:22pm on 12 Oct 2010, zou wrote:

    Hi everybody,

    Just quick note, I'm French and living in UK, and I can notice the differences of the political system.
    I know we have a reputation of lazy French, maybe it's little bit true, but I think in France we don't want to lose all the rights we had acquired and we don't want to become a liberal system and the poor people become more poor and rich people become more rich. Here in Uk it's live for work and in France it's work for live. I think the political system in France is not the best but we care about people and want everybody go to school(universities free)have good health care and have a job.
    Sorry for my English..!!!!

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  • 47. At 3:39pm on 12 Oct 2010, cool_brush_work wrote:


    Re #39

    Whilst there is no doubt some people slip through the 'Welfare' net provided by the UK it is my experience the same occurs in other EU Nations inc. France, Belgium, Sweden & Finland.

    I am also curious as to the extent of UK Pension-gap for at least a minimum standard of living.

    My wife only worked & contributed to a UK Pension from 1979 and retired at 65 in 2007: So, for 29 years employment her UK Pension is approx
    £375-00 per month - - it is not enough, but she does have other Pension income.
    I'm aware others have not been fortunate enough to contribute/save via other schemes, but it is my understanding were my wife resident alone in the UK she would be entitled to Supplementary Support if the '375' were her only Income.

    I'm dubious as to the case thousands of UK OAPs are getting by on such limited amounts as that received by my wife: Indeed, I've yet to meet an English Pensioner able to survive on that amount, so Commodus, what is the situation with those OAPs to which You refer?

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  • 48. At 3:46pm on 12 Oct 2010, stvin_s wrote:

    For those saying that the figures don't add up, that is exactly the point. Either you can have a society run by acountants and people who only care about money. Or you can have a society run by politicians with a minimum of ideals and working for a fair and equitable system for everybody. And have the people stand up for themselves and not be led round by the nose by rich people getting richer.
    Accountants only care about numbers not people.
    The fact that you have bought in to the work harder get richer falacy is a sad indictement of a society gone wrong. I am proud to live in a country where the ideal (as Nik- a French person puts it) is to work to live not live to work.
    This sounds human to me. Accountants and numbers don't sound human.

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  • 49. At 4:42pm on 12 Oct 2010, Englishman in Strasbourg wrote:


    Re #40

    I'm wasn't looking for an opinion of my opinion - but seeing as you clearly feel you know best I shall let the matter lie. I would not dare to be so bold.

    33% is the truth - granted it's exceptional - but the truth.

    Does Mr Hewitt mind you high-jacking his blog?

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  • 50. At 5:52pm on 12 Oct 2010, Commodus wrote:

    Re #47

    Well this is simple in the UK assuming your contributed all your working life for the full amount you get £380 a month if single, about £600 for a couple.

    Now that couple of AOP I know : the man worked all his life in the UK contributing for state pension. His wife worked for nearly 30 years, so she doesn't get the full pension. They did not earn enough to contribute to private pension schemes.

    They live in a fairly small terraced house in the midlands. After paying all the taxes including council and utility bills what is left of this meager amount? And thankfully they own their house. What about people who have rent to pay? Anyway he is compelled to work, and will be probably till the end.

    Thanks but no thanks.

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  • 51. At 6:03pm on 12 Oct 2010, RK Now wrote:

    The French system is rigged by people at the top against the majority (ordinary French citizens) and against minorities (immigrants, people thinking or living differently than the French government standards)!

    So ordinary French don't want to pay the price and they may well be right!

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  • 52. At 6:36pm on 12 Oct 2010, Buzet23 wrote:

    #49. At 4:42pm on 12 Oct 2010, Bath Bart

    I have just spent some while with my French/Belgian friend who was cadre in France, he reckoned he paid no more than 25% for both social, pension and complimentary pension and around 14% for his tax, so how come you claim 33% for just your pension.

    For all the others, he is probably still laughing about the claims made in post #27.

