These 5 Numbers Explain Why the French Are in the Streets

The “Yellow Vest” movement has morphed into an outcry over problems that have plagued France for years: declining living standards and eroding purchasing power.


Comments: 206

  1. First, I only wonder why similar protests have not yet developed in the U.S.. Second, yes growth is a necessary condition for improvement. But, it alone is not sufficient unless every income strata shares in the benefits of growth.

  2. @Frank Field Perhaps the election of Trump was the equivalent of such a protest in the US...?

  3. @Frank Field Frank just wait. As you know, in California we face high gas prices and long commutes. The state is about to impose onerous water rationing. Forcing farmland out of production will raise food prices and cause food shortages. Also to insult the French we banned foi gras.

  4. @Frank Field Well, if I remember correctly, one recent protest in the U.S. was by student survivors of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas high school massacre. At least one Fox News personality jeered at them, while others mocked them in more subtle ways, and various nebulous individuals threatened them, or sent the police to the house of one notable protest leader under some false pretense. I read that some of the Fox News personalities soon enjoyed higher ratings. I guess that in America, you just can't argue with money.

  5. My fellow countrymen love to complain. I may add a few additional facts : While the median income seems low to an American reader you need to remember that healthcare and education (including higher education) are totally free and largely paid by employer taxes. One can argue about the quality of education less so about the quality of healthcare. Yes taxes are high, it is a reflexion of an extensive welfare system, including a state-sponsored retirement scheme of which most can live off unlike Social Security. Finally France is one of the very few countries which has not seen a massive rise in inequalities, it does not seem obvious witnessing the latest events but it is a fact... I am not claiming this is a paradise the trade offs are simply different than the ones made by Americans.

  6. @Christopher Sounds great. Good thing you don't need a defense budget because of Americans. I honestly wish I could live in a social welfare utopia too, where everyone was educated and healthy, and safe from threats.

  7. @Brandon Lets get real: A big chunk of the US defense budget is welfare for defense corporations. EG the F35 program at >1 Trillion (with a T) over the program lifetime.

  8. B: America’s Pentagon $budget is mostly a massive transfer of tax $$$s to the companies in aerospace and other military industrial industries. What does spending $1 Trillion/year prevent? Did it prevent ISIS? It didn’t stop Putin from hacking the 2016 election. Did it prevent the civil war in Syria? What do we think the citizens of Iraq think of our political/military decisions? Hundreds of 1000s of their citizens were killed when we invaded to...to do what?

  9. This article promises a quantitative economic analysis of the news, but fails - most miserably. For example, it cites a $1,900 average monthly disposable income in France. Another more detailed article, from which this number appears to be taken, explains the significant missing details: that that value is per household member - and after taxes, rent, food and other necessities are deducted from income. My goodness, $1,900 left after those expenses? What is to complain about? That is significantly more than my middle-class California household's disposable income. Similarly, most of the other statistics mentioned paint a picture of a nation, that though still imperfect, is miles ahead of the US in terms of equitable distribution of wealth. The fact that these things are not pointed out is journalistic malpractice.

  10. @Pete Do you have a link for your numbers. That would be appreciated.

  11. Disposable income is what you have left after taxes have been automatically deducted from your paycheck, so: taxes deducted at source = income, social security, unemployment, etc. Disposable income is what you have left to live on, to pay for housing, transportation, food, clothing, etc. There may be additional taxes on these, so called VAT or sales tax. Discretionary income is what you have left to either save, or spend on wants rather than needs. Disposable income = Gross income - Taxes at source (income, social security, unemployment, etc.) = Necessary expenses (food, shelter, clothing, etc.) + Discretionary income Discretionary income = savings + wants rather than needs Please cite the "another more detailed article" you claim to have read and from which the income was taken from.

  12. @Pete I don't know where you're getting those figures, but the median monthly income is just that: net monthly income. It is net, not gross (i.e.; after salary deductions), but it is not money left at the end of the month! France's minimum wage is 1,498.47€, gross or 1,188€ net, and many people earn the minimum wage. Yes, France "is miles ahead of the US in terms of equitable distribution of wealth". This doesn't mean that people don't struggle.

  13. When I lived in Paris during the early 90's I was surprised to see how few people owned their homes. 80% of all Paris real estate seemed to be owned by super rich retired people and corporations. Almost everyone rented, and their rents were going up. There were 2 major demonstrations in the year I was there. The farmers drove their tractors into town and blocked major thoroughfares, and the students demonstrated the cost of tuition. in addition to these, there were numerous metro strikes and slowdowns. Sometimes, not coincidentally, these happened on the same nights. I had foolishly chosen an apartment near the Arc de Triomphe while my job was in Montreuil and I walked the diameter of the peripherique a number of times on such nights. I ruined a very expensive leather jacket getting shoved up against the very very well worn metal barricades. These demonstrations however were relatively peaceful compared to the Yellow Vests. I assume that the omnipresent criminal element in the outskirts of Paris took advantage of the chaos and were responsible for most of the looting, but the underlying message seems clear to me: The French want MORE socialism, not less. BUT-The rich are still under taxed and the poor are still disadvantaged. Macron is an elitist and has done little to help the situation, but in the long run, LePen would be much much worse.

  14. . @Larry Leker. why Ms Marine Le Pen, leader of the National Front party be "much much worse"? She's strongly in favor of a strong safety net. And against mass immigration from the 3rd & 4th worlds. That cant help the low and middle income indigenous French. And she's against the islamization of France. ---------- https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-01-19/le-pen-moves-into-first-in-french-race-le-monde-poll-shows Jan 2017 Nationalist Ms Le Pen climbs to 1st in French pres race. . The populist leader of the National Front, Marine Le Pen, had between 25% and 26% support compared with 23% to 25% for Republican candidate Francois Fillon ----------- http://www.nytimes.com/aponline/2017/01/12/world/europe/ap-eu-france-le-pens-world.html jan 2017 . Ms Marine Le Pen is one of the leading candidates in France's presidential election. . Early polls place her as one of the top two contenders. The other is former Prime Minister Francois Fillon, a conservative who . would slash the ranks of civil servants and trim state-funded health care — an untouchable area for Le Pen... .

  15. @MinisterOfTruth It appears you do not know the history of the racist The National Front, which is why Marine Le Pen and her father have been repeatedly rejected by the French electorate. Jean-Marie LePen was resoundingly beaten by the conservative Jacques Chirac in 2002.

  16. You are looking at your future America. Good luck.

  17. @Trump Treason Are you kidding ? Things may not be as well as they should be here in France but we're much better off than the US. Not matter which way you look at it - health care, security, education, public transportation, life expectancy, democracy... life is better here in France (and in most of Europe) than in the US. What many of us are worried about is that conservative politics may be pushing us towards what's happening in America...

  18. @Alan I only know my own life well. I live in a large home with no crime in the area, own a yacht and a sports car. Fuel and operate them without worrying about a budget, eat and drink what I want and all I want limited only by the effects of excess on my health. I do all this working 20 hours a week and am on track to retire early—even after losing half my retirement fund. I work from home or my boat with flexible hours. I enjoy hunting and camping in public lands and frequent well equipped public libraries. Would my life be better in France? Maybe in some respects. It is a great culture. I am glad that my ancestors were French and passed some vestiges of it on. I am also glad that they braved the wilderness and came to New France that I might be here.

  19. @KBronson How lucky for you. Unfortunately, you are not the 'average' American described in other replies to this article: Working 50 plus hours a week, barely being able to afford house or rent payments, medical and tuition payments, let alone going on vacation or shopping anywhere but the 99 cent store and walmart. You are also certainly not one of the many homeless Americans I see on every corner of my American city. Life in the US is beautiful, as long as you close your eyes to rampant poverty and the plight of the working poor.

  20. A combination of "Plus ça change et plus c'est la même chose" and ""It's the economy stupid!". There is real danger here as those problems mentioned in this article are profoundly true. Where are the solutions though to stop the boiling over as it's hard to see how France which, like most if not all Western countries, keeps struggling to adapt to a different economy and somehow become more competitive while lowering the benefits all French have come to expect from their government from birth to death. Macron seem to have lost a rare opportunity with his election to change the course France is on. Much is at stake.

  21. Income inequality is a problem in the western world. But the assertion that France is a particularly good example of this trend is not backed by data. The Gini coefficient for disposable income after taxes and transfers (https://stats.oecd.org/Index.aspx?DataSetCode=IDD) is 0.295 compared to 0.39 in the US and lower than the OECD median. It has also been fairly stable over the past 20 years. Increasing inequality has been a talking point in France for a long time, but it's largely wrong. Calling the reduction of taxes for capital income a tax cut for the rich is misleading. It is unclear whether it will be successful but it's a measure to encourage investment (also the reason why the US has a lower income on capital gains). If the goal had been to reduce the tax burden of the rich, it would have been easier to cut their tax rate of the highest tax brackets (which are already very high as the article notes) The other points are true. The reasons are well-known: overprotected jobs for some, extreme flexibility and unemployment for the others. That's what Macron is trying to change. Repeating the tired talking points of the French political opposition will only strengthen the rise of populism at a dangerous time.

  22. It seems the world has learned nothing at all from the great depression - you know, the REAL one in 1929 - 1940. These same low wage conditions and economic disparities caused the depression. Of course, not the total cause but a big part. So I guess we'll just need another World War to sort things out globally becasue many "developed" countries are in the same bind.

  23. @Paxinmano Wars destroys wealth, which is how equality has been historically returned to oligarchical societies. After WW II, as the article stated, wages grew in France and the rest of the West at rates similar to the economy's growth. Wage growth ended with the adoption of Supply Side economic policies, but economies continued to grow, creating the inequality that now must be destroyed. Too bad the ruling class will require war's destruction of wealth to restore the equality of the middle 20th century.

