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French battle of wills

Gavin Hewitt | 14:49 UK time, Tuesday, 12 October 2010

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PARIS A huge column of strikers and protesters are snaking along the Boulevard de Montparnasse, heading for the Bastille. Huge balloons hover above the floats from the individual unions.


This is the fifth time the unions have taken to the streets against pension reform and the mood is different. They know time is running out. The new pension law has almost been passed.

Many of the protesters are in favour of rolling strikes that could paralyse France. Privately some union leaders concede this battle is lost and are trying to build a political movement to defeat President Sarkozy in 2012.

One change today is that groups of students from the lycees have joined protests. One student leader said that insecurity and the lack of jobs was drawing students onto the streets.

One union leader said to me "this isn't 1968!" He was referring to the student protests that removed a goverment, but he said the government should be afraid when students and workers link arms.

I sense today a greater militancy, that was absent at recent protests. There is more anger directed personally at President Sarkozy. And there are plenty of people who want key groups of workers, like those who work in the power, oil and transport industries, to walk out and force the government's hand.

But even while the marchers began their long procession the French Prime Minister, Francois Fillon, was insisting there would be no more concessions.

Privately the president is saying there can be no retreat. He believes that a climb-down would risk France losing its triple A credit rating. That would force up borrowing costs and would be a humiliation for France.

So a battle of wills is taking place, between a goverment that insists France cannot afford its current pension plan and many workers who believe the French way of life is being compromised because of mistakes by bankers.

This struggle looks set to intensify in the days ahead.

Comments

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  • 1. At 3:25pm on 12 Oct 2010, Benefactor wrote:

    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 3:46pm on 12 Oct 2010, cool_brush_work wrote:

    Errrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm!!!

    Technical hitch!????????????????????????!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!??????????

    Hello BBC??????????????????????????????????????????????????????????

    Much as I admire Benefactor & trust that his views will be Published the No.1 Comment on this Blog page was written by me (CBW) & was Published at No.4 on the previous Blog page!

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  • 3. At 3:55pm on 12 Oct 2010, it_wizny_me wrote:

    Why have all Western Governments covered for the failure of the financial system, and then use the importance of the financial system and credit agencies to justify their actions?

    These same agencies destroyed our economy and caused this crisis!

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  • 4. At 4:22pm on 12 Oct 2010, ghostofsichuan wrote:

    The bankers and their shareholders were all taken care of and the results have been maintaining the assets of the wealthy and large bonuses for destroying national budgets. President Sarkozy is afraid of losing the triple A rating by the very agencies that told the government not to worry about the bubble they created and to keep borrowing and spending. Seem like this is not an honest group to depend on. The banks promised a recovery if just given taxpayer monies and that has not happened. The question remains: Why should taxpayers underwrite the bankers? Why should services be cut and jobs lost to secure the profits of the wealthy? The governments and the bankers have been rewarded for their collusion that caused the problems and the people are being told that they must suffer so the wealthy can remain wealthy. What about the loss of personal wealth, pension funds and retirement accounts? No mention of how the people will be made whole. After the greatest theft in financial history the governments and the banks don't understand the anger of the people. Serfs just don't know their place in this world. Let them eat cake.

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  • 5. At 5:11pm on 12 Oct 2010, Kit Green wrote:

    3. At 3:55pm on 12 Oct 2010, it_wizny_me wrote:
    Why have all Western Governments covered for the failure of the financial system, and then use the importance of the financial system and credit agencies to justify their actions?
    -----------------------------------------------

    The answer seems to be that western democracy is a complete sham. I did not think this until a couple of years ago. I am sure you and many others that post here will agree.

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  • 6. At 5:24pm on 12 Oct 2010, frenchderek wrote:

    Look, I don't like Sarkozy but I find I'm continuing to have to defend his and his government's actions against the ignorance of folk like Benefactor.

    Since coming to power in 2007 Sarko has increasingly turned the screw on the economic situation here in France. Alongside dealing with with the crash that affected all western countries, he has had the guts to tackle economic problems that earlier FrenchPresidents have either turned away from or have tried to solve and given up on (fearful of TU opposition).

    The problems with the pensions scheme have long been known: he is the first to really get to grips with them. And, Yes, many French people don't like the changes being made - eg I would have done differently. And, Yes, many people have come out onto the streets. But, how many of them are of the "rent-a-crowd" variety - including students with CGT trade union banners at their head, for goodness sake (the CGT is most definitely not a students union)?

    Also "many people" does not mean even a good half of people. The overwhelming majority of people I have spoken to accept the changes are necessary, even if (like me) they would have done things differently. Oh, and by the way, these continuing strikes are starting to cost the unions a lot of money.

    I just want these pensions changes put to bed now so that Sarko can get on with reforming the tax situation here - which he promises to do next year.

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  • 7. At 5:46pm on 12 Oct 2010, MaxSceptic wrote:

    Blimey, the French are up in arms.

    If they'd shown as much gumption in May 1940......

    (I'm heading for shelter).

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  • 8. At 6:21pm on 12 Oct 2010, DiscoStu_d wrote:

    Students joined the strike, eh? Is is exam time already? Or perhaps the weather was particularly nice?

    I'm on stike too, in a way. A silent, minute-by-minute strike as I pretend to do work, while not working, at work. The weather is nice here too (Minneapolis) Think I'll take my strike down to the espresso bar and extend my lunch a litte.

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  • 9. At 6:30pm on 12 Oct 2010, Cracklite wrote:

    Quite right, Max Septic, and if only the British troops had not been ordered to sail back home in such a hurry...

    (I guess I'll head for a shelter of my own!)

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  • 10. At 6:51pm on 12 Oct 2010, Benefactor wrote:

    I probably need to be a little less obtuse.

    I purposefully copied the 1st post from the last entry because Gavin appears to have basically copied his last (few) entry(s).

    ...and also to poke a little fun at CBW :-) .

