Marine le Pen is not far right, at least in terms of economics with her protectionist rhetoric. What I find truly shocking about this latest French election is how much coverage she got as an extremist candidate, when everyone running is a left wing extremist.
Let’s take, for example the four self-identified far left candidates, who together comprise a staggering 14-18% of the vote in France. All of these men are self proclaimed Communists or “anti-Capitalists” (which amounts to the same thing) who seek to radically alter the French economy. Forget French jobs for French workers, how about “We’re told that the 35 hour week is a luxury. Well we think it should be reduced.” Or perhaps this gem of economic wisdom:
“Look the rich in the eye, and tell them not “I’m not dangerous” but “I am dangerous”: I’m going to empty your pockets!” The left wing rhetoric doesn’t stop here, however.
Now let’s take a look at the two main contenders: Sarkozy the incumbent and supposed “Gaullist” and Hollande, the first round victor and leader of the French Socialist Party. With the incumbent promising to make France “stronger than the markets” and his challenger proposing a 75% income tax for the wealthiest (yes you read that correctly) we see a disturbing trend in French politics. With the Eurozone crisis in full swing, a public debt that stands at 90% of GDP, public spending making up 56% of GDP, stagnant exports, the largest current-account deficit among nations using the Euro and a very high unemployment rate, now is perhaps the worst time to drastically swing to the left.
With other debt ridden nations following a path of austerity and taxation, how long will France’s bond yields remain low when spending drastically increases and enterprise is assaulted? Neither candidate has a vision to reform the French government’s fiscal ills; on the contrary, the first round victor, Hollande, is proposing massive unsustainable increases in teaching jobs as well as a return to the retirement age of 60. With many Eurozone economies predicted to re-enter recession this year (as Britain now has) we may see France at the heart of the next Euro crisis unless sensible policies begin to be suggested.
Unfortunately for France, it is the electorate as well who bare partial responsibility. For too long have the French people flirted with antiquated and foolish economic policies. Now, more than ever, could such programs prove disastrous in such an interconnected and interdependent situation as presented by the Eurozone. The 1981 example of Mitterrand should serve as explicit proof that ill timed left wing experiments can’t beat the markets, and in the end it is the French people who will suffer, not the political class.
Next time the European media decide to focus on an extremist candidate, perhaps it should focus on everyone.
Image Credit- Hohum