  24. When I lived in Paris during the early 90's I was surprised to see how few people owned their homes. 80% of all Paris real estate seemed to be owned by super rich retired people and corporations. Almost everyone rented, and their rents were going up. There were 2 major demonstrations in the year I was there. The farmers drove their tractors into town and blocked major thoroughfares, and the students demonstrated the cost of tuition. in addition to these, there were numerous metro strikes and slowdowns. Sometimes, not coincidentally, these happened on the same nights. I had foolishly chosen an apartment near the Arc de Triomphe while my job was in Montreuil and I walked the diameter of the peripherique a number of times on such nights. I ruined a very expensive leather jacket getting shoved up against the very very well worn metal barricades. These demonstrations however were relatively peaceful compared to the Yellow Vests. I assume that the omnipresent criminal element in the outskirts of Paris took advantage of the chaos and were responsible for most of the looting, but the underlying message seems clear to me: The French want MORE socialism, not less. BUT -The rich are still under taxed and the poor are still disadvantaged. Macron is an elitist and has done little to help the situation, but in the long run, LePen would be much much worse.

  25. @Larry Leker Sorry about your jacket.

  26. Macron gave the wealthiest in France a big tax cut, which certainly didn't go unnoticed by the French How Polloi.

  27. @Larry Leker EXCELLENT analysis and you ate correct that Le Pen would be worse. What worries me is that some segments of the population (blue collar workers who do not understand what drives Le Pen and younger generations who do ot know what her father was saying and especially his antisemitism/anti-immigrant/racist views) Le Pen is very similar to Trump (populism at all cost) but she is more subtle than Trump or her father so some fall under her "charm" like some like the looks ofa dangerous snake ready to poison them to death. Le Pen's newly found interest in the fate of workers and the poor is just as sincere and real as Trump's

  28. Can we just stop cutting taxes on the rich? We know where tax cuts for the rich end. No new jobs are created and heads end up not on the body.

  29. Why does the NYT refer to disposable income rather than gross, as it does when discussing US trends? And as one poster below comments, medical insurance and pension contributions already been paid when determining disposable income. One further criticism. The writer refers to income stagnation in the 1990s and 2000s. What is not mentioned is that French work hours were cut more than 10% during that period with no reduction in pay. Since workers did not magically become more productive to offset the reduced work time, it is no surprise that income stagnated. Or that unemployment was negatively impacted.

  30. @luxembourg I suppose reduced work hours were supposed to cause firms to hire more folks to fill the production quotas, but in France it is difficult to lay off people (once hired) in tough times, so they are hesitant to hire. It seems to me that Macron is taking some correct steps towards allowing companies more autonomy over their labor policies.

  31. It seems that capitalism has allowed the wealthy to rig the game at the expense of the masses, that is, controlling the political game to pass laws more favorable to the wealthy. So the top 1, 3, 5, percent know no bounds of gluttony.

  32. I assumed the first of the five numbers would be the cost of gas with the new tax—I’ve heard over $7 a gallon.

  33. @L B W It's actually closer to the equivalent of $5.50 per gallon per CNN and globalpetrolprice.com. Close to double the price in the US, $2.447 per AAA. Still, substantial. I'd like to know what percentage of people travel/commute in their own cars versus public transport, considering how much more available it is in France/Europe.

  34. In the countryside there is very little public transportation. For the most part, routes and stops are designed to get you to the train station. Industrial parks, shopping centers and the like are bypassed.

  35. Wow, trickle down failed again. What a surprise. Not. "The top 20 percent of the population earns nearly five times as much as the bottom 20 percent." In America, the top 20% take home 17 times what the bottom 20% get.

  36. @Kelly R Does that mean that, however imperfect, "trickle down" works in France at least 3 times better than in the US?

  37. @Arnaud Tarantola @ Kelly R More likely it would mean that there's only one-third as much trickle-down in France as there is in the US.

  38. I like the clarity and even-handedness of this piece. It is important to note that France's good infrastructure and extensive social safety net is paid for through higher taxes on EVERYONE (along with much lower defense spending than in the US). And by taxes I mean the combination of both income taxes and VAT. That may be a good bargain for all involved. But I think that Americans liberals too often get carried away with the idea that we can greatly expand social and infrastructure spending ("Medicare for all!") just by taxing "the wealthy" and not everyone. The conservative version is that we can finance tax cuts and higher defense spending just through "growth". As the (very) old saying goes, "don't tax you, don't tax me, tax that fellow behind the tree."

  39. @Moderation No, you are painting a straw man argument. Democrats do not believe that at all. If you pay attention, health insurance premiums are really a tax by another name, and a highly inefficient one at that. Collect those taxees from everyone and you have more than enough to pay for health care for everyone. But you'll also have to reign costs charged by profligate health care providers and bloated insurance bureaucracies (and overpaid executives) that amounts to 17% of GDP, or up to double what sensible rich countries spend. The resistance to change comes from Soviet style bureaucracy and a powerful Nomenklatura that won't give up its privilege easily. Talk about irony!

  40. I may be paying insufficient attention, but one theme throughout seemed to be that France has not been competitive economically, despite its advantages in education, alliances, and infrastructure. What is causing this weakness?

  41. If you talk to French citizens, it's clear that the tax cut for the rich was the straw that broke the camel's back. France traditionally had a large safety net for folks thrown out of work, from relief to the RMI (Revenue Minimum de Insertion) that brought destitute people at least up to the poverty line. These services are at risk. The middle class is shrinking the the group of poor citizens are growing ever larger.

  42. @Samuel Another big but not much talked-about factor: has anyone noticed that a lot of the non-retired Gilets Jaunes are women? Relatively low wages were tolerable when French families were sometimes dysfunctional but overwhelmingly traditional. Nowadays, 30-40% of marriages end up in divorce (including my first). For these families, divorce translates into not one but two flats for two incomes. There is now way the majority of single parents raising 2+ kids can hope to escape poverty, even with child support. A marginal but rising trend in France is for kids to stay put in a larger flat, while separated/divorced parents stay in one smaller place and stay with the kids when it's their turn. I'm not against divorce. I'm just saying it is not factored in economically by most, who are then cast into poverty. Can the answer come from renting larger properties shared by several single parents?

  43. 20% value added tax ... do we need to read further to understand French stagnation and discontent? Ok, maybe one more stat needed for clarification; i.e. one third of GDP consumed by social welfare spending. Good grief, why work?

  44. @BD - Add it all up and half my income goes to income tax, state tax, SS & Medicare, retirement savings, health care, and local and state sales tax (which is almost 10 percent btw). Frankly, I think I'd come out ahead in France.

  45. @CK You would. For one thing, you'd have universal healthcare.

  46. @REASON ... yes, maybe, a rather significant " maybe ", CK would have adequate health care; but he would quite likely, if in France, struggle with cost of living difficulties in the midst of a stagnant economy struggling to support social welfare commitments given a long lasting unemployment rate of 9% or more.

  47. Europeans want Socialism: their histories and cultural dispositions make them amenable to socialism and hostile to capitalism, which most view as anti social and anti human. US conservatives have convinced the European ruling classes that capitalism's market-dominated economies and policies will save them from economic disaster due to unmanageable social legacy costs. Ironically, it is the 2007 US-originated economic debacle that continues to destabilize much of Europe.

  48. On my first visit to Paris, in 1980, I met people, then in their 20s and 30s, whose families lived at the top tier of French society, on inherited industrial fortunes. I was dazzled by the luxuries of their lives. They were gracious, friendly, and kind. They were, however, with few exceptions, clueless about the economic anxieties and daily hardship of all those people scurrying by on the sidewalks below their high balconies. More unsettlingly to me, they obviously didn't care. Life was good. I met working class French, who were no less welcoming. What surprised me, however, were their generally modest lifestyles. Living in Paris, yes, but in tiny spaces, counting pennies despite working jobs that in the USA made you a member of the middle class. More striking was their acceptance of their status in French society. At a cafe on the Boulevard St. Germain, a friend indicated a waiter standing outside, savoring a brief respite from his work. "The difference between your country and France," my friend said, "is that that guy will always be a waiter. Maybe his kid might be an owner. In America, the waiter becomes the manager becomes the owner, in one life. That's the difference." That's tolerable, I guess, until a nation's leaders mess even that up, keep making it harder for ordinary folks to get by -- what the French call "a penny for everything" -- instead of doing what's right, France has reached a tipping point. The USA is approaching one.

  49. @Mark Hugh Miller "In America, the waiter becomes the manager becomes the owner, in one life." I'm afraid that was more true in 1980 than it is now.

  50. @MWnycAgreed! Now it's mostly a myth.

  51. @Mark Hugh Miller Mark, to answer one of your points, the cost of real estate within Paris is far beyond what the working class can reach with only income from work... and things get worse since the 80s.

  52. France is no longer the sixth largest economy in the world. Ii is the seventh.

  53. @Albanywala California is 5th. But tech is not the answer. We have two economies now and one is very much better paid.

  54. The French are notable for going on strike, and taking longer vacations than Americans. True or false? By the bye, President Macron has little in common with Louis XVI during the French Revolution. The latter was ill-prepared, poorly educated and did not have a background in financial affairs. He inherited the crown from his grandfather, who might have averted this historical event. Affable, he did not go about saying 'L'Etat, c'est Moi'. Versailles was his country, far removed from the turmoil and hardships taking place in Paris. To cut to the chase, he was not born to rule, a leader of men, and it all ended badly. The 'Sun King', his ancestor, was far sharper, perceptive, and aware of how France was functioning under the shine of his crown. If President Macron is attempting to emulate our presidency, it is time to reconsider. 'Les Miserables', by Victor Hugo is not going away. They have been brushed under the rug but the bubble has burst. It may very well have burst here too, but we are too close to the picture to tell, and it may help to listen to the warnings of the Red, White and Blue. Listen to the young students of France, and start asking for their opinion. Some of them are children of the students and workers, demonstrators and rioters in 1968, where DeGaulle woke up early in the month of May to find his government had nearly toppled. A lot is going to depend now on The Phantom of The Bourgeoisie.