    *sigh* Jokes are funnier when you explain them.

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  • 11. At 7:59pm on 12 Oct 2010, David wrote:

    The last two posts by Mr Hewitt are the best posts recently, because>>

    comment from 2 posts ago.:) below>>>

    All,

    Im so sick of "EU this and that":)

    Mr Hewitt,

    are you a propronent of the European Union?

    Otherwise, why are all your articles about IT?

    How about a nation by nation description of economics and politics currently:)????????

    And there could be forecasts and whether commenters agree, disagree, but there is MORE to the UK and the European continent than THE EU.

    And how can you not cater to those local nations getting a much wider audience in the process from each nation

    Even Other sites Do this, why not you...Europe...there is no Europe here, just EU, and anti EU posters

    ?????

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  • 12. At 8:13pm on 12 Oct 2010, MaxSceptic wrote:

    Cracklite @9

    Touché! ;-)

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  • 13. At 8:14pm on 12 Oct 2010, DiscoStu_d wrote:

    @10. Yes. If a joke has to be explained, it ain't funny. :)

    (I'm still on strike, btw, until 16:00...then I go home)

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  • 14. At 8:17pm on 12 Oct 2010, Jukka Rohila wrote:

    Sarkozy is right to push for this reform and when he succeeds in it, it can help him to get into a second term: strong leader is always a better than a weak or untested leader.

    However a good question is, is this enough? Few months ago the Confederation of Finnish Industries speculated that in someday in the near future we may have to raise the retirement age to 70. As an young adult, I think my generation has already more or less accepted that we retire either in ours 70s or get no pension at all, so the question is only what other generations can we make to also post pone their retirement age.

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  • 15. At 8:54pm on 12 Oct 2010, threnodio_II wrote:

    Mr. Sarkozy has seen his approval rating plummet and he is like St. George looking for a dragon to slay in order to restore his credibility. He went for a soft target - the people living in illegal settlements - only to find himself roundly condemned for singling out Roma. He went for another soft target - not the Muslim population as a whole but the women and their veils. Now he has gone for the big one - the trade union movement. What chance does he have if he cannot even handle the soft targets?

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  • 16. At 9:43pm on 12 Oct 2010, bernardcrofton wrote:

    A shift from 60 to 62 looks like 3% savings. Easily covered by an increase in contributions. In the UK it would probably be less than the savings the Govt makes by changing the updating of pensions from RPI. I won't even go into tax avoidance.
    This is not about pension funds going bust for want of a 3% increase in contributions. Why is the BBC reporting both the UK and Europe as if there were no alternative?
    The reality is that jobcuts in Greece and now Eire have been so severe that the employment base cannot support the national debt:in other words job cuts are the problem. In both the UK and France the reduction in tax income due to bankruptcy and short-time-working exceeds the current deficit.

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  • 17. At 9:49pm on 12 Oct 2010, bernardcrofton wrote:

    To Jukka:

    The short answer to your question is that the working population should be given a proper choice between contributing more of their income while at work or working longer. People who have contributed all their working life (as I did working for a local council - those who say in the press that the LGPS is an unfunded scheme are just liars) should have their contracts honoured.

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  • 18. At 10:02pm on 12 Oct 2010, quietoaktree wrote:

    Looking at the increasing number of European demonstrations and the more intense Right-Left polarization in many EU countries ---this appears to be the beginning of more serious developments.

    America has 41 million on food stamps and `securitization´is far from solved.

    Have the British ´bookies´given the odds on Britain following the mainland ?

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  • 19. At 10:59pm on 12 Oct 2010, John_from_Hendon wrote:

    One of the more surprising recent British pension related phenomenon is the way that half the population has meekly accepted five years loss of pension without even a whimper. One would have thought that the less well paid half of the population might have raised a bit of a protest over the loss of over £25,000 of lifetime earnings, but there has been nothing but silence!!

    For those of you who don't know what I am talking about - try - the raising of women's pension age to that of men - that is 5 years loss of a pension income of 5,000 a year. The cut will hit every woman below the age of 57 - and women already earn less then men over a lifetime as women still do not have pay equality!

    I really do not understand why more fuss is not being made about this. It is two and a half times worse than the French are protesting about - yet British women remain silent!

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  • 20. At 11:08pm on 12 Oct 2010, John_from_Hendon wrote:

    Gavin wrote:

    "One union leader said to me "this isn't 1968!""

    Wouldn't it be fun to see President Sarkozy flee Paris as President de Gaulle did in '68!

    In '68 we thought that we were on the verge of radically changing the system as I recall. A number of British students took the Newhaven Ferry and got to Paris to join in the sit ins, demonstartions and debates at the Sorbonne - I recall the atmosphere was electric. It has been a long continuing sadness to me that youth has lost its real edge over the years since.

    Today more than ever we need to regain the spirit of 1968, or do I really mean that of 1848 (now that really was a year!)

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

    Maybe, 1848,

    John from Hendon,

    As the world is changing (to the East and West of you) and I do hope, the world doesn't change for the worse.

    If it does, 1968 will seem like a distant memory to you and your friends, compared to the 1848 events in Europe.

    :)

    Don't ask me to explain, as you probably do not like diatribes.

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  • 22. At 03:24am on 13 Oct 2010, Lorentz wrote:

    > 1. At 3:25pm on 12 Oct 2010, Benefactor wrote:

    "... 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. "

    I think you will be very disappointed if you wait for that kind of journalism from teh present day BBC.

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  • 23. At 03:27am on 13 Oct 2010, Lorentz wrote:

    I agree, the French Government will find a way for the rest of the EU to Gaulist easylife.

    I support Sarkozy's efforts to reform France, but his style of leadership will make it a rocky road.

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  • 24. At 04:49am on 13 Oct 2010, Punkawallabanksi wrote:

    So a battle of wills is taking place, between a goverment that insists France cannot afford its current pension plan and many workers who believe the French way of life is being compromised because of mistakes by bankers.


