The NYT treated its readers to the French version of Le Grande Bargain, with a column by Sylvie Kauffman, the editorial director and former editor in chief of Le Monde. Ms. Kauffman's piece, "the unbearable lightness of Hollande," is devoted to the indecisiveness of the French president both in his policies and apparently in his personal life.
Her main complaint is:
"Perplexed by their president’s economic indecisiveness since he took office, the French now learn that he is equally indecisive in his private life. And they have found out at the worst moment. After hesitating to address squarely the issue of radical economic reforms, after avoiding to cut public spending to reduce the fiscal deficit, after procrastinating on measures needed to restore the competitiveness of French companies, the president, having lost 20 months, finally decided that it was time to do all of the above."
Hmmm, Hollande put off Kauffman's radical economic reforms and spending cuts for 20 months and this perplexed the French? Well if Hollande ran on an agenda of cutting social spending to go along with tax cuts, it certainly was not widely reported in the United States. I haven't checked back issues of Le Monde (my French is mixed at best), but my guess is that Ms. Kauffman's paper did not report any such commitments from Hollande either.
In fact, what was reported on Hollande's campaign was a promise to break with austerity and to follow the precepts of modern economics. This means increasing deficits in a downturn, not cutting them. There is no evidence that the private sector will make up for the demand lost due to reductions in the deficit. In fact, there is now a large body of evidence, much of it produced by the International Monetary Fund, showing that the program demanded by Kauffman will lead to slower growth and more unemployment.
In effect, Kaufman is telling NYT readers that she finds it unbearable that a French president, who was elected on a platform going 180 degrees in the opposite direction, waited 20 months to embrace the economic policies that she favors; policies that have been shown to slow growth and raise unemployment.
Undoubtedly being the editorial director or editor in chief of Le Monde is a very important and prestigious position in France. Just as people like Peter Peterson and his fellow corporate chieftains in Fix the Debt feel that their policy perspectives should over-ride the views of the vast majority of the public and the state of knowledge in the economics profession, Ms. Kauffman feels the same way with respect to the French people.
I suppose elites everywhere never had much use for democracy or inconvenient truth. Get me some freedom fries.
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