  55. For one, social safety nets since this point is often brought up about France's privileged condition, ain't enough to keep regular households afloat in the modern era. For instance and considering France's average citizen is far better off than Americans in that respect, yet one doesn't live off from the prospect of someday getting sick whereby knowing his hospital bills will be, in full, subsidized and covered by the state. (Meanwhile, keep in mind "this golden age" given the current stakes and tentacular economic pressures isn't meant to last forever). What happens when in the everyday life, one cannot keep up with the steadying up increase of the cost of living, when the burden of commuting to a distant workplace is a price tag too hefty to pay and this especially when his earning wages are, on the whole, either stagnating or going down. The overall picture nowadays looming on the horizon is one where a global social, economic and climatic crisis cripples just about every place on the map hence forecasts, with its domino effect, in the short-term a pretty grim vision of the world. Unless you belong to the 1% wealth bracket and you couldn't care less about your contemporaries' fate for as long as you keep your own feet high and dry.

  56. This is an opinion piece trying to look factual. France's government expenditure is a very high share of GDP. The labor market has a lot of red tape. The tax cut for the rich was done because the rich had a marginal tax rate above 50%, which mean that they would get less than half euro for each extra euro they earned. More than anything, there is no suggestion of a solution for France's problems. An advanced economy (in peace time and outside a depression) with a 9% unemployment rate has clearly structural problems that cannot be solved by simply reducing taxes for the lower earners or increasing government hiring.

  57. @Michele in 1953 the top US Tax Rate was 92% on income over $250,000 - which was a lot of money in 1953. Wages - for the regular worker in the USA grew in the 1950's - - high taxes on the rich is great for the country - only the super rich don't like it.

  58. @Q Wages grew in the 1950's because of huge pent-up consumer demand following the end of WWII.

  59. @Q My grandfather was rich in 1953. Nobody paid near the top marginal rates due to the deductions and other loopholes built in. The top marginal rates were sops to the class envious who, rather than work hard and save like my grandfather, simply want to take the fruits of others' labor.

  60. The quality of life in France is much better IMHO than in the US. Yes everything is smaller - houses, cars, waistlines, etc. but they have it very good - healthcare, education, social safety net, great food, and they work far less than we do in the US. Ever looked at a school calendar? The kids are off a lot! They work a 35 hour week? Unheard of in the US? How many weeks vacation? They may be unsettled but come to the US and work your 50 hour weeks, get your 2 weeks vacation and shop at Wal-Mart.

  61. @Anita Indeed. On the surface, France has much to offer as you describe and I would add stunning scenery and a beautiful language. France, however, also has an unemployment rate around 10%, a youth unemployment rate above 20%, a value-added tax above 20%, enormous personal income taxes, a restive and alien minority population, and little to no social mobility. (Young people that want to make it have had to move to London and the US to succeed) In other words, the grass isn’t necessarily greener on the other side of the ocean.

  62. @EGD If we want universal healthcare here in the US that 20% VAT is likely coming here too as is the 50% tax rate. The money has to come from somewhere?

  63. @Anita. We actually spend a few trillion on healthcare already. It’s landing in the pockets of pharmacy reps and hospital administrators. I’m not sure I like the idea of ‘Meducare For All,’ but I definitely resent rich companies and shareholders getting richer from our healthcare dollars.

  64. Readers eager to learn about the history of French rioting should have a look at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jacquerie, where they'll see that the yellow gilets movement is nothing new in this country. Nearly 7 centuries later, not much seems to have changed as pertains the haves and have-nots. Taxes were paid by peasants who enriched the already wealthy who were completely protected against any form of taxes. Guess what? Peasants weren't amused by this state of affair which eventually led to 1789. Add to the inequalities between social classes the large detestation of any authority by the French and you get the current situation (after 1789, 1830, 1848, 1871, 1968 among others) Over 2000 years ago, Julius Caesar already noticed how the Gauls were always fighting each other in his ''Commentarii de Bello Gallico''. Maybe was K. Marx right in his analysis of the class struggle after all.

  65. @LouisAlain "Taxes were paid by peasants who enriched the already wealthy who were completely protected against any form of taxes". Nothing has changed? Perhaps you need to check your data. Today's "peasants" mostly don't pay income taxes in France, as the 57%of households with the lowest income do not. Admittedly, they pay VAT like everyone. Admittedly also, 30+% of national wealth is redistributed to the "peasants" you mention. Quite reasonably, the most taxes are paid by the richer. As a MD with a good income which would put me in the top decile, I can assure you that I am not immune to taxes. When we value emotion rather than evidence, we leave democracy to enter emocracy. Let's try to not do that.

  66. @LouisAlain My daughter saw a video on the net. An elderly American talks with a Gilet Jaune: - What is it you want? - We want Macron to leave the presidency. He's a rotten president. - I'll trade you for a week. :) Maybe K. Marx was right. Maybe most French don't realize just how good they have it. But it is our equivalent of the Tea Party or UKIP, and the outcome will be similar.

  67. @Arnaud Tarantola Right you are Arnaud. My sentence wasn't clear indeed and the historacal parallel has its limits for sure: There have been quite considerable changes in the economic situation of French peasants in the last centuries. What hasn't changed is the class struggle the world around. And now we can observe that phenomena in China and former USSR.

  68. Don’t the data consistently indicate, in the US at least, that trickle down economics doesn’t work? Enough already. If growing income inequality is not seriously addressed in the US and abroad, the road ahead is perilous at best. My hunch, however, is that many of richest 10-20% have become addicted to their growing wealth and are increasingly reluctant to share. I honestly wish those in this category the worst :-).

  69. $1930 dollars per month is median disposal income? That is absolutely horrible. What gives?

  70. @vbering That is NET, not gross. There is minimal additional spending required for medical costs, housing costs are lower, unemployment benefits far greater, labor protections greater (for most), etc.

  71. @vbering Don't forget that disposable income is AFTER-TAX income: the French tax burden is one reason disposable income is lower than many comparable countries.

  72. @Daniel P I realize that it is disposable income. Again, what gives?

  73. As a hardened capitalist, I believe in free markets. However, income disparity is the root of civil unrest, disobedience and maybe even war. High earnings mean nothing under the dissolution of society. We don't want welfare states, but neither do we want persistent and growing inequity. Some of that simply has to be managed - manually and perhaps socialistically. We shouldn't adhere to dogmas - rather adapt with what society needs in the the moment, out to the mid-term future.

  74. @s.s.c. Thanks for a most thoughtful response. With you 100%

  75. The rise of inequality in France is attributable the liberal concessions made to finance and industrial profitability at the expense of the bottom 80%, just like in the US. As the author says in the beginning of the article, the compromise made with labor at the end of WW II was replaced by Supply Side economic policies. Championed as neoliberalism, which led to accelerating economic growth, none of the gains were distributed to the bottom 80% as rising wages. The French need to roll out the tumbrels in order to restore equality to their society, or at least stop being fooled by corporate liberals like Macron and nationalist demagogues like Le Pen.

  76. First, as the Times' own Paul Krugman explains, France is doing ok: Second, I am in my early 60s, thinking of retiring. I am lucky enough to have some money in an IRA How do I plan for how long I live and inflation ? it is impossible; a country with a good soc security system (France) would be an enormous relief to me (think about what happens to your retirement if you live to 90 or 95; your money runs out in the "great" USofA) are you elderly ? or have elderly parents ? or a disabled person to care for ? would it not be a HUGE relief to you to not have to worry about our insane Healthcare system ? https://krugman.blogs.nytimes.com/2017/04/12/the-french-ourselves/

  77. @ezra abrams Apparently, some who actually live in France disagree with Krugman. Not that he ever allows that anyone might disagree with him, or should be permitted to.

  78. But wait! I thought liberals liked taxes because they fund more social spending for the poor?

  79. Liberals like progressive taxes. Sales and fuel taxes are *regressive*, not progressive.

  80. @Ned Ludd unless progressive taxes are actually regressive taxes , like when US tax cuts encourage share buy backs rather than infrastructure development and hiring. Sheep in wolf's clothing.

  81. €715 billion !!!!!!!!! on social programs? Seriously??

  82. Lesser than the tax cuts we gave to rich folks in America last year.

  83. @HK Americans pay a lot in social programs. I give money to St Jude, I'd rather pay more taxes. I watch for potholes and had to get a much bigger car than I would have in France, I'd rather pay more taxes. I am constantly asked to give money to the school, the library, the museum, and I'd rather pay more taxes. I'd rather pay more taxes because at least I would know that the kids in Detroit and Flint can have access to an education and some healthcare. Of course Americans are fine with hefty property taxes when it enables them to have a good school for their kids, and they do agree to spend a lot on healthcare when it is to save the lives of their loved ones.

  84. Using the headline of EUR 1700 Median monthly income in France is misleading, as taxes/social contributions produce a number significantly higher. The taxes and mandatory contributions pay for the extensive benefits provided to French residents, as noted in your article but not fully explained.