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  • 53. At 7:02pm on 12 Oct 2010, David wrote:

    Sorry, Nik,

    The EU is out of luck regarding Russia,

    China and the USA are more likely to gain from Russia,

    as YOU, the EU have not invited Russia to join...

    You have left her out in the cold, to suffer...rot,

    on her own to deal with any and everything.

    All those conditions on joining the EU could just have

    changed Russia for the Better, But, NOOOO

    So, sorry, EU, Russia is her own self's domain and will deal with you

    appropriately :))))))

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  • 54. At 7:02pm on 12 Oct 2010, Buzet23 wrote:

    #50. At 5:52pm on 12 Oct 2010, Commodus

    The UK system is crap but works on the basis, introduced by the so called Socialists, that the pension is basic and that there are credits, allowances, hand-outs given sometimes by means testing that go on top of that, but for their 'needy' hobby horses forget that. After all if you're rich enough to own a house you should be able to pay your way, abject crap Socialism, eh!

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  • 55. At 7:16pm on 12 Oct 2010, David wrote:

    Marcus, et al,

    I think NOT the Revolutionary War (the war for Independence from Great Britain's empire),

    But, the Civil War was the primary motivator of American ideals/flaws/accomplishments. The South has never been the same, for instance, but those Americans whom moved away from the South are finally, finally getting their due in wages and respect.

    So, quit using, please, the "Revolutionary War" in 1776 as your modus operandi.

    Did you know in America all the slaves were located in the *river bottoms* where they were used in mills and steamboats and harbors in St. Louis and New Orleans and ports in between and all those tributary ports??????

    Now all these places are the poorest cities in America basically including the South around the Mississippi. So, in stead, of blaming the UK for problems.

    Blame the South and the actuality of our history. We are from the Civil War not the Revolutionary war.

    That war -- the war of Independence -- was a bid for economic power...and Britain lost that war, so what are YOU COMPLAINING about exactly???

    France, if it does not integrate, will find itself in the same places (and Germany and others) that the US before the Civil War.

    Look at Turkey...if not for minorities they would be in the EU.

    Paranoia WILL destroy ya.


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  • 56. At 8:34pm on 12 Oct 2010, threnodio_II wrote:

    #28 - quietoaktree -

    - and several other equally meaningless posts.

    In years of observing this thread, this has to be the most pointless series of posts I have ever read. Any idiot can Google 'national anthem + wherever' and come up with the customary tedious claptrap. But are you for real? Piaf plus any available version 'God Save the King'. QOT - nil points.

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  • 57. At 9:04pm on 12 Oct 2010, threnodio_II wrote:

    #55 - David

    'Paranoia WILL destroy ya'.

    No David but it just might make you self-destruct.

    The Civil War was an exercise in which you guys dug miles of trenches and proceeded to kill at least 618,000 of each other. As a dress rehearsal for the First World War, it was ideal. If either served any other useful purpose, I have yet to grasp it.

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  • 58. At 10:15pm on 12 Oct 2010, quietoaktree wrote:

    #56 Threnodio

    Would you go on strike and demonstrate, singing ´God save the Queen´?

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  • 59. At 01:44am on 13 Oct 2010, David wrote:


    He would and "with a stiff upper lip." He IS beyond reproach and sooo knowledgeabe, remember?

    At least, that is the story.


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  • 60. At 02:21am on 13 Oct 2010, David wrote:

    Threnodio II,

    Sorry about your wife and that first statement.

    But, tragedy can be "lack of knowledge and/or judgement" concerning another nation's history, as well.

    But, carry on, right?


    Maybe we should advise our "retainers" to lock our coffin lids to contain "The Hunger."


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  • 61. At 08:58am on 13 Oct 2010, Englishman in Strasbourg wrote:

    52. Buzet23

    There's this thing called the 'forfait' for those of us who are self employed in France - go figure.

    Glad to hear you have a friend.