    --------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Bankers don't make mistakes any more the bank robbers

    Did anybody hear of Ronnie Biggs saying that he made a mistake?.

    We are not witnessing merely the collapse of capitalism but a more fundamental collapse of Christianity and its faithful steward principle in every walk of public life.


    There will be no easy way back if there is a way back.

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  • 25. At 07:22am on 13 Oct 2010, democracythreat wrote:

    Notwithstanding the fact that the Pulitzer prize is an award given to American journalists, in America, which begs the question of how Hewitt might win it for a blog on Europe, CBW betrays a startling fascination with the value of his own posts.

    He is moved to correct the official record and to protest regarding his valuable intellectual copyright.

    I am touched and moved by the raw emotions on display in this instance.

    For pity's sake, CBW, please write less. And get away from in front of the mirror. Are you really so dim that you do not understand how transparently self serving your contributions have become? If you are not snorting down your nose at people from lessor nations, you are conspicuously saying things to see how magnificent you sound as you say them. You are the archetypical British snob, lost in a fantasy of superiority with very, very little substance to back it up. You don't make points to contribute new information or reasoning to a debate, but rather you simply interrupt people with your superior waffle, in an animal display of dominance.

    Please begin to argue the case, and refrain from the histrionics.

    Having said that, the topic is an interesting one.

    THE CBW's of the world seek to blame the worker for the policies of government, the premis being that it has been the workers who have benefited from these policies.

    But can that be right?

    Even if they did, who else benefited?

    And where has the bulk of the money gone to? Has it really enriched the working class, so that they must be the ones to make up the shortfall?

    I don't see that the case has been made convincingly. I see that the money has gone elsewhere, as well as to support a welfare state.

    What about the welfare recepients in the titled classes?

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  • 26. At 07:47am on 13 Oct 2010, democracythreat wrote:

    To expand on the topic of "Where has the money really gone?", consider the facts that we must all acknowledge.

    For my taste, they are:

    1. Governments ruled by nominees of dominant parties have borrowed truly vast sums of money in the name of their resident taxpayers.

    2. The nominees of the parties have spent that money in a variety of ways. A significant proprtion has gone to doctors providing "health" services, which can mean anything from attending seminars to prescribing drugs to keep poorly parented children quiet. A significant proportion of that money has gone to other middle class professionals, such as lawyers and accountants, for pushing paper that only needed to be pushed to ensure income of the owners of these professional service firms.

    3. A very large proportion of the money spent has gone to the OWNERS of businesses providing services to government. Not to the workers, but to the OWNERS. The distinction is a crucial one. It determines whether you really understand the difference between a left wing political economy or a centre right political economy. If the state had been running a left wing game in Europe, most of the money spent by government would have gone to government employees. But in fact this has not been the case. The vast majority of state enterprises across Europe have been privatized. Indeed, the privatization of state industry has been the central requirement for new states wishing to enter the Euro zone. And that means that the core avenue for the distribution of the money borrowed in the people's name and spent by the nominees of the dominant parties has gone to the OWNERS of the businesses which provide "services" to the state. Therefore, I would argue, it makes very little sense to blame the workers for the waste of such money. It makes no sense at all to blame the workers exclusively, as this obscures the fact of what actually transpired, with regard to where that money ultimately ended up.

    4. As the debt increased, so too did the proportion of taxation revenue required to service that debt. In simple terms, larger and larger amounts of taxpayers money has been channelled into interest payments on government debt, resulting in a massive windfall for the holders of that debt. In short, the owners of mega wealthy investment funds have been the increasingly fortunate beneficiaries of the government policies which have bankrupted the institutions of the state. That needs some careful deliberation. If you want to know who benefited most, and who might be "to blame" for the policy, look carefully at who benefited increasingly from the policy as it progressed.

    5. The political economy of representation allows exactly the same people who benefit from a policy of increasing government debt to sponsor and control the nomination of those who are inevitably elected to carry out the policy of the state. In short, exactly the same mega wealthy investors who sponsored the nomination of the party representatives across europe ended up doing exceedingly well out of the debt mountain.

    And yet, it is now the workers who must pay for this scenario, and not those who benefited most.

    The anger is understandable.

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  • 27. At 09:18am on 13 Oct 2010, cool_brush_work wrote:

    Re #25 & #26

    Pontificating bilge from first to last line.


    Mind, I must agree, in this critique of the sage of the Swiss: Less is eminently more.

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  • 28. At 09:46am on 13 Oct 2010, powermeerkat wrote:

    " One change today is that groups of students from the lycees have joined the protest. One student leader said that insecurity and the lack of jobs was drawing students onto the streets."


    Gavin that's not exactly true.

    High schools kids did not exactly spontaneously volunteer to join current protests; there were actually asked and cajoled by the leftist unions to join in order to increase the numbers in the streets.

    Some of those kids (e.g. ones interviewed by France24) evidently had no clue what's really at stake and what government reforms really consist of.

    The fact that unions such as CGT had to resort to recruiting kids in order to inflate a number of protesters (which was much smaller than they claimed, anyway) shows not only how desperate they are, but also, that they don't enjoy as much mass support as they claim they do.

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  • 29. At 10:01am on 13 Oct 2010, powermeerkat wrote:

    frenchderek:
    "Also "many people" does not mean even a good half of people."


    Even if someone did't watch any TV reports, the pics published in this portal alone show a clear luck of enthusiasm (if not plain resentment) on faces of many Frenchmen (and women) who have wanted to work (yes, there are such people in France!) and tried to get to work, but have been stranded by rolling transportation workers' strikes.

    BTW. I could not possibly quote here some French drivers shown on different TV channels, regarding what they thought about longshormen's and refinery workers' strikes and a resulting shortage of gasoline.

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  • 30. At 10:11am on 13 Oct 2010, David wrote:

    No.1,

    CBW does present his case with writing that is accessible to me (important) and I assume that it's accessible to others. Why am I defending him?