  85. These figures are not terribly useful without valid comparisons to the U.S. $1900 a month median per capita disposable income sounds low, but the median in the U.S. is only a few hundred dollars higher -- and out of that we have to pay for health insurance, doctor bills, child care and our kids' college education -- all of which are provided by the government in France. So make no mistake, the typical American has less money for food and rent than the average French. (You wonder why Americans don't put yellow vests on and protest). Another misconception is that French pay ruinous taxes. In fact, the tax bill for middle-class French is about the same as Americans pay. The difference is that middle class French people get high-quality public education, higher education and health care, and excellent mass transit and highways. Drive French highways sometime; the absense of potholes is almost enough to make an American cry. The only French who get a bad deal relative to the U.S. are the wealthy -- because French income taxes are still graduated. Wealthy people pay a higher tax rate -- compared to the U.S. where the wealthy have so many loopholes that they pay less on a percentage basis than working-class people.

  86. @Tom French motorways had better be in good shape, considering how high the tolls are.

  87. The French want to have their cake and eat it too. They want low taxes, strict labor regulations (like the ridiculous cap on weekly hours), and an extensive social "safety" net, but don't want to suffer any of the consequences. "Give us an expansive welfare society but don't make us pay for it."

  88. @Stratman Abot "the ridiculous cap on weekly hours" There is no cap in the usual sense of the word. The standard was set at 35 (from 40) under a socialist government in the hope that it would lower unemployment. Overtime is paid above 25 and is at a lower rate than the US rate. The measure did reduce unemplyment but no-one knows by how much. Many companies chose to pay overtime on employees they know rather than hire new ones who are also harder to fire than in the US.

  89. @Stratman Yeah -- the RICH don't want to pay taxes -- as inequality in France skyrockets, the rich get a huge tax cut. So ordinary people, with stagnating incomes, get mad.

  90. @Rachel Kreier the ultra rich yes. they aren't paying taxes as many others. but contrary to what people think about SME owners, executives, senior investment bankers, they pay 70 to 80 percent with social security. how did we get a tax cut? the french keep saying that macron is helping his banker friends. saying that the rich do not want to pay taxes is too broad a statement to make!

  91. The French just need to do what many Americans like myself have done. Work a 40 hour a work week and pick up another part time job to make ends meat. You can’t have your crepe and eat it too. Nothing in the civilized world is guaranteed, you work for what you get. The rate of income inequality is striking. The only people who enjoy life anymore, are those who have someone else paying for them to live it. I sympathize with the working French, how much can the government try to take from us before we lose it.

  92. @Liberty In Tax the rich & corporations......try it, it might actually work!

  93. @Jerry How about the rich not getting an enormous tax welfare at the expense of the working class?

  94. @Liberty In It’s not that easy. I worked 40-hour weeks and took a shift at a major home improvement store for 2 years. I am single with no kids and that almost killed me. There are people all over the world trying to provide for more than just themselves who would prefer to go home an tuck their children into bed. A working class person shouldn’t have to tack on another job to survive while fat cats are golfing somewhere. There’s no balance. So to say “get a second job” is pretty callous. I understand it but it’s just not for everyone.

  95. One of many factors is the traditional retirement age in France. It is still much earlier than in the U.S. I don't want to oversimplify a complex problem, but as life expectancies increase, it seems reasonable to raise the retirement age from 62 to 65 or 70 (except for those who do manual labor and are disabled). Yet I do not envy any French politician who tries to increase the retirement age in France.

  96. A bricklayer and home builder retire at age 70? Maybe age 70 is reasonable for a lawyer or an accountant. Life expectancy for people earning the median $income and below in the USA is declining. It’s dropping. Here. In America. You are talking about the Top 5-10% of wage earners. The other 90% live a different and much tougher life.

  97. Although if the problem is high unemployment among the young, your proposal of hiking the pension age would make the situation worse; old duffers not at their best keeping the jobs from the young and vital.

  98. @Richard Waugaman So your company is going to hire, and pay to retrain, a 68 year old worker who just lost a job to a new computer system? Ask someone you know in the labor market at 65 what job options she is considering.

  99. I lived and worked in France for many years My wife lived in France her entire adult working life Her children and grandchildren are active working adults E 1,700 a month may seem like a generous median salary but the cost of living in France is high, probably on a par with the New York area. Despite having 'social safety nets' aka proper medical service and unemployment protection, not to mention quasi-free education not to mention proper paid vacation, it's a squeeze to buy a home or vehicle. But hear me out: the French do not complain about their way of life. They love their life and their country, rightfully so. What a minority of 'manifestants' are complaining about are hikes to gas at the pump rather than, for instance, higher taxes on the wealthiest French. Also, don't confuse 'gilets jaunes' who are truly upset and thugs who come streaming in from the banlieues just wanting to vandalize and trash.

  100. Agree. The French do not want to leave France. They just want to be able to afford more France. If my language was better I would rather live there than most US locales. Those condemning France and the French should spend some time there. Do something in one of the many beautiful regions, not just Paris.

  101. The US will be like this also, if the Democratic Socialists get their way. We all can aspire to the egalite' of Venezuela.

  102. @Will Hacketts Got it wrong. If Trump/McConnell and Paul Ryan have their way it will eventually drive working people into the streets. The disparity of wealth continues to widen inexorably between the oligarchs and the rest of us.

  103. I think you missed the point. It is not egalitarian leveling at fault, it is the resurrection of the ancienne régime.

  104. Given the increasingly unequal distribution of wealth in our country, I wouldn’t be surprised to see yellow vests in our streets, too. Heck, I might join them.

  105. On the 14th of July 1789 an angry mob stormed the almost empty Bastille prison, freed the 7 prisoners and lynched 7 of the guards after their surrender. The French consider it a wise symbol to celebrate that event and to this day street protests are met with surprising indulgence by public opinion. As for France it is one of the most prosperous countries in the world with one of the most expansive safety nets. It's also a live example of the limitations of massive social transfers. Just ask the so called privileged high earners who have decided to leave their country by the millions not mainly because of ridiculous taxes but by a culture which stigmatizes success and stifles creativity.

  106. Just working the simple math of a population that is 67 million; to have "millions of high earners" leaving would imply an emigration rate of 5 to 10%. That is not shown in any official figures unless you count those French working and living, for whatever length of time, in the other countries of the EU. Of course that is one of the fundamental concepts of the EU, a labor mobility that could equal that enjoyed by the US. I truly doubt there are many Gerard Depardieu emigres to Russia. For certain they are not emigrating to China or America. France is a beautiful country that, unlike Germany and Britain, has not needed to import many foodstuffs. Indeed the quality of food is legendary. Life is civilized, especially for the wealthy. I can't imagine many native born French, especially the talented and wealthy, choosing to squeeze into a Manhattan flat or or lounging in some war torn African capital. If they want to make the collective and democratic choice to purchase some goods via social taxes why should you care?

  107. @Nicolas How much better it is to live in the Land of the Billionaires. Where creative hospital administrators “earn” seven-figure salaries and medical students can look forward to profitting greatly from human misery. Pharmaceutical companies charge outrageously creative prices and work diligently to keep a monopoly on their top money making drugs as long as possible. How much better to live here, where the rich and priviledged have bought and paid for their own major political party. Where the Rule of Law takes a back seat to the Rule of Wealth. How much better it is not to stifle the quest for riches, here in the land where the average registered nurse pays income tax at a higher rate than the average billionaire.

  108. @Robert Goodell Who is talking NY or war-ton Africa ? I personnally lived in SE Asia and now the Pacific. Former President Hollande famously said that the rich and wealthy were those making over 4000 Euros a month (54,400 USD a year). Anyone earning above that is seen as filthy rich. Currently an estimated 3.1 M (4.76%, not far from 5%) French people live outside France (mostly in EU countries) according to Wikipedia. https://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fran%C3%A7ais_%C3%A9tablis_hors_de_France#cite_note-BRMINL-1 The median income of Expat French is 50% above that of French residents. http://www.cci-paris-idf.fr/sites/default/files/etudes/pdf/documents/expatriation-des-francais.pdf Most travel because they want to see the world, but indeed also because talent and innovation is better compensated outside France.

  109. Re, the wealthy: "... lowered by €3.2 billion, or $3.6 billion, the amount of revenue the state received this year." Re, the worker class: "French workers pay some of the highest taxes in Europe." Who is Liz?

  110. To truly know what is wrong in France, you would have to speak to a whole array of working people. When a couple owns a restaurant but cannot afford to hire because taxes would be too heavy, and when beautician who owns a salon is reluctant to hire because she wouldn’t be able to get rid of a lazy employee, when anybody has to pay taxes before they even open a business is what I hear people complain about. People are sick of all these additional taxes day in and day out and this particular gas tax is what broke the camels back. My dentist and gynecologist in France tell me that young people are no longer interested in studying medicine and people in these fields are in high demands in rural areas where nobody wants to have a practiceanymore. Things are worse than you think, keep an eye on France..

  111. Totally agree with you on that. The only people I know in France who "complain less" are "les fonctionnaires" (government workers) what are virtually tenured in their jobs, get relatively well paid with excellent benefits and pensions.

  112. @B Doctors don't get enough in a general practice- it is not the USA. But where do the people think the money for their generous social services comes from? I agree that firing lazy workers is a problem- to the degree that a friend of mine told me, " An owner will call a friend of his and asks if he will take the lazy worker off his hands- they can be fired within a 3 month grace period. after that, forget it." No wonder nobody wants to hire new workers.

  113. I hope your dentist and gynecologist are two different people.

  114. “As part of his plan to stimulate the economy, Mr. Macron cut taxes for France’s wealthiest taxpayers during his first year in office, including by creating a flat tax for capital income.” €3.2 billion or $3.6 billion, given to the rich to stimulate the French economy. How many times, in how many lands, will the scam of supply side economics be perpetrated. It is a swindle, that never produces the benefits promised. Trickle down economics not only doesn’t improve a struggling economy, it increases the polarization of wealth. When will governments abandon this pipe dream and do their citizens a favor. Robbing the middle and lower classes and giving to the rich is NEVER the answer. NEVER.

