The real tragedy with the rioting in France is that President Macron could have avoided the wrath of the Yellow Vests. Macron, as promised while campaigning, did cut taxes, reform labor laws, and face down the national railroad unions. What sparked the protests, however, was what hadn’t been promised while Macron was campaigning: the fuel-tax hike that “aroused rural voters who have never liked his imperious style,” writes the WSJ.
In his televised Mea Culpa, Macron hit the right tone by acknowledging that there were “people whose status in society had not been sufficiently well-recognized.”
Mr. Macron promised to remove taxes on overtime work, while encouraging employers to give a tax-free bonus this year. Retirees earning less than €2,000 a month will be relieved of a surcharge on monthly pension payments.
Macron also refused to reinstate a wealth tax that his government had partially repealed. Raising little revenue, the wealth tax contributed to driving the country’s most productive workers out of France.
The president said these policy changes aren’t a response to “a chain of unacceptable violence,” but no one believes that as he is making them in the wake of national protests that became riots. He had to do something. The shame is that many French, on the far right and left, will conclude that looting, torching cars and vandalizing national monuments can get political results.
The French and the rest of Europe desperately need the country’s economic revival, so they should hope that Mr. Macron learns from this blunder and regains some reform credibility.
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