    One (sniff) DOES get so sick of the back and forth examples of the evident lack of personal chemistry that is here between different people.

    No.2,

    DemocracyThreat is not as accessible at first glance because he presents his complex ideas without much caring whether some people -- such as I --

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  • 31. At 10:15am on 13 Oct 2010, powermeerkat wrote:

    "Today more than ever we need to regain the spirit of 1968"


    Although it's hard to do when Soviet Union is no more, KGB money which tacitly suported many a leftist demonstration are no longer available and even l"Humanite" had to be bailed out with private money socialism being bankrupt not only as an idea but as an economic system as well.


    P.S. I understand that even "Morning Star" isn't doing so well these days.

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  • 32. At 10:19am on 13 Oct 2010, Peter Hawkins wrote:

    Is Benefactor serious or is this "lets bash the French week"? If what he says is true, has he made complaints to the European Authorities? If not why not? I have always found the European Authorities very anxious to act on complaints by Citizens.
    Of course what Benefactor has written does sound like a Rant, even a Bigoted one, so let us have the evidence for his assertions.
    Why does he restrict his allegations to the past thirty years?
    I am fortunate to live in France and do not recognise the allegations he has made. Of course, we do have the best Health Service in the World, the Trains are first class and cheap and here in Brittany the Roads are no crowded. Everyone here is very polite and extremely friendly. No one speaks English, so I speak French and a little Breton. Perhaps Benefactor is jealous or as Andrew Marr has alleged, drunk?

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  • 33. At 10:30am on 13 Oct 2010, David wrote:

    No. 2 cont.

    as I was saying before I rudely pushed the wrong button here and posted, Mr DT presents his complex ideas without attempting to make them accessible to ..me...therefore it does take me more than one reading to make sense of them.

    And after that considering of his opinions, I've learned to understand them And actually agree ...at times with him.

    Also, I've noticed, recently, that his comments are somewhat less imflamatory (no offense to DemocracyThreat--if you WERE TRYING to be inflamatory)....

    So, therefore the above two numbered comments of mine are an attempt to bridge gaps (I'm a middle child And I'm an Aries, meaning "stubborn as a mule") between 2 of our more Illustrious Contributing Writers here at the BBC Blog by Mr. Gavin Hewitt.

    AND, CBW's comments are complex in ideas, too :)



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  • 34. At 11:02am on 13 Oct 2010, Buzet23 wrote:

    #32. At 10:19am on 13 Oct 2010, Peter Hawkins,

    Many complaints about France have been made, take an impartial look at the cases before the ECJ, look at the recent case regarding the Roma where, as often, EU directives have been signed up to yet not enacted into French law. A French born Belgian friend of mine who has lived in Northern France for 8 years and was at the cadre level laughed Yesterday when I said people on this blog were talking up the French economy and mentality. A natural francophone who knows French politics and history will pick up things we débutante French speakers will miss since we won't know the background. He considers France to be in severe financial difficulty and French industry to be in a very bad state, and he was an IT director in a large French company with industrial sites all over France.

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  • 35. At 11:24am on 13 Oct 2010, cool_brush_work wrote:

    David

    Re #33

    Perhaps You'd care to look back 4 Blog pages and read DT's comment No.41.

    If You can make sense of the 170+ lines and 2,720+ words then please do let us all know.

    Meantime, I'll admit over 2 of the last 4 Blogs I had a long, involved debate with Ellinas & Margaret about Greece's contribution to antiquity: It was way off-topic, but, no one was made to follow it - - when the sage of the Swiss wrote "..shut-up.." I took it as an indicator the content was largely beyond his intellectual reach - - it's good You read the master pontificator's #25 & #26 and understand them as encouragement is what he needs.


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  • 36. At 12:07pm on 13 Oct 2010, Lorentz wrote:

    > 20. At 11:08pm on 12 Oct 2010, John_from_Hendon wrote:

    Perhaps there is not the motivation today, at least in part, because the events of that period lead to positive changes to society.

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  • 37. At 12:10pm on 13 Oct 2010, Peter Hawkins wrote:

    Buzet23 makes useful points but Benefactor wrote, "France has been unable to afford its entire Welfare-Social-Employment policy for the last 3 decades." which is difficult to accept, seeing as the systems are in place and deliver benefits. He then goes on to make various assertions about underhand financing and alleges that various countries have paid the bill. Such allegations may be in the hands of the ECJ, do you know if this is so? I am not an Economist but industry around here is working, even if some areas are a little quiet. That seems to mean I get very attractive Devis for work that needs to be done, even so it takes a lot of time before the work is done, so things cannot be that quiet.

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  • 38. At 12:13pm on 13 Oct 2010, Lorentz wrote:

    > 19. At 10:59pm on 12 Oct 2010, John_from_Hendon wrote:

    I agree with you; this is an oddity that politicians are probably reluctant to address. I have not come across an explanation as to why the difference exists (in the UK), and it seems all the more odd given the longer average life expectancy for women.

    Perhaps this is something you could campaign on as part of the 'Big Society' :).

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  • 39. At 12:17pm on 13 Oct 2010, David wrote:

    CBW,

    LOLOLOLOLOLOL. funny thing is I largely agree with Your comments. He is slightly off putting at times (largely at times),

    But, you are his victim and that is too bad. I do appreciate and understand your thoughts on this. Because, I've had so many friends like him.

    Um, my last friend like that was banned from society largely, but ..w/o drugs he did become a library tech and found a way to make a living.

    This Swiss person is much more disciplined and IMO doesn't mean to sound contemptous, he just does sound that way without his probably wanting to hurt.

    It's seemingly uncontrolled and in your case, probably, horrifyingly rude and hugely inappropriate behavior towards you ..sorry DT.

    My ex-friend (he was into hinduism and arrogance.... and UFOs after getting kicked out of his Guru's ...area of person or the Guru's ..lets say...wanting him not anywhere near nirvana)

    But, what I am saying is the only thing you CAN do is make him angry and that is his problem. But, I sympathise.