  115. @Tom W I ascribe to the swindle, not the pipe dream theory. Those who have the wealth know exactly what they are doing: buying politicians to make sure they never again have to compete with the rabble and keep the rabble desperate enough that they can't protest the excesses of the rich. Yes, Republican friends, the point of progressive tax policy and regulations is to help make the average person a bit more privileged and the rich a bit less so. Outcomes, outcomes, outcomes are indeed the point. Good outcomes for most people prevents little glitches in history like the French Revolution from happening to topple the "aristocracy," French or American, which is what the super-wealthy have become, minus the titles. FDR understood that, despite coming from the privileged class himself. The best way to keep the privileged class from being dragged out of their penthouses and sent to reeducation camps by the 99% is to make sure that the 99% feel a bit like the privileged. The expectations of the general populace, thanks to the media promoting wealthy lifestyles, home makeovers and conspicuous consumption, have gotten out of hand.That's true. But that's not the fault of those who are bombarded daily with proof that they will never make it in America. Check out the super duper slide shows for $2.5 million homes in the Times, for example, while you're barely making ends meet in your $1500/mo. apt., and see how the prospect of never reaching that level makes your day so much cheerier.

  116. @Tom W We're talking $3 billion. It wasn't 300 billion. And it's to try and stimulate economy. Maybe it works, maybe it doesn't. Rich people have money and want to invest. IF it's cheaper to keep their money in France, as opposed to the USA, why not. and for every 'rich' person that tries to swindle, there are a number of 'poor' people who are also swindling the government. Selling EBT cards for cash, claiming tax credits when they don't qualify, etc.

  117. a tax cut for the 1% did not work- and as we see it is not working in the USA if your goal is to raise the standard of living of the middle and lower classes- however if your goal is simply personal enrichment then it works just fine.

  118. Tax cuts for the rich. Oh yeah, that will really stimulate the economy! Taxes in France are high and services are increasingly under threat—a situation that is all too familiar to those of us who live in Canada. Chicago School economics only favor the super wealthy—essentially creating a welfare state for the uber rich. Time to jettison legislated theft.

  119. The standard of living in France is among the highest in recorded history in every respect: financial, cultural, political, personal security. Britain and the US also. How can it be that large groups in all three countries think things are so bad that they want to tear it all down? Yes, be politically active. Yes, be vocal. But the Trumpians and Brexiteers and now gilets jaunes act like they are fighting for actual physical survival. They are not Venezuela or Nigeria. Economically, things are going to get a lot worse for the very rich countries as the developing world (vis, China) begin to take more of their fair share. If the rich in the rich countries cannot see the need for greater equity, and if the non-rich cannot be more mature politically, there will be no hope.

  120. Youth Unemployment and minority unemployment (from former French territories) is much, much higher. Can Macron fix those?

  121. " . . . such measures tend to hurt the poor, while the wealthy barely notice them." There's your problem in a nutshell. When the poor are disproportionately hurt (the fact that the rich ignore those measures indicates they're feeling no pain), something stinks.

  122. God bless the French. This would never happen in the US as we are too fat and comfortable watching HGTV

  123. It's a fact that average pay is lower in France, but "prestations sociales" (social benefits) are substantial: most folks I know in France retired in their 50s or early 60s; health care-related costs are low in comparison to ours in the U.S.; education is virtually free, vacation and holidays are generous, and so on. French folks enjoy more leisure time the we do here in the States and they can "enhance" their vacations thanks to subsidized rates for cruises, train fares, spa treatments, etc. based on their union affiliation. These types of benefits date back from the 1930s , when they were "acquired" under Leon Blum's Front Populaire. They are considered sacro-sanct (biens acquis) and what we're seeing now is Macron's attempt to chip away at them in an effort to reduce the financial impact those benefits have on France's treasury. The fuel tax appears to be the straw that broke the "Chameau's back", however and lower income workers are expressing their anger at seeing their living standards eroded year after year. To topa it all, Macron is viewed as aloof and arrogant (typically Parisian) which doesn't sit well with with the French country bumpkins who would bear the brunt of higher fuel taxes. Somewhat reminiscent of Hillary's famous comment about "deplorables" isn't it?

  124. It's a fact that average pay is lower in France, but "prestations sociales" (social benefits) are substantial: most folks I know in France retired in their 50s or early 60s; health care-related costs are low in comparison to ours in the U.S.; education is virtually free, vacation and holidays are generous, and so on. French folks enjoy more leisure time than we do here in the States and they can "enhance" their vacations thanks to subsidized rates for cruises, train fares, spa treatments, etc. often based on their union affiliation. These types of benefits date back from the 1930s , when they were "acquired" under Leon Blum's Front Populaire. They are considered sacro-sanct (biens acquis) and what we're seeing now is Macron's attempt to chip away at them in an effort to reduce the substantial financial impact those benefits have on France's treasury. The fuel tax appears to be the straw that broke the "Chameau's Back", however and lower income workers are expressing their anger when their living standards are eroding year after year. To topa it all, Macron is viewed as aloof and arrogant (typically Parisian) which doesn't sit well with with the French country bumpkins who'd bear the brunt of higher fuel taxes. Somewhat reminiscent of Hillary's famous comment about "deplorables" isn't it?

  125. When I was in Paris last month, the 20 and early 30 someones were under-employed, barely employed, or not employed. The waiter worked in China for 5 years with his Masters in International Law (and is a lawyer) but couldn't get a job. Another server spoke 5 languages, had an advanced degree, worked in tech in the US, but back in France, couldn't get a better job. Oh - they both were born in France to French/African parents. My airbnb was hosted by a young man, whose main income was airbnb. Over and over, the young people need jobs, jobs that don't require cars or 2 hours of travel, jobs that are careers. It was obvious something was boiling up. The nationalist movement there worsens a bad situation.

  126. @Josie Yes, the situation of those two waiters is awful. I wonder if they've considered emigrating to Montreal, where I expect they'd be given more opportunity.

  127. For the US readers out there: yes, the taxes are very high. But although they can always be more effectively used, bear in mind that these taxes compensate for poverty and ill-health. Could always be better, but the Gilets Jaunes would be the first to suffer from a decrease in taxes (although a disproportionate part of their income is paid in VAT on food, they mostly don't pay income tax anyway). I am not in favor of the Gilets Jaunes, some of which do voice legitimate concerns in a legitimate way. This, however, has now morphed into an anti-République, anti-representative democracy tornado with no hope of negociations (because the lives of would-be messengers have been threatened) and because the demands are so diverse and, in some cases, outlandish. - I want to be heard! You're not listening! - OK, we're listening. What is it that you want? - I want to be heard !

  128. Bottom line? Leftist policies don't work.

  129. The day Macron will be a leftist, chicken gonna have teeth. Wake up bro’

  130. Tax cuts for the rich are not leftist policies.

  131. Dear French friends, FYI - In the US the wealthiest 1% own 40% of the countries wealth. The median monthly income is $5,000, compared to your $2,000. But Americans must work 40 hours a week to make that median. Many young people work 2-3 jobs to make ends meet. 2 weeks is the average vacation time. Prices on all essential goods continues to go up. For ordinary people there is no retiring in your 50's or 60's. Many retired people get jobs and work as long as their health holds out to make ends meet. Pensions have gone the same way as unions - eliminated. Health care costs are off the charts. Higher education is far beyond the pockets of ordinary folks. There are no family or union benefits - in other words- NO social safety net. If I had to take my pick - I would pick France. Much more beautiful country. The people are generous and friendly - and actually have time to live, rather than just work to survive.

  132. I read a lot of non-sense. I am myself French, living in NY. And I can certainly say that I would rather retire in France. We french people make our government accountable. Here people just put up with things and get swallowed by a system that crushes them everyday more, killing unions and making the corporation more powerful, making people more slave and reducing quality of life in exchange for a hook in a materialistic life filled with disatisfaction (I see that everyday in the streets of NY). At least there is in France more regulation, and as a result more protections for the average french person. Yes nothing is perfect and there are problems, but people taking to the streets are really just expressing a fundamental aspect of the French right to "ras-le-bol", and that is sometimes the only way for our governments to listen. We are yet to see a similar dynamic here with a totally corrupt president who is still running a disfunctional white house.

  133. @faycal YOu're funny. So much love for France and its policies, yet you live and work in the USA?

  134. According to Investopedia, disposable income is gross income minus tax. Discretionary income is disposable income minus compelled payments like rent, food, fuel, clothing. So the median French household has to pay its rent and its food bill out of $1930 per month. Any "luxury" item like a trip to the cinema has to come out of that. Any savings has to come out of that. According to the OECD, the median French household disposable income is $31,137, adjusted for a family of three. I assume the number 1930 x12 is smaller than that because the median French household has more than 3 members. For the US median disposable income per household, adjusted for a family of three, $44,049. That is highest in the OECD. Yet the French are almost as productive as we are, generating about $46 of GDP per hour of labor vs. $48 for us. They don't work as many hours so generate less GDP per capita. They pay much more in tax but have a much more generous welfare state. They live an average of a couple years more than we do. Lower disposable income is the price they pay for the welfare state. Maybe longer life is one of the things they get. Trade-offs, eh? I won't be emigrating.

  135. I suppose trickle-down economics will not work any better in France than it did in the U.S., Monsieur le President. Good luck. Our middle class in the U.S. has been decimated and vast (especially rural) areas of the country look like third world landscapes these days. We have similar problems with no new ideas being seriously entertained to solve those problems. Of course, there are also strong headwinds against solutions that might change things from those who profit from the system just as it is. On top of that, here in the U.S., there are active efforts to corner power and wealth even further - a circle the wagons mentality by some of our elites. I don't see how this system can possibly survive in the long run, and massive propaganda will no longer be sufficient to quell unrest. You have the yellow jackets and we've had Occupy Wall Street, then Trump, then ...

