On first glance, life in Paris is on the lighter side of normal. But in digging just a little−really only scratching the surface−here’s what we learned the day after Thursday’s shooting (20 April) on Champ Élysées.
An under-30 year-old manager of a high profile international (American designer) retail store on Rue Saint-Honoré said business was stone dead (we were the lone customers in the store’s 8-story building). During her lunch, she had picnicked on a park bench in the Tuileries garden−virtually alone, a sure sign, she thought, of how down activity was on this perfectly sunny day on the Right Bank. A stop at a nearby hotel confirmed the lack of activity. We were surprised to be able to walk past the Elysees Palace rather than be detoured to side streets. And yes, there were plenty of heavily armed guards patrolling the street.
Champs Élysées looked about back to normal, but the elite stores along high-end Avenue Montaigne? Shopper free in what should have been a bustling time of the day.
Here is a cross section of what we heard.
- Our under-30 store manager is hoping for a Le Pen win. Her concerns are high taxes and the inequality of the French system. Refugees, she maintains, receive more benefits from the state than do those who are working. She was proud that she and her husband were able to buy a place about 35 minutes via train outside of Paris. Her husband, an Uber-type driver, hopes to start his own business someday. The problem, as we’ve heard from others, the burden of fees, taxes and regulations on independent small businesses is killing free enterprise.
- The hotel manager of a “Palace” hotel, a gentleman we know well, is looking for Fillon or Marcon to pull ahead on Sunday. His taxes have gone up dramatically in the last three years. To what purpose? There is no correct stimulus and plenty of misallocation to the masses. France is facing economic doldrums.
- According to one of the hotel’s concierge, unlike what you read, there are many jobs available. The problem is that no one wants to work anymore. It’s too easy to collect. Furthermore, it is possible to receive more money from government “benefits” than from working. His vote is going to Fillon.
- When asked who he sees winning, our 30-something black taxi driver could not hold back. They all stink, he exuberantly told us, but Jean-Luc Mélenchon is the only choice to change France’s malaise. His main concern is lack of jobs. Alas, we arrived at our destination before he could continue his jeremiad on how Leftist Mélenchon’s classically Keynesian, statist platform of a shorter workweek (32 hours), earlier retirement (60), higher taxes and an increase in the minimum wage (already 5th highest in the world) will achieve this.
Certainly no consensus from the four. Each was well informed and prepared to support his or her view on high taxes, overregulation, and unemployment. There are going to be a lot of unhappy folk after France’s 1st round of voting on Sunday.
P.S. The Gallic shrug seems to be de rigueur at the mention of Donald Trump. The French we’ve spoken with seem more pro our “ever-interesting” president than we’d ever thought possible.