    I just know that he IS very very intelligent and highly aware of the differences between him and others but he does sometimes write brilliantly.
    *************************************************************

    OH WELL SORRY DEMOTHREAT, you DO know living well "is the best revenge."

    In your case, keep writing, its what you do do--words that is. :)
    **************************************************************

    I'll probably be anihilated, now, but its ok, I do understand, as my IQ is off the charts, its just not very evident to others...

    and I've learned not to be offended by all people's lack of respect or knowledge of that....money is more respected now

    than art or thought or even the appreciation of such things as art and/or thought.

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  • 40. At 12:23pm on 13 Oct 2010, Lorentz wrote:

    > 6. At 5:24pm on 12 Oct 2010, frenchderek wrote:

    I think your comments show better insight into the topic than does Mr Hewitt's post.

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  • 41. At 12:25pm on 13 Oct 2010, Jean Denice wrote:

    There is still something in this debate that I haven't figured out yet. How are these changes going to make any NET difference to the financial problems that may exist in France. If people are to work 2 extra years then fewer jobs will be vacated for the young to take over, therefore there will only be net benefit to the government if new jobs are created matching the number who would normaly retire. Otherwise the debts are just moved between pensions and employment benefit. Given the current state of the employment market an unlikely proposition. I feel that it is more likely that this is the first step towards removing all employment safeguards. Like the CPE but focused a bit more on the longer term more subtle approach.

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  • 42. At 12:29pm on 13 Oct 2010, MarcusAureliusII wrote:

    An irresistable force has met an immovable object. France like many other countries has lived an existance of lies and self delusion which can no longer be sustained. That was the real meaning of the French way of life, an unyielding irrational resistance to economic reality held together by a fabric of perpetual lies, impossible promises, and absurdly unrealistic expectations. The outrageous pensions are just the first pillar of this hedonistic self indulgent ediface that will collapse.

    "So a battle of wills is taking place, between a goverment that insists France cannot afford its current pension plan and many workers who believe the French way of life is being compromised because of mistakes by bankers."

    The French way of life was created and sustained thanks to bankers and actuaries who made terrible mistakes. Now financial reality catches up to those mistakes and they must and will be corrected or the entire French economy will collapse as surely and completely as Greece's.

    Why must the economy sustain the financial system, often at the expense of the rest of society? Unfortunately because that is how modern economies function, by a sound financial system. Without it or a viable substitute there is no economy. There should be no mistake, BNP like Northern Rock, USB Warburg, Deutchebank and many other European banks played the same casino get rich quick and easy gambling game as their American counterparts and lost big at them. It was governments at the time that allowed that to happen. Banking reform comes too late to undo the damaged from that has already been done. If it isn't sufficiently severe or enforced, it will not prevent it from happening again one day.

    The banking crisis and government mismanagement of its finances are two entirely different problems. Government bankruptcy was inevitable given what seems like universal recklessness. But the banking crisis which destroyed so much credit so quickly has brought the consequences of government irresponsibility down on us much sooner that it would have happened.

    Only the US government has the power to end this crisis and then only by printing a lot of money to facillitate paydown of the enormous debts that have been rung up. And it can only do this successfully if it gets America's economy back into sound financing first. This means that it will have to generate jobs and rekindle domestic markets by keeping much of what it prints in the US at least for awhile. That might mean dropping out of WTO and enganging in a tarrif/currency exchange rate war with other economies which could sap whatever stimulus is created in the US by draining it away. This would hurt creditors and would raise interest rates but it is the only solution. So far the US government has been largely unwilling to do this, at least to sufficienty meaningful extend.

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  • 43. At 1:30pm on 13 Oct 2010, Jean Denice wrote:

    42. At 12:29pm on 13 Oct 2010, MarcusAureliusII wrote:
    "Why must the economy sustain the financial system, often at the expense of the rest of society? Unfortunately because that is how modern economies function, by a sound financial system"

    If what we have is a sound financial system, I'd hate to see what is classified as an unsound one.

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  • 44. At 3:25pm on 13 Oct 2010, quietoaktree wrote:

    #42 Marcus

    ´--only the US government has the power to end this crisis´

    --you hypocritical Ayn Rand Capitalistic non-Kensyien !

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  • 45. At 5:46pm on 13 Oct 2010, quietoaktree wrote:

    #20 John_from_Hendon

    I asked the same question to a friend who has contact with some of the American protest folk- singers of that time.

    --he shrugged !

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  • 46. At 01:08am on 14 Oct 2010, MarcusAureliusII wrote:

    Noisy little acorn, like it or not, the United States economy is the 800 pound gorilla in the room. It is the wheel which drives all of the others. There is no getting around that fact. Love it, hate it, live with it because it is just a fact of life. Nobody can change it.

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  • 47. At 05:13am on 14 Oct 2010, David wrote:

    Also, this idea by the French/Europeans of "job sharing." What IS that?

    Please, let a French or European person explain this idea. (2 people for one job?...I never understood nor like that idea, .....yet)

    But, if it IS a workable idea, hmmmm.

    But what IS it?

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  • 48. At 08:41am on 14 Oct 2010, Buzet23 wrote:

    #47. At 05:13am on 14 Oct 2010, David

    David, it's a stupid idea that has been tried several times by Socialists and I remember the then Labour government trying it in the UK in the 70's. They naively thought that by filling a post with two people working part time there would be less on the dole and their tax revenue would increase. What crass stupidity to ignore, firstly, that employers had to be willing to employ two instead of one, secondly, that they would bear the extra costs, thirdly, that they would pay for the extra training needed. I think you get the drift now, it is one of these daft schemes to make numbers disappear from the unemployment figures.

    PS. How many people can live off part-time income unless their partner is the main bread winner.

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  • 49. At 09:16am on 14 Oct 2010, quietoaktree wrote:

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the House Rules.