  136. How does it make sense to increase the retirement age when there already aren't enough jobs for everyone. Unemployment is at 10% so few new jobs are being created. If you raise the retirement age, even fewer jobs will be available for the younger people who are unemployed.

  137. @susan abrams How does it make sense to let in a bunch of migrants when there aren't enough jobs for the native population? Yet that is what Angela Merkel did. Now even Hillary Clinton agrees it was a bad idea.

  138. Gas in France is the equivalent of $6.30 a gallon, most of which is tax. The French drive small cars to save on gas consumption and insurance. Taxing gas further is absurd. This was the original complaint that led to the demonstrations. If Americans were told tomorrow that they had to pay $6.50 gallon, they'd be in the streets too. At least, I hope they would.

  139. I am french living in Hong Kong . One major factor behind the low income are the huge taxes. In Hong Kong, the government takes 17% of my salary; in France it would be over 50%. Most people can barely survive on the median take home pay in France. You basically have a government that steals over half of one s pay check. No way I would ever go back to France and to live under a kleptocracy

  140. But you are totally fine living in an autocracy? Stay in Hong Kong, you don't deserve a democracy. We'll stay here and fight for our democracy.

  141. The larger the safety net, the lazier the society & those who benefit the most from social programs are most likely the instigators of the 'gilets jaunes' movement. Some are comparing this moment to the student uprising of '68 but there, they were protesting grievances students have always had towards the establishment; their concerns had relevance. Today, people protesting the fuel tax hide their faces from the authorities while filming the destruction to post on social media. They can't afford the rising fuel prices but they can afford a mobile phone & the plans that carriers offer, strange. Most people dream about a lifestyle of the famous & infamous but are content to bury it beneath layers of jealousy & resentment. It's true, there is disproportionate distribution of wealth in every country but why does responsibility fall upon the shoulders of the government, not the ungovernable, to rectify it? If the demonstrators planned their own lives as carefully as these street protests, France would truly be a power house among nations.

  142. What amazes me is how the elites never, ever see it coming. Let's see: we have a country where the top 20% is running away from everyone else, where take home pay is going backwards for most people. Here's the plan - we cut taxes for the rich while raising the fuel tax for everyone. Oh, and let's do whatever it takes to to limit labor union power. What could go wrong? Here's a prediction. The urbane, intelligent, aloof Obamaesque Macron will be succeeded by a president who resembles Trump. Of course nationalism won't improve anybody's lot, but until the international elites manage to design an economy that delivers for the majority, nationalist reactions will keep happening.

  143. I love France and the French but.... A generous social contract must be paid for, The economy is global not local, And France’s colonial history continues to haunt it. On the other hand, France didn’t elect LePen or approve a EU exit, or elect a corrupt, populist madman; in that way, they are ahead of the rest of us.

  144. Puhhhhleeease! The French are wired for protest. It happens all the time and is about as far from a news item as is a Trump lie. I love the French for their readiness to take to the streets, but I often loathe their reasons for doing so. In this case, they have an argument: Macron IS tone-deaf - a gas tax when gas is already taxed at a ridiculous level? Out of touch. And when you are out of touch with middle class of France? You pay. And if you respond poorly? You are Brie-on-toast

  145. Econ 101 The numbers explains why the French are in the streets,but they do NOT explain how the numbers came about. Very basically, since the EU expanded to include Poland , Bulgaria, Romania , French workers are in competition with countries where wages are 1/4 of French wages. They consequently saw their factories move to Poland, and agricultural products stream in from low wage countries. Workers from Romania, Bulgaria, Poland arrived pushing down French wages for workers The French workers earning start to fall, as they must, to towards the EU average. The financial elites, that owned the factories, though profited. Inequality increased. The situation is not all that different from the US, where jobs migrated to low wage countries. As in the US case, it is equivalently lifting wages in Romania and lowering wages in France. To a labour economist, the French revolt is simply yet another distributive effect of the "unrestricted free trade", "unrestricted free labour movement" (immigration), "unrestricted movement of capital" pushed by neo liberal economists for the last two decades.

  146. Sic transit la gloire. France is crumbling behind its facade of "glamour."

  147. @Leslie Jane. Gas prices in all European counties range from $5.50 to $6.00 a gallon, with Norway's being almost $8 a gallon. And almost all Europeans drive small cars - never seen a huge truck there like you do in the States - and only a few small vans that people use mostly for work.

  148. Did you say the top 20% earn 5x as much as the average person? I’d be curious what that figure in the US?

  149. It is interesting how many of the commenters ignore the "tax cuts for the wealthy" and "income inequality" sections of this article. Yes, the French want social programs and lower taxes - in an equitable fashion. High taxes are not the specific, single problem. I have always been skeptical of Macron. I believe he is more like Trump than most would admit.

  150. The Suspention of hike in fuel price by the French Prime Minister in the Wake of a grassroot 'yellow west' protests continued during the last three Saturdays is too litle too late. It has been rejected by the ' Yellow West' movement and a much vigorated protests is planned on coming Saturday, December 8. The yellow west movement is a grassroot movement. It is a movement of the people without any declared leader, free from French declining and oudated ,divided labor unions, and far away from political parties. It is a people movement emerging out of the marginalised, less privileged section of the society who cannot take any more the pro-corporate anti-people policies ,including uneven tax burden invoked since Macron came to power in 2017. Mr Macron came to power out of a political vacuum generated due to bankrupt political concept of each and every established political parties in France. Mr Macron is a political novice totally unconnected with the masses,a former banker and a technocrate that French people voted for not due to choice but due to electoral compulsion. Consequently, Macron decreased taxes on corporates and privileged rich to a tune of four billion dollars during 2017-18. In contrast he increased taxes on fuel, electricity, gase and items of daily needs of common man-the working class and the middle class.Thus the people uprising is Macron own creation which he is incapable of dealing. This uprising is a chapter taken from Karl Marx ' Das Capital.'

  151. @Pete It would appear that the term “disposable” was mistakenly used in this article because the sub-header indicates monthly median income. Typically, and this is also the case in Austria, a 1700€ net salary payment would mean that taxes and contributions to your healthcare system were already deducted. That leaves the recipient with 1700€ for rent, food, etc payments. That is not a lot of money, especially if you are in a single-earning household and/or have kids. Again, it should be clear- median means that half the population receives less than 1700€ per month!

  152. It doesn't matter where you are on this earth, free lunches aren't free. And if you buy enough of them, you manage to simultaneously tax everyone painfully and stifle growth.

  153. Good for the french. We could use some yellow vest action over here. Supreme Court picks, Immigration atrocities, Corruption scandals, none of it has caused any real protests.

  154. Nobody believes this is just about a minor tax increase though it appears to have provided the spark. A NYT linked article about Macron taking on France’s labor laws gives context. It appears Macron wants to overhaul the way workers are hired and fired. This, in theory, would make Frances suffocated economy more competitive. But it also threatens workers by fundamentally changing the rules of the labor game.

  155. The very things that the Gilets Jaune and others in France want to protect are the very things that prevent companies from hiring, rigid labour laws that protect workers from being dismissed. For the small entrepreneurs are a litany of bureaucratic measures which strangle the opération of a business. For Macron he is faced with a bureaucracy that consumes 57% of GDP, the most of any European country and a debt burden that demands higher taxes to service. The Gilets Jaune are a well-meaning group whose movement has been stolen by the hard right,LePen and the hard left, Melanchon and the unions. Former President Hollande has also interferred lending his support to the GJ. Add the young délinquants, the casseurs to this toxic mix and Macron is faced with a major challenge to his efforts to modernize the French economy.

  156. "Mr. Macron cut taxes for France’s wealthiest taxpayers during his first year in office," So he believes in the "trickle-down effect" which is not even an Economic theory, but rather neo-con ideology. The fact that Trump appears to believe in it should be enough to discourage other leaders from following this ideology. Not Macron it would seem.

  157. It can be read that way, yes. While I don't support Mr Macron's execution of priorities, the elimination of ISF is a net gain to the entire economy, not just those directly taxed, for its perverse knock on effects. 1500 characters isn't enough to list them here. I do object to his method however, which does amount to taxing the poor to subsidise the wealthy. It may end up being fatal to his mandate, and rightly so.

  158. One remark about the median monthly income data. Here in Canada (and I believe the US does the same), we typically give numbers per household and then describe household composition separately. The French INSEE data cited is given per "unités de consommation" (consuming units, UC). A note clarifies: the "first" adult in the household is worth 1 UC, each person over 14 is 0.5, below 14 is 0.3. So a household with, say, two parents and two kids over 14 is worth 2.5 UC. So if they were at the median, they would be at roughly 4,800 USD per month (57,600 USD per year). Throw in grandma and you can be sitting at the median with almost 70K a year. I am sure that's not how the median was computed, but that's one can conclude from the way it is presented. UC's are meant to account for the fact that it costs more, for instance, for two people to "live" than for one, so that a single person with 1,000 units a month is roughly equivalent to a couple living with 1,500 units a month. But I do find UC's confusing for the subject at hand with no further information about household structure. And in these days of Facebook news, I would not be surprised if some gilets jaunes had picked up similar information somewhere and used it as motivation without reading the fine print.

  159. To answer your last charge, short answer is "No," your wonkish considerations don't register and aren't relevant to the protesters.