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  • 62. At 08:59am on 13 Oct 2010, Buzet23 wrote:

    #58. At 10:15pm on 12 Oct 2010, quietoaktree

    Well I doubt it would be 'The Internationale', which does seem to be the song of many strikers. Funny that, I've always noticed the contradiction in terms whereby the left wing unions increase the number of strikes whenever the Socialists are in power, unless of course the far left are in power and all strikes are banned.

    PS. Regarding France, since telling my French/Belgian mate Yesterday that there were many here singing the praises of France and claiming its finances were great, my mate has just text'd me that he has only just stopped laughing.

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  • 63. At 09:11am on 13 Oct 2010, powermeerkat wrote:

    Re #42

    NIk, I don't know whether you're aware that in the U.S. we have states in which "right-to-work" is a law.

    Which simply means that one does not have to join a union in order to get a job and keep it.

    Interestingly many a major European manufacturing company has chosen to set shop in such "right-to-work" states.

    Guess why. :)

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  • 64. At 09:14am on 13 Oct 2010, powermeerkat wrote:

    Re #46

    Zou, it's nice that you French want all those things.

    The only question is: how are you going to pay for them?

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  • 65. At 09:28am on 13 Oct 2010, powermeerkat wrote:

    "Look at Turkey...if not for minorities they would be in the EU."

    Turkey will never be admitted into EU because of its owerwhelming majority.

    Which happens to be Muslims.

    And that's the real reason no matter what leaders in Brussels, Berlin and Paris claim officially.

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  • 66. At 10:37am on 13 Oct 2010, Buzet23 wrote:

    #63. At 09:11am on 13 Oct 2010, powermeerkat,

    You seem to be indicating that demarcation is still rife in the US and that in most states you have to know a shop steward to get a job, that was to a large extent the case in the UK in the 70's concerning many industries like docks, press, coal etc which were heavily unionised, but dear benevolent old Maggie Thatcher changed a lot of that, bless her cotton socks. Now that should annoy a few here, lol.

    It sounds like some unions are too powerful in the US if some states have enacted laws for 'right-to-work'. Conversely, the UK governments of Bliar and McClown enacted legislation that prevented the hiring of replacements for strikers.

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  • 67. At 11:17am on 13 Oct 2010, windfalltaxi wrote:

    I think what is really crippling the world are the corporations , Is there anyone in politics brave enough to stand up against them and demand that they be reigned in even slightly ..
    Governments of both (rich and poor nations) along with their citizens throughout the world are saddled with debt - Surely the only true way out of this mess is to take back some control of the money system and not allow the unbridled plundering of our resources ..
    All power to the French unions who at least are trying to curtail further loss of their way of life .....

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  • 68. At 12:16pm on 13 Oct 2010, Buzet23 wrote:

    #67. At 11:17am on 13 Oct 2010, windfalltaxi

    Your post reminds me more of communist philosophy than anything else and as such it is equally as outrageous as the problems of globalisation and global corporations, who use globalisation as a smokescreen to do what they like and destroy what they like. Communism and Socialism are a curse that have never benefited any population and the last people they help are the people themselves, since to keep them faithful they have to be kept poor and uneducated. Therefore, windfall taxes on the profiteers is a joke that will change nothing, they will just get round that in a global world where you have interference by such bodies as the UN and WTO. In today's global world a Sovereign country, or rather its politicians, are too afraid to do much in case they contravene some global external treaty, whether that be the EU's directives, the UN the WTO, Human Rights etc, and the corporations and their owners laugh their way to the banks.

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  • 69. At 4:43pm on 13 Oct 2010, quietoaktree wrote:

    #67 windfalltaxi

    Many die before retirement.


    Where would you put the very Socialistic Scandinavian countries in this mess ?

    -- as plus or minus ?

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  • 70. At 9:22pm on 13 Oct 2010, threnodio_II wrote:

    #58 - quietoaktree

    I would go on strike only if my employer had done something which warranted such action. As it happens, my employer is a complete idiot who deserves all the misery he gets.

    I am self-employed.