  • 50. At 11:03am on 14 Oct 2010, quietoaktree wrote:

    #46 Marcus

    Boy, some mods love you !

    `800 pound gorilla´

    --- too much junk food !

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  • 51. At 11:31am on 14 Oct 2010, Commodus wrote:

    Re #46

    "Noisy little acorn, like it or not, the United States economy is the 800 pound gorilla in the room. It is the wheel which drives all of the others. There is no getting around that fact. Love it, hate it, live with it because it is just a fact of life. Nobody can change it."

    Hu hu hu, nobody can change it, what a laugh, China catching fast, better watch your back! Also Eurozone has higher GDP than the USA (source : CIA wolrd factbook 2009).

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  • 52. At 12:02pm on 14 Oct 2010, MarcusAureliusII wrote:

    Commode:

    The fact is that GDP is not an accurate indicator of what an economy does for a country. I've explained this before. China's GDP is merely a reflection of how much is produced on its territory, not how much of it China owns or how much profit it keeps from it. China only keeps 13 cents of every dollar in GDP. It's real income is measured by GNI which is only a small fraction of its GDP. GNI, GNI per capita are much better indicators of its wealth and the wealth of its people.

    Here are some real numbers;

    http://www.nationmaster.com/graph/eco_gro_nat_inc-economy-gross-national-income

    Click on the other two tabs to get a fuller understanding of Chian's plight. Also China depends on large quantities of high volume low cost exports, much of it to the USA. Most of these are in fact low tech items such as consumer electronics (yes compared to cutting edge technology consumer electronics is in fact low tech and it is designed mostly elsewhere like the US and Japan) and textiles. China depends on importing large quantities of raw materials and energy to survive. It must grow at 6% per year just to stay where it is compared to its population. Its economy is extremely fragile and vulnerable. The press have badly distorted the true picture of China, probably in part because they don't understand it themselves. The largest part of the profits made in China are...repatriated to the US. Right now there is the real possibility of trade and currency wars between China and the US and between China and the EU. It is a war China cannot win.

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  • 53. At 12:46pm on 14 Oct 2010, quietoaktree wrote:

    #52 Marcus

    --by your own admission---too much chinese Junk-Food !

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  • 54. At 2:05pm on 14 Oct 2010, Nik wrote:

    52. At 12:02pm on 14 Oct 2010, MarcusAureliusII wrote:

    """Click on the other two tabs to get a fuller understanding of Chian's plight. Also China depends on large quantities of high volume low cost exports, much of it to the USA."""

    And the other much to the EU. In that way China is to a large extend dependend on EU and to an even larger extend to the US. If any of the two decides to reduce chinese imports, China will have to change speed on its gearbox and probably it will simply put the reverse.

    """Most of these are in fact low tech items such as consumer electronics (yes compared to cutting edge technology consumer electronics is in fact low tech and it is designed mostly elsewhere like the US and Japan) and textiles.""""

    True. They do proceed to construct more complex stuff and even stuff internally designed while their quality keeps rising - there is no comparison to what they fabricated 15-20 years back. But that is not the question, the question is what you describe below:

    """China depends on importing large quantities of raw materials and energy to survive."""

    Well yes. The curse of China is that despite its huge size, it has relatively less ressources per km² and even less per population

    """It must grow at 6% per year just to stay where it is compared to its population."""

    I do not know on this number but I guess you have some basis to say so. They might continue for some years to enjoy 8-10% but they will eventually stop. Then what? Make war with India to keep the population occupied or something?

    """Its economy is extremely fragile and vulnerable. The press have badly distorted the true picture of China, probably in part because they don't understand it themselves."""

    I think also the same thing.

    """The largest part of the profits made in China are...repatriated to the US."""

    Yes, but that is the big game of the US plutocratic oligarchy. The repatriated benefits do not enter the US but go directly to the fiscal paradises. At the same time US citizens get poorer and poorer as the local industries are closed and the new jobs arriving are mostly of the MacJob type.

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  • 55. At 3:24pm on 14 Oct 2010, resistance35 wrote:

    When will France suggest a 'common EU pension policy' and then demand an opt-out of the 65 retirement age which is usual in other countries? I wouldn't be surprised if France expects Germany to pay for it.

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  • 56. At 4:08pm on 14 Oct 2010, Buzet23 wrote:

    #54. At 2:05pm on 14 Oct 2010, Nik

    """China depends on importing large quantities of raw materials and energy to survive."""

    Well yes. The curse of China is that despite its huge size, it has relatively less ressources per km² and even less per population

    -------------------------------

    As always, you fall hook line and sinker into foolish statements,

    Why do you think there are less resources, eh, could it be simply that they know where they are but are not using than so as to assure a virtual monopoly when the plentiful resources they have get scarce. Think Nik for once!

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  • 57. At 5:51pm on 14 Oct 2010, quietoaktree wrote:

    Marcus

    Blame Wal Mart for the deficit ---and NOT the Chinese !

    ---go on a diet .

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  • 58. At 06:57am on 15 Oct 2010, David wrote:

    Yes, Buzet,

    Some liberals are not good with economic ideas--remember "equal pay for equal work?"..if I work hard and u work hard then ...obviously I shd make a very similar amt.

    That was the Feminist big idea way back in 80s? It was on a Demo. party platform at least once.

    But, I hold my nose and vote democratic sometimes, and never regret it:))

    Think of Sarah Palin, Bill O'Reilly, and worst of all Glenn Beck:( It's as if there is a death wish in the Republican party..scary OR good?..don't know.

    There is a rise in white militias....maybe its just me, or are Americans losing it? (this time..in a big way)

    I'm thinking Obama is refusing engagement with these looneys...but his appeal against the courts lifting the ban on "gays in the military"..is it genius or a judgemental lapse?

    I know it's a sensitive issue, but what is a voter base for? Slapping it senseless for strategic reasons--hmmm, I'm torn. Why bother?