  160. Government can not save the world at the expense of the downtrodden. They are not the ones who have pushed the climate to the brink of catastrophe, they are not the ones who have profited from environmental destruction. So if carbon taxes are imposed, as they must be, the offsets must fully compensate the low and middle classes for this expense. Furthermore, governments will need to to borrow massively to pay for these offsets, but it is to be hoped that they will come to their senses and realize that saving the planet and saving civilization is worth going into debt. Macron will need to change EU deficit rules, rather than hope to reduce CO2 emissions by soaking the common man. Finally, by overcompensating the population for the expenses they will incur in transitioning away from a carbon economy, Macron will make allies of his enemies and with one stroke will redress the imbalance of wealth while saving the planet at the same time.

  161. The French people, in their revolution, fought the corruption of the crown, the aristocracy, and the church. The French Republic is based on the rights the people won in the outcome. It is still focused on people. The problem is making the social contract sustainable in a modern world of jobs and GDP. Macron has a vision and a program, but will have to slow down. People don't like change and never like having their pocket book effected. He has already accomplished changes to employment, the train workers sinecure, and taxes which most people said he wouldn't be able to do. He has also supported the giant HEC Center for entrepreneurship - the largest in Europe. The status quo is not sustainable. Hello Brexiteers. Remember that the American founding fathers were the land-owning gentry who fought against taxes from the Crown. Sound familiar? Not wanting to pay taxes is one version of "freedom" but it's not the only one. When it's the main focus, who pays to repair the roads and bridges, or fund education and healthcare? France has a lot to lose with its acknowledged quality of life, but it gains if it can find the balance between people and the global economy. Zero-sum diplomacy and trade wars are not the answer. Finding sustainable solutions where everyone benefits takes intelligence and courage. I'm counting on Macron, who doesn't care about his polling or getting re-elected, to continue making the changes he was elected for.

  162. Appearances notwithstanding, France is a young democracy that still has regular bouts of "bad loser syndrome" and trouble getting beyond the co-dependency of an overly patriarchal state. The French are ambivalent about Plato's "guardians rule" democracy, but they can envision no other model for their Republic than elites-talk-people-obey. In the Internet age that political style simply doesn't cut it any longer--or only survives with the aid of massive repression. I'm disappointed today that violence seems to get rewarded with Macron's government backing down, but on the other hand it may have been necessary to prevent an escalation of further violence. His next moves are crucial. French inequality is nothing compared to America's extreme inequality, but here it's not normalized so even what Americans would consider unshocking, they find irritating. Fun fact: a Yale PhD with 25 years of university teaching experience earns roughly 3x more than what a beginner hamburger flipper at McDonald's earns: Y : 3700 euros per month :: M : 1200 euros per month (roughly $11 per hour)

  163. Macron is currently paying the price for some terrible early decisions and some equally appalling communication and I say this as someone who actively supported his rise to power. France has the highest level of public expenditure on the planet, close to 57% of GDP over the last few years, most of this financed through taxation which represents 45,5% of GDP, also one of the highest levels in the world. Most thinking people believe this level of public expenditure, much of which is also financed by borrowing, is unsustainable both because it undermines the competitiveness of French businesses (the ultimate payers) and because it has created a society where far too many people have become hooked on public handouts. Given this, the obvious first target for any reformist government should have been a reduction in public expenditure but instead of doing this, Macron started by reducing taxation on the wealthiest thus making it politically impossible to go after public expenditure which mostly benefits the less well off. Even worse, to pander to the left wing of his movement, he actually further increased it and since he can’t borrow any more without breaking EU deficit rules, taxes have been increased for those who have no escape route, the middle classes. Adding insult to injury, both he and people close to him have made a whole series of disparaging remarks about the French of the heartlands, very much in same vein as Hillary Clinton talking about the “deplorables” . .. :-(

  164. "Dirigisme" (from the verb diriger, "to direct") -- state capitalism -- is the prime actor and malefactor. When Louis XIV proclaimed that he was the state implicit was this threat: his spies were everywhere. He knew everything. His reach extended even into the remotest corners. After revolution destroyed the monarchy the successor regime called itself "the Directory" not by accident. After Bonaparte overthrew his co-Directors and proclaimed himself First Citizen, he consolidated power by expanding dirigisme through the Bank of France and terror through Fouche his Minister of Police. The war machine created "to preserve the fruits of the Revolution" took dirigisme to levels that would have shocked Louis XIV, himself regarded as a blood-thirsty tyrant during his lifetime. Subsequent forms of government -- several dictatorships and no fewer than five republics -- came and went because the French nation couldn't reconcile contradictory impulses at the heart of its character: authoritarianism and anarchy. A central authority had to exist if only to prevent France from disintegrating into principalities like pre-Bismarck Germany. But what should the extent of its powers be? It became a perennial dispute about scope and degree. The French could never agree. "Paris is not France" echoes it, and our "can't live with it, can't live without it". Macron's atrophied state can't live with or without it so France now drifts towards historically familiar territory: a revolution.

  165. There have been major strikes, riots, or demonstrations that get violent, every year since 2005. The vast majority are over attempted labor reforms. The government always ends up backing down. Since the majority of people feel they don't need it, perhaps it's time for the government to go on strike, shut down, offer no one to negotiate with, and leave the country to the mob for a bit. All the damages to be paid by the people via a tax increase if government reconvenes. It took over $1 million dollars to clean the graffiti off The Arc de Triomphe this past week. Apparently the 'people ' are planning yet another 'demonstration ' for this weekend - per social media. More $millions in vandalism? At what point do you reach the point where you have paid the gas tax in damage repair. Then again, maybe tourists will like graffiti on all your historic monuments and buildings. Sort of an iconic symbol of France in itself.

  166. When citing various statistics, it is easy to craft a picture that says what you want it to. The "tax cut for the rich", brought the rate for income over 156K euros to 45% - higher than ours even under Democrats. While Americans don't pay taxes under 41K income, the French start at 7K Euros. There is also the issue of high unemployment. This is not because there is no need for workers, it is because business owners cannot get rid of bad employees. You hire Mr. Chucklehead, and you are stuck with him- forever. Their system makes our tenured schoolteachers look like consultants.

  167. @Cliff The tax cut for the rich isn't income tax, it concerns the ISF, a wealth tax with unintended effects to the entire economy far outweighing its modest contribution to the national treasury. I approve whole heartedly because this one measure will make medium sized businesses more viable. It would take to explain why. The problem is trying to balance that good tax cut by increasing regressive taxes on the poor. That may be very easy to do, but it's terrible policy which I bitterly oppose. And Macron's labour "reforms" have already been voted. If you want to comment, try to be accurate.

  168. In France, hiring an employee full time is tricky. You cannot fire an incompetent employee because if you do, he will sue you and the employer always loses. Small businesses would love to hire someone but don't because of this and the onerous charges. Also the government's generous welfare system makes people less motivated to accept work that they don't like. Even young people aren't willing to work at jobs below their "standards" just to get experience, instead they worry about their pensions! yes, they demonstrated years ago about changes to pensions! Really, that's what you care about in school? Not the environment? War? etc. The French are somewhat selfish, they aren't willing to sacrifice for the greater good. If France wants to create more jobs, it has to help small businesses and give them breaks and the ability to hire and fire easily. That's the key. Countries never seem to get it that it's the middle class and poor who are the consumers that make businesses successful. Also there's some cash economy to avoid taxes or to keep entitlements. And the EU bureaucracy doesn't help - it forces austerity on countries that need breathing room like Italy, etc. I hope Macron works it out or France will get the extreme left or right next time.

  169. @getGar Macron's labour "reforms" have already passed so it's obvious you're already more out of touch than Macron himself. Do you work and pay bills? If you did you might know what the issues are.

  170. @getGar, how do you feel about the decisions that are made by unelected 'officials' across the EU, specifically where these decisions directly affect you and others in France? Socialism would be unAmerican in America!

  171. The parallel of this nascent revolution with the protests of May 1968 lies in the deep desires of the Yellow Vest folks for a radical transformation of French society and politics. Don't be surprised whether other 'institutions' and monuments of oppression are attacked, either metaphorically or literally. The Académie Française, the costly self-glorifying 'grandes écoles' system, the endless cult of worshipping past 'glories' in the reflection of a funhouse mirror through the vanity of a ministry of 'culture'. The people of today in France are NOT a nation of readers nor cinéphiles anymore-- globalisation has honed down any particular cultural distinctiveness which the ELITE (read Macron and Co.) continue to trumpet. Cambodia was a French colony where the Khmer Rouge held sway for several years, attempting to take their liberated nation back to a bloody Year Zero in order to restart their country free from foreign influences. I firmly believe we are seeing something similar afoot in France today. When high schools and monuments are torched and trashed to the general indifference of the bedraggled population, nothing should be surprising.

  172. After 7 years in France nothing highlights the problems in France like the speed radars here. The people never wanted them, then when they were installed they didn’t want them taken down. Now with the “yellow vest” protest they have all been wrapped up in tape or plastic or been covered with a bag so they don’t work. I recently asked why the police don’t just remove the bags now, it would take maybe 5 seconds with a box cutter. I was told the police can’t do it because it’s not their job. Okay, but what prevents a police officer from not getting out of his cruiser and cutting away a bag or two? Again, it’s not his job, why would he do something that he isn’t paid to do? Okay, so who’s job is it? Well, it’s a private company that would have to send out a technician, but a technician isn’t paid to remove a bag or cut away plastic either so the private company will have to submit a new proposal to the government for them to allocate extra pay to the technicians or find someone else to remove the bags. So in essence it’s going to be a while before the speed radar’s are up and running again? - Yes, it’s going to be a while... welcome to France.

  173. Keep voting Democrat and we will soon have the joyful experience of the the French to look forward too!

  174. @Fat lenny. We have the right to defend ourselves against our government. Indeed we can organize as a self-regulating militia to do so. The French are more pitchforks and sticks. Not the same.