    And at #69 -

    The rules of insurance are very clear. You pay your premiums and, in return, you buy cover. You may pay a fortune to cover a premium vehicle and never make a claim. You may cover a load of rubbish and crash it the next day. Either way, the insurers pay.

    I am genuinely confused. Do you seriously suggest that those who do not make it should apply posthumously for a refund before the greedy little beggars who survive get their grubby little hands on it?

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  • 71. At 9:30pm on 13 Oct 2010, Buzet23 wrote:

    #69. At 4:43pm on 13 Oct 2010, quietoaktree

    I'm not sure what you mean by that comment, what do you mean by where would I put them, in what context..

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  • 72. At 10:26pm on 13 Oct 2010, quietoaktree wrote:

    #71 Buzet

    --nothing bad !

    ---´ Communism and Socialism are a curse that have never benefited any population´

    How would you rate the Socialism of Scandinavian countries --also negative ?

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  • 73. At 10:29pm on 13 Oct 2010, quietoaktree wrote:

    #70 Threnodio

    Productively self-employed ?

    My compliments.

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  • 74. At 02:10am on 14 Oct 2010, David wrote:

    Threnodio II,

    You are self employed. Then that means you work very very very hard. To make something work like that takes a person

    unlike me. Congratulate yourself. :)

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  • 75. At 11:09am on 14 Oct 2010, quietoaktree wrote:

    #74 David

    --its a non-profit ´one man band ´ tax avoidance business.

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  • 76. At 11:56am on 14 Oct 2010, Nik wrote:

    53. At 7:02pm on 12 Oct 2010, David wrote:
    """Sorry, Nik,
    The EU is out of luck regarding Russia,
    China and the USA are more likely to gain from Russia,
    as YOU, the EU have not invited Russia to join...
    You have left her out in the cold, to suffer...rot,
    on her own to deal with any and everything.
    All those conditions on joining the EU could just have
    changed Russia for the Better, But, NOOOO
    So, sorry, EU, Russia is her own self's domain and will deal with you
    appropriately :))))))"""

    I have never considered the inclusion of Russia in the EU. It is like trying to fit a bear into a travel-cage for cats!!! Russia alone has the 1/3rd of the population of EU and is how much? - 5 times bigger than the EU territorially? In terms of ressources it has 10 times more? In terms of arms 20 times more? Only thing they luck is "liquid money" but then that is the ficticious side of economy - the real riches they have them just fine.

    I do not propose either Russia as the one and only medical treatment of ill Europe. No. What I say is that it would be far more convenient and cost effective for Europe to concentrate on improving co-operation with Russia in the military, space, energy, agriculture, production - i.e. pretty much on all sectors rather than waste time trying to half-collaborate/half-compete with an unwilling and equally troubled US. Problem into that is that the ruling classes of major European countries are largely superimposed with the ruling classes of US (as the latter are diriving from the former and this dates often not more than 150 years since the times of the great investment of Europe to the US in the late 19th century).

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  • 77. At 4:00pm on 14 Oct 2010, Buzet23 wrote:

    #75. At 11:09am on 14 Oct 2010, quietoaktree,

    Meow, meow.

    Those who can do, those who can't are envious and preach!

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  • 78. At 5:58pm on 14 Oct 2010, quietoaktree wrote:

    #77 Buzet 23

    I was thinking of taking him over --but neither am I musical nor does non-profit tax avoidance appear profitable.

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  • 79. At 10:36pm on 14 Oct 2010, Buzet23 wrote:

    78. At 5:58pm on 14 Oct 2010, quietoaktree

    I'm also not musical, as a one man band it can certainly be non profitable if you play alone, lol, as for tax avoidance, who apart from a complete idiot, or a true Socialist (maybe some actually exist somewhere), will pay tax that can be legally avoided.

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  • 80. At 11:25pm on 14 Oct 2010, quietoaktree wrote:

    #79 Buzet 23

    I´ve been waiting 8 months for my avoidance tax re-payment.