    Average voters are not as naive as they were in B Clinton's era...I'm thinking..oh well, worry, worry:)

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  • 59. At 10:29am on 15 Oct 2010, Buzet23 wrote:

    #58. At 06:57am on 15 Oct 2010, David

    All politicians play the ratings game but I have to say Sarkozy and Obama leave the rest standing, I didn't particularly like Bush but since Obama got power he makes Bush look intelligent. The preoccupation is to always latch onto something simple to make it appear he's on the ball, whether that be BP or gays in Obama's case or the Roma's in Sarko's.

    It reminds me also of Tony Bliar, always spin and always ensuring the mess him and McClown were generating never saw light of day with disinformation the order of the day. Those in the US should be looking very carefully at what is going on behind the scenes.

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  • 60. At 3:09pm on 15 Oct 2010, David wrote:

    Scary, Buzet...oh, well. Hopefully, we'll cope:)

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  • 61. At 4:26pm on 15 Oct 2010, LondonHarris wrote:

    7. At 5:46pm on 12 Oct 2010, MaxSceptic wrote:
    Blimey, the French are up in arms.

    If they'd shown as much gumption in May 1940......

    (I'm heading for shelter).

    --------------------------------------------------

    Yep, and many Brits are going with you, for they to are burying their Heads in the Sand in Cameroons 2010......

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  • 62. At 08:10am on 16 Oct 2010, laughingjkings wrote:

    Unfortuntely many of the British commentators on this board do not understand how the French Social Security systems work. French citizens pay a higher level of Social Tax than in the UK (in addition to comparative NI and Income Tax contributions, and this is why they have been able to afford a better standard of Healthcare and Benefit provision. However, in the modern age most governments have to accept that due to an ageing population (which is affecting all of the developed world including France), that current pensions and retirement ages are unsustainable.

    So all the postings about France being subsidised by the EU are essentially the nonsense ravings of ill informed Anglocentric press.

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  • 63. At 08:13am on 16 Oct 2010, laughingjkings wrote:

    Blimey, the French are up in arms.

    If they'd shown as much gumption in May 1940......

    (I'm heading for shelter).

    ---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Still so bitter about getting hammered in the 100 years war? Castillion? Orleans? Need I say more?

    Incidentally, the French rearguard action prior to Dunkirk meant that the "miracle" was possible, so maybe you should show a little more respect for the millions of French war dead?

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  • 64. At 09:32am on 16 Oct 2010, Buzet23 wrote:

    #62. At 08:10am on 16 Oct 2010, laughingjkings

    The French Social contributions in total come to about 25% of Salary and that includes a complimentary pension as well as the basic (for a cadre), the tax is about 15% of Salary on average. Just what this has to do with the French state being subsidised by the EU is a mystery as the two are poles apart. The French until 2008 were a net contributor, but a small one compared to the UK who have roughly the same population. Even when taking into account the UK's rebate against the CAP (the CAP is 43% of the EU budget), France received back 19% of the CAP budget. It must take even the most strident French ego a lot to not admit that there is something very amiss with the CAP, and that France has for years evaded paying the EU contributions it should have because of its size and industrial productivity (remember that it's the French who say how great they are).

    "Incidentally, the French rearguard action prior to Dunkirk",

    Duh, you meant the French, Belgian and British rearguard action didn't you as although the French were the majority they were not the only force.

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  • 65. At 09:45am on 16 Oct 2010, laughingjkings wrote:

    People are finding it very hard to accept that the European Social Market model (albeit with some necessary modifications to pensions age) is superior to the Anglo-Saxon model of boom and bust, polarisation of incomes, higher crime rates and a dumbing down of culture. Incidentally, The European Social model does not just include France and Germany as many Euroseptic commentators would have us believe (Historical stuck record syndrome!), but also those Scandanavian countries which many Euroseptic commentators constantly tell us that we have more in common with.

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  • 66. At 10:06am on 16 Oct 2010, cool_brush_work wrote:

    laughingjkings

    Re #63

    Well, it wasn't 'millions' of dead (WW2), but You are absolutely correct the defiance of some key French Military (notably elements of the French 1st Army) did play a very large part in making the rescue off the Dunkirk beaches possible (June 1940).
    They held the extreme edge of the 'corridor' through which the UK'S BEF & French units withdrew to the coast.
    Of the 338,000 evacuated from Dunkirk some 90,000 (in.c De Gaulle) were of French or Allied forces origin.
    Abandoned by the British, France tried to regroup, but hopelessly out-manoeuvred by the Wehrmacht it only fought on until the end of June.

    That said, I think it is fairly easy to understand the too hasty dismissal of France's efforts in WW2 by some because of the contrast to the magnificent, decisive hold-the-ground Military endeavour of France in WW1.
    Ironically, Marshal Petain, the hero of Verdun is the leading player in the unravelling of France's military-political prestige in WW2: Vichy France was a collaborationist French Government and the divide of loyalties it brought about in the France populace still has its effect to this day.
    Nevertheless, many brave French did 'resist' and of course contributed much of the groundwork to the successful D-Day invasion & subsequent liberation. It should also be remembered many thousands of France's civilian population suffered enormously from the Nazi Occupation & from the effects of the Allied bombing etc. On a darker & tragic side, among the sufferers were France's Jews most of whom Vichy France actively contributed toward identifying & having removed to the 'camps'.

    It was PM Churchill's insistence to Supreme Commander Eisenhower to allow De Gaulle's Free French the honour (& glory) of 'liberating' Paris in August 1944: The French rightly have pride in this event, and the 'resistance' in Paris played its part.
    However, as is unfortunately typical of France in the post-WW2 era, they also like to pretend the march down the Champs Elycee was accomplished without the US Army & Airforce in close attendance to ensure Nazi Germany's forces didn't spoil the parade!

    I think this lack of grace is where so much of France's 'arrogant' reputation has been rightly or wrongly earned.

