Nicolas Sarkozy got elected President of France by promising to get tough on immigration and make things easy for French corporations. He was, iow, the French Bush, and like Bush the election was very close. Unlike Bush, though, it doesn't appear Sarkozy had to steal it. He made a few (very few) dips toward the Left and squeaked by but his policies since then have been just as conservative as Bush's with the same kind (if not severity) of corruption charges swirling just below the surface.
So, having followed the usual conservative prescriptions - lower taxes, tax cuts for the rich, deregulation of financial markets, etc - are they working out any better for France than the US?
More than a million French workers staged a general strike and marched in demonstrations across the country Thursday in a second round of protests against the government's handling of the world economic crisis.
The protests, which drew substantially more people than a similar outpouring Jan. 29, were depicted by union leaders as part of a campaign to pressure President Nicolas Sarkozy to do more to defend the French against the global economic upheaval. In particular, they called on him to raise low-end wages and unemployment benefits and to make it harder for business leaders to fire employees when profits sink.
"I cannot believe the government will stay immobile in the face of a phenomenon of this size," said Bernard Thibault of the General Labor Confederation on the government's France 2 television. He added later, "Workers don't want to be the victims any more of a crisis for which they are not responsible."
More than 90,000 French workers joined the ranks of the unemployed in January, pushing the total to 2.2 million and leading economists to estimate the unemployment rate at around 8 percent of the workforce. In addition, an increasing number of factories, particularly in the auto industry, have put workers on part-time schedules, drastically reducing their take-home pay and increasing fears of more layoffs.
Sarkozy, who remains in thrall to conservative corporate backers and advisors, has been moving slowly and with what the French consider to be, at best, half-measures.
Sarkozy's government last month announced $3.2 billion worth of aid, including extended unemployment benefits, tax breaks for the poor and a one-time payment of $650 to unemployed youths who were not on the job long enough to qualify for unemployment checks. But the bulk of his $33 billion in anti-crisis spending has gone to buttress the finances of threatened banks and stimulate the flow of credit to needy businesses.
He has done more than Obama for common folk, less for the French banks and corporations, yet people are in the streets because they know it isn't enough.
Of course, Sarkozy wasn't preceded by a leader who stripped the Treasury for his rich friends and then started a war for his oil buddies, and he doesn't have to pick up after 30 years of conservative stinginess that has left education, the infrastructure, and the safety of the nation's food supplies in a deteriorated mess, so this isn't a crank on BO. It's a wondering how come, when things are so much worse here, we're not badgering , say, the Blue Dog Caucus?
Time to dog the Dogs, wouldn't you say?