    --The tax office computer program did not foresee my ´honesty´

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  • 81. At 07:06am on 15 Oct 2010, David wrote:


    You know, call up the IRS, 1-800-829-1040.

    And then explain it to the CSR--if they don't have any idea and say "I'll transfer you, quickly say "Please may I speak to a manager?"

    and don't let them tell you (agree to) that they'll have a supervisor call you back in 48 hours.

    Be assertively irritating on phones and you'll get your way..if you are rather polite:)

    I know..its not internal IRS knowledge only--just getting results.

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  • 82. At 07:17am on 15 Oct 2010, David wrote:

    Oh, and a properly filled out 1040X (amended return) will work wonders..there...

    because if they discover you've not paid enough tax before you write and inform will "go to "Underreporter" and they'll (irs) figure it in the most disadvantageous way possible (to get you to file that 1040X)

    This is just amazingly unknown information that you might need. There is no point in paying un wanted offense..just perked up at ur questions.

    Neither comment is/are internal only knowledge..the info is what is given out on phones..and I'm happy to give this easy everyday "commen sense info" to you as a taxpayer ..see the govt isnt all about being creepy.:))))

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  • 83. At 07:49am on 15 Oct 2010, David wrote:

    People distrust government--workers--and liberals try to expand, hmmm--confusing. We govt workers are handpicked from the indigent (ie diverse) and intelligent--the workers who often fail in earlier careers.

    And we have the most up-to-date benefits And rights--the downsides are

    sweatshop atmospheres--the salary structure does favor the tenured.

    Otherwise, we are just as underpaid in the longest stretch of our employment as anyone else in the "marketplace."

    Longevity at govt employer-type places may be better than the average rate. People do tend not to leave their jobs to seek employment elsewhere.

    Sorry, that I'm preaching *but, info on this subject is not so well known:)
    Cliches abound.

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  • 84. At 09:58am on 15 Oct 2010, Buzet23 wrote:

    #80. At 11:25pm on 14 Oct 2010, quietoaktree

    I don't know which countries tax office you're waiting on but in the North West of England they seem to be dealt with in Scotland, and since I've been helping with the affairs of a late uncle it's taken some ten months so far to not confirm whether there is any CGT to pay on the estate. In fact for the first seven months it was impossible to even get through on the telephone since the poor darlings up in Scotland were so overworked, rofl.

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  • 85. At 1:53pm on 15 Oct 2010, decrouy wrote:


    i'm french woman i'm 45, and i can tell you, from here, right, the most of us wont work untill the "last day" (french humour) and than we look back if the workers have some social laws now its because they must have for it. when i see "my little president" spend the moneys'people for "his fun", for his friend, for old ladies...for the army, for the bank...ext...ext... and they ask us to go work more ??? for them ??? i liked the idea of a "big europe" but not for still the "social way", i'm not surprise that people go in street for tell : oh ! what happen ? u are there for protect ur country not for "take" the french as "cash cow" and used repression.its that the right : République.
    sorry for my basic english writting.

    Woodyle from France.

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  • 86. At 7:11pm on 15 Oct 2010, quietoaktree wrote:

    #85 decrouy

    --´Got the point --- the English is secondary --please continue blogging.

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  • 87. At 8:39pm on 15 Oct 2010, Buzet23 wrote:

    #85. At 1:53pm on 15 Oct 2010, decrouy,

    Bien venue ici, maybe you now begin to understand why the English so object to being taken as a cash cow, and why people like me who understand French and read the French media from Wallonia get so annoyed when the English are blamed by the French politicians for everything, and it's the predecessors of Sarko who were just as bad if not worse. The EU has been a farce almost since its inception and I'm sorry to say but the French farmers have milked it almost to death.

    Still, I hope the rest of the EU start copying the French and consign their corrupt politicians to the political dustbin. Then their political appointee failures that pollute the EU can be consigned to Siberia, maybe Alice can confirm if the Russians would accept them for re-education, lol, eh Alice.