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  • 67. At 10:09am on 16 Oct 2010, Buzet23 wrote:

    #65. At 09:45am on 16 Oct 2010, laughingjkings

    Like others here you have mixed up the theory with the practice, the Social Europe model is indeed very good BUT it has been increasingly corrupted and turned into a corrupt Socialist model. Most here express a desire to abandon the undemocratic, corrupt EU state that portrays itself as the European Social Model, and return to a true confederation that believes in and enacts a true SOCIAL Europe. Therefore when you compare the current EU model to the boom & bust model (which is not just Anglo-Saxon BTW) you are in effect comparing one disaster to another disaster, neither work.

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  • 68. At 1:14pm on 16 Oct 2010, Carl wrote:

    The French need to realise that they need to enter the real world! They cannot sustain their 'lifestyle' and need to accept that they need to pay their way and not rely on other EU nations to show a blind eye towards them.

    Also I have seen some posts about regaining the spirit of Sorbonne and today's youth do not protest, particularly in Britain! Well I have to say that is a good thing, all that strikes bring is more misery, there are far more intelligent ways of getting your point across in dialogue, and if today's youth take that approach I am for one more than happy that it is not 1968 all over again! French students on strike is laughable and just highlights the laziness of their thought that they may have to work a few more years! FRANCE WAKE UP AND GROW UP!

    Rant over!

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  • 69. At 1:41pm on 16 Oct 2010, resistance35 wrote:

    The French truly are the most arrogant in all of Europe.

    Nearly every other country has 65 as retirement age, but the French think even 60 is too much. They probably expect Germany to hand over money to fund French pensions.

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  • 70. At 2:15pm on 16 Oct 2010, Christopher Barrett wrote:

    I don't accept the argument from resistance35 about the French being the most arrogant of all in Europe. I have lived there and will do so again to start a new career. The problems there are very deep rooted and it is in France where they have France Telecom and all the suicides that have occurred. The current round of strikes are more than just about increasing the retirement age.

    I am of the firm opinion that after 60 that people should not be forced to work FULL time. There is a lot more to life than just work and I am sure that, for example, phasing in a 4 day week for these people (all over Europe) is a sensible way forward and is a good compromise between politicians who want us to work longer and the ordinary people (of all countries I would say) who simply do not want to.

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  • 71. At 2:22pm on 16 Oct 2010, Christopher Barrett wrote:

    User resistance35 makes a comment about Germany funding French pensions. Germany does not have the same problems as France as German companies have tended to train their workforce well and, most importantly, look after their workforce well.

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  • 72. At 4:22pm on 16 Oct 2010, Leo_Naphta wrote:

    I wonder how many people here are actually aware that 60 is the minimum age to retire & you actually need to work until you're 65 if you want to receive a full state pension. It's not as if every Frenchman retires at 60, I'm quite sure most work on until they're 65.

    The reform is going to up it to 62 minimum and to 67 up from 65 for a full pension. This isn't "entering the real world" , unless you mean by that accepting over-exploitation like a lot of you here seem to do.

    There's a lot of talk about how it's unsustainable to keep the current social system, yet the mathematics actually show that France only needs to be able to allocate an extra 2.7 of the current GDP to social security by 2060 to cover those costs. That isn't actually an unattainable number in any world. These so called 'necessary mathematics' about the reforms, are usually more political than anything else.

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  • 73. At 9:48pm on 16 Oct 2010, bart wrote:

    All well and good but lets get back to France now and today.

    As a person who spent some time as a Financial Planner here in the US I used to have a program which I would run for any clients who came for my services.

    With that system I could put in a persons income today, their expenses, future plans,
    hopes for retirement, government payments, etc etc and when they expected to retire and with how much they needed in retirement.

    The first question from a client was usually Given my information can I retire at a certain age in a certain fashion.

    Usually the answer was no you can not, only some times the answer was yes.

    When the answer was yes it was usually a complete accident since the customer did
    no formal planning of his own and I could always make that good situation better.

    For most the NO answer would be changed to YES with some adjustment.

    Some times a client would just leave and some times he or she would stay that was always up to them.

    Right now the people of France have been given the Bad news but no one it seems has taken a professional approach above and are leaving it just up to the government to fix for them.

    The money is all gone and there is non left time for a new approach.

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  • 74. At 12:50pm on 17 Oct 2010, cool_brush_work wrote:

    Leo Naptha

    Re #72

    From over 30 years experience I can only state: Apart from France's Political elite I've yet to meet a Frenchman or woman in full time work over the age of 62.

    By contrast in the UK, Belgium & Finland where I have also lived for long periods I've met many senior Citizens working to 65 or more.

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  • 75. At 3:34pm on 18 Oct 2010, frenchliving wrote:

    The BBC's Christian Fraser says forecourts are running dry despite French politicians insisting there is enough fuel in the system.

    Well this about sums up the problem here even though many have commented from France that this was the case for over a wee already but the news kept saying that there was no problem according to some government official or another. Just because a fuel station is open selling petrol and sweets doesn't mean it is open and selling what people need: diesel. The cast majority of cars, lorries and buses here run on diesel.

    Ordinary French citizens have finally woken up to the fact that their governments have lied to them about being able to defy economic gravity for decades and not just for a few weeks or days. This is the message you hear everywhere. The problem of dirigisme and government disinformatio is so endemic that they can't change their communications behavior let alone the actual way they do business. What worked in the past by dictate, directives or plain old recourse to nationalism (remember Dr Johnson and the last vestige of the scoundrel - patriotism) will no longer work. The population isn't buying it from what I can see and here being discussed everywhere. Politicians are simply disbelieved and despised by ordinary folk who are hardly political animals. The government has just made people very mad this time with what is considered to be the whopper of all time fro the French and in an age of mass unemployment (again what are the true figures), there is now great instability. It is noticeable that there is a conspicuous absence of senior government politicians in public for example.

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