    Bonne soiree et bonne chance.

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  • 88. At 09:39am on 16 Oct 2010, Christopher Barrett wrote:

    This is just a thought. As mentioned here a lot of governments are setting their retirement age at 67. Would it not be better to have some sort of compromise whereby people say, after the age of 60, can do semi part time work if you like? Why not have a 4 day week after the age of 60? There is an argument that people work too much anyhow and that there is also more to life than work. This would help enormously to take away a lot of anger over raising the retirement age. I am certain that a 4 day working week for people over 60 is achievable without putting a nation's economy under severe risk.

    If people work full time to 67, and beyond, what I think will happen in the long run is that wealthier people will still retire earlier while the poorer elements in society will suffer more and will work till they drop.

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  • 89. At 10:03am on 16 Oct 2010, Christopher Barrett wrote:

    France has a lot of strikes at the moment. This is also the same country where there have been several suicides at France Telecom. The protests may be about pension reform, but issues such as what is happening at France Telecom are also driving these protests.

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  • 90. At 10:30am on 16 Oct 2010, Buzet23 wrote:

    #88. At 09:39am on 16 Oct 2010, Christopher Barrett

    Your idea about part time working is valid but unfortunately it means very little to those over 50. Once you reach fifty your employment opportunities are very limited and once you hit 57/58 they are in general almost finished. In France it is the age of 57 when many cadre are dismissed since they get three years of 'chomage' before taking their pension. In Belgium at 58 you have a 'dispense maximal' for the 'chomage' which means there is no need to register are a job seeker and many take an early pension. I'm sure this is similar in many other countries as well. Under the social model here age plays a part in what you are paid which means the older you are the more expensive you are which puts employers off, as its more economic to employ young cheap starters.

    Add to that the fact that most pensions are based on your earnings for the last few years and you can understand that working say the last 7 years on part time will make your hard earned pension worth very little and on the base level.

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  • 91. At 1:48pm on 16 Oct 2010, resistance35 wrote:

    Most of Europe retires at 65... but once again the French are so arrogant to think they are special...

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  • 92. At 9:04pm on 17 Oct 2010, GaucheCaviar wrote:

    If anybody under the age of 40 and living in either the UK or France (or any of a long list of developed countries for that matter) believes they'll be getting a publicly funded pension sufficient to maintain a minimum standard of living by the time their 65 or 70, they're going to be very disappointed.

    The numbers simply don't stack up. Longer life expectancy and increasing public costs elsewhere (not least other forms of welfare, but also rising cost of transport, healthcare, education, etc) make the prospective liability of publicly funded pensions in, say, 2040 beyond the ability of any nation.

    The are two outcomes - and both will occur. The age of entitlement will continue to go up and the level of that entitlement in real terms will continue to decline. (You could add "Means Testing" which would prevent anyone with financial self-sufficiency from receiving any benefit or receiving a reduced benefit).

    Young people with the means to save for their own retirement are well advised to do so. Equally, governments should provide regulatory framework and tax incentives to encourage people to save for their own retirements. I respect the strikers in France for "taking to the streets" to protect their way of life, however they are poorly informed of the reality - and that is the greatest tragedy in this debate as they believe in a contract of trust that will not be met.

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  • 93. At 10:17pm on 17 Oct 2010, Buzet23 wrote:

    #92. At 9:04pm on 17 Oct 2010, GaucheCaviar

    "Young people with the means to save for their own retirement are well advised to do so. Equally, governments should provide regulatory framework and tax incentives to encourage people to save for their own retirements."

    Just what do you think UK people like me did for all the years we worked and just what do you think is left of those savings for the future after firstly, Gordon McClown, and secondly, the theft of our pension funds by the incompetent bankers and the wacky investment funds they put our money into. It may sound simplistic but in retrospect I should have simply put money into basic savings accounts and that is what I would always advise anyone young. Incidently, before they were kicked out of office the Socialists were talking about compulsory extra pension contributions, no wonder, it was another fund they could milk in the future.

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  • 94. At 7:07pm on 18 Oct 2010, GaucheCaviar wrote:

    #93. At 10:17pm on 17 Oct 2010, Buzet23

    Of course you're right, especially with respect to Gordon Brown's actions in respect of pensions, the impact of which has been to put most people off the idea and further damage the nation for generations to come - another legacy of the man, alongside selling off the gold reserves at 20 year lows right before it trebled in value (how does he sleep at night?).

    But from the problem to possible solutions. Your advice for a simple savings account is certainly the least risky way, but when any of us actually manage to get a net pound in our pocket its difficult to save it for the short term, let along voluntarily lock it away for 30 years or more. The solution has to be "compulsory at source" (ie an obligatory deduction from salary), there needs to be an added incentive (reduced tax treatment). And to deal with the bankers, Regulation.

    There, problem solved. Now we just need a government capable of looking beyond the next election and with sufficient fortitude to implement this framework. If such a group currently exists within Britain's political elite I certainly haven't seen it. So I guess those of us still around 20 years from now will at least be able to say "we told you so" as we stand in line for the soup kitchen.

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  • 95. At 11:47pm on 18 Oct 2010, Buzet23 wrote:

    #94. At 7:07pm on 18 Oct 2010, GaucheCaviar

    Your reply is a bit confused to say the least, if there has been no evidence to support the integrity of savings at source then to make it a legal obligation is not just continuing to play their game but also lying to our young. As you well know, each parliament cannot be bound by the legislation of previous parliaments (the EU regrettably excepted), therefore anyone having their earnings plundered on a promise is just pis***g it into the wind as no Socialist government will respect any promise if it thinks it's needy causes (or rather potential voters) need it more.

    If there is one thing that should not happen it's locking your future away at the disposal or whim of politicians. As for Banking regulations you should look at the postings of DemocracyThreat here as to who is really responsible, the unintelligent bookkeepers called bankers or the crooks that use them to make a fortune.

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  • 96. At 4:57pm on 19 Oct 2010, GaucheCaviar wrote:

    #95. At 11:47pm on 18 Oct 2010, Buzet23 wrote:

    Indeed, there's plenty of confusion around this topic, driven by the need to reconcile the long term requirements of the nation and short term politics (getting elected every few years). I'm not sure I agree with your comment regarding Socialist governments - it was the centre-left (the closest socialism ever has to actually governing) Hawke-Keating government that created the Australian private pension system and whilst those funds have had most of the original tax incentives removed, the system on the whole is generally regarded as world leading and seems to be working (for over 20 years now).

    In any case, apart from sticking our heads in the sand, what's your proposed solution?

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  • 97. At 9:39pm on 19 Oct 2010, Buzet23 wrote:

    #96. At 4:57pm on 19 Oct 2010, GaucheCaviar

    I think you've just confirmed what I was saying, you cannot put your trust in any government as regards a pension, the only safe'ish haven is where you can control your own savings without the politicians being able to get their dirty mits on it.

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  • 98. At 1:57pm on 20 Oct 2010, GaucheCaviar wrote:

    B23, I understand where you're coming from - the three elements of a solution I outlined in #92 are too idealistic in the current political and economic environment and in any case because people have been burnt before, even if a government did introduce them the population at large would be unlikely to embrace such a scheme. One thing on which we haven't disagreed is that people are going to need to provide for at least some of their retirement income. I just hope more people are prepared to acknowledge this and take the kind of steps you are proposing. Otherwise my predictions of soup kitchens may actually come true.

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  • 99. At 2:27pm on 20 Oct 2010, Buzet23 wrote:

    #98. At 1:57pm on 20 Oct 2010, GaucheCaviar

    Quite so, but how any young people with families can save these days with the high taxation rates that are everywhere is beyond me, the various government are steadily squeezing the pot dry in order to fund their grandiose plans which means there are few left who have disposable income to save. The Salvation Army soup runs may become a necessity.

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