  175. Perhaps as a NYT editorial piece has suggested, social media inflames and allows for the rapid embrace and zeal of protesting with little forethought or planning. A mob mentality is much easier to take root when support and validation can be found through nearly rote "likes" and sharing. Indeed the working class of France are suffering, bu violence is not the way to facilitate change. Extremism merely yields polarization and further separation of the needs of all. In the US, we have allowed this scenario to play out in a working class movement fueling the election of a billionaire president putatively working to remedy their situation. Instead, the ignorance of the mob haas spurned an incompetent, driven simply by love of himself and a need for approval. Beware the consequence of knee-jerk reaction. Social media soothes the hurt and affords a venue for action and acceptance that serves as an outlet for anger through its formation of a sympathetic group. Merely raging against the machine, does not change the machine. It simply creates anger and corrupts the mechanisms of dialogue and genuine resolution. There is not a "compromise" button on Facebook.That requires more than a simple click, a random e-moji, or an algorithm derived exposure to identical opinions and thoughts. France has a leader capable of producing genuine change and worker for the good of the country. The US has a good country looking for a leader capable of producing change. I for one, don't "like" that.

  176. All French administrations, and most shamefully, supposedly Left ones, have since 30 years : _ destroyed secure employment _ sent many securely employed people packing _ done nothing to raise wages _ given away the power to fiddle with the national currency _ cut taxes on the rich In other words, in keeping with voodoo economics, they have made the rich richer and the poor poorer. And pushed the middle class towards poverty. How surprising is Yellow Jacket violence ? Not surprising at all.

  177. You neglected to mention the old chestnut of immigration and changing French society. Like many Europeans, the average Frenchman has seen his country change beyond recognition in the last 30 years with migration (similar to the UK) in the hundreds of thousands per year, and been given no say in whether this should be allowed to happen or continue. This, along with the EU's Internationalist stance and refusal to listen to the people is creating chaos and not only in France. You can only ignore the people for so long.

  178. @AM. EU funds amount to 75% of public investments in Slovakia. In 2007-2013 EU funds for Slovakia were EUR 13.7 billion. The EU budget supports farmers, development of rural communities, projects like modernizing water systems and construction of highways in your country. That is IF EU money does NOT go into the pockets of corrupt officials, like it does in your neighbor to the south, Hungary. My guess is that with a population of 5.6 million and centrally located, you don't have a single immigrant in Slovakia - just like Hungary. My point is, if you don't like the EU's 'internationalist stance ' and think they don't 'listen to the people', you have the option to give the money back - and leave. I'm sick and tired of East European countries poking the EU in the eye with one hand, while grabbing the money and considerable benefits with the other. The EU has it's faults like any government, but it is a powerful economic and political community, and yes it has considerable international connections. If, like Hungary, you want to be your own little fiefdom, and makeup all your own rules - fine. But then get out of the EU.

  179. @Gwen Vilen I think what Slovakia wants from the EU is a government that puts the interests of the European people first. Yes, this country gains a lot by membership and no one here wants to leave, but what they do want is to see the EU governed in the best interests of the EU people. Allowing millions of people into our continent unchecked, unregistered and unskilled is never going to be a vote winner. The EU needs to start listening to what the European people want.

  180. Supposedly the median monthly disposable income in the US is around $3200 (which seems awfully high to me). But then we have to pay for healthcare, childcare, work longer hours, etc. I get that the yellow vests are extremely unhappy with the disparity and that their taxes are high but at least they get something back. In the US we have crumbling infrastructure, no public transit, no healthcare and public education that ranges from excellent to appalling depending on how wealthy you are. Maybe we should be in the streets.

  181. It seems like every country out there is plagued with income inequality. Economists are probably right that taxation and excessive regulation are bad for the economy, but whenever governments reform social welfare and taxation all that ends up happening is that the rich wind up richer, and labor winds up more exploited. And the press has done a terrible job connecting the dots between income inequality and ethnic hostility that seems to go hand in hand with income inequality. The press would rather focus on moralizing against "racists" because it's easy to just preach the ideology of multiculturalism. They should instead focus on the almost direct cause-effect nature of rapidly growing income inequality and the pain it inflicts on rank and file workers. Labor isn't simply racist, it's reacting to things like immigration for what they are -- just another way to drive down wages and make the rich richer.

  182. @Mobocracy I would agree with you to a degree, but I think it's not all about economics or income inequality. Many people in Europe have seen their communities change drastically and become almost unrecognisable through immigration, and even the smallest protest was shut down and Nazism/ racism. We were not allowed to say that we want our communities to stay the same and we don't want change. This has bred resentment and a feeling that our culture/heritage, ostensibly homogeneous European culture and heritage, is something to be ashamed of and replaced. This was bound to cause a backlash.

  183. Mobocracy has a good point. And following the events from Paris, i haven't seen on TV nor read in the press any comments linking the economic and social issues raised by the Yellow Vests to some "replacement" theories. An historian would likely say that the way we bear judgment is a sure mirror of our own biases.

  184. @Ronald Kamin True enough, and I'll happily admit the migration is a very large issue to me. However, the sudden and startling change in European societies due to migration is a fact, and that this change has loosened the bonds that held communities together, gave them their sense of place and security is also true. These feelings of insecurity, coupled with a sense of not being listened and even castigated for daring to speak out.....well, it's not pleasant.

  185. Value added taxes are very regressive and penalize the people who make the least.

  186. Wondering if the French protests are similar to the Occupy Movement here in the US. Will they be equally effective?

  187. The inequities in French society are eerily reminiscent of the era just before the French Revolution. Sadly, they’re echoed here in the US, where so many are struggling while the rich get obscenely richer. I applaud the Yellow Jacket movement, and hope they can effect change, especially in places like Marseilles. Otherwise, it might be time to dust off the ol’ guillotine.

  188. You can't reform France without a full revolution ! That's how France worked for centuries (!). And it's still the case. There is now a possibility that Macron will be impeach by the people.

  189. On just about any subject, when Americans talk about high taxes and the need to reign in bloated government spending, I say look closer to home, (without even bringing up military spending). If you pay attention, health insurance premiums are really a tax by another name, and a highly inefficient one at that. Collect those taxees from everyone and you have more than enough to pay for health care for everyone. But you'll also have to reign costs charged by profligate health care providers and bloated insurance bureaucracies and their overpaid executives that amount to 17% of GDP. One sixth of the US economy , or up to double what sensible rich countries spend, is health care!!!! For worse results in every metric except some cancer treatments. The resistance to change comes from Soviet style bureaucracy and a powerful Nomenklatura that won't give up its privilege easily, and a brainwashed, cowed public running like a hamster on a wheel to make ends meet. Talk about irony!

  190. If Germany has less than half the unemployment while keeping a strong social safety net and public services-and fair employment practices, why can't France do the same? It's true if there are no complaints nothing will change since those in the drivers seat are doing fine and not inclined to think beyond their own interests.

  191. @Lucy R Germany's social safety net was gutted by Gerhard Schroeder in the 90s. It was the sick man of Europe at the time. Today, Germany's economic success lies not with any "reform" but structurally on the Euro. The German people I know who are struggling really have it bad : 3 part time jobs, only one of which provides some form of minimal benefits. That is the reality of the German economic miracle: it relies on virtual slavery. Again, this may not be shocking to an American, but don't expect the French to follow in your race to the bottom.

  192. Interesting article and here is a perspective from my Parisian born husband. Yes, there are problems in France, and he claims that the Anglo Saxon world is always bashing the French as a way to distract the Americans and English away from our own problems. We too have wealth inequality, tax problems, and in our opinion the most questionable and irresponsible president. Macron is problematic he is right/Center. At least we ( the French) don't believe that healthcare, education are earned through money, but rather human rights.

  193. @Lousie The other difference, of course, is that in the US, we complain to each other about inequality, but in France, the people take to the streets. Many Americans are just as angry, but it is not part of our cultural heritage to protest (although in recent years, things have gotten to that point even here!). In any case, I agree with your husband about the vast difference between the French and the Anglo-Saxon points of view. I tell everyone I know that you should be very skeptical of any analysis of France coming out of the conservative media in America or Britain because the Anglo-Saxon world and the French do not see things through the same lens at all. (I imagine this goes both ways, but it seems to me there is much more interest in Britain and America in pointing out every flaw that exists in France than vice-versa.)

  194. Actually, France ranks 7th in the world in the size of its economy. Ahead of France in this order are the U.S., China, Japan, Germany, California and Britain -- and even without California, the U.S. is first though how much longer that will be so is debatable given the continuing growth of China and the folly of the trade and energy policies of the Trump administration. In any case, California while a state of the union is a nation unto itself that very much determines the economic state of this nation.

  195. @AM. I can see immigration is a big issue for you. Even though the EU and immigration are not the main focus of this article, you want to hammer away at the migrant issue. I think what you and your countrymen want is for Slovakia to remain white and Christian. Therefore you refuse to participate in the EU migrant quota system ( as does Hungary and Poland). Of course you DO have your minority populations, The few Jews left after 70,000 were transported to the death camps in the 40's ( ala Jozef Tisa and his clerical fascist one party state) - and 500,000 Roma. But I guess that just can't be helped. Every city of any size in Europe is now multicultural - except Bratislava, and probably of lot of E. European cities. Most Europeans are not anti-immigrant, they just want immigration to be controlled. My son lives in Dresden. He, his friends, and his girlfriend love the diversity there - and in all of Europe, as do most young people. The Pegita are mostly folks from small white towns who have no immigrants but complain that said 'no immigrants ' are taking there jobs. The fact is the world is multicultural now and change is happening at lightning speed. Those who don't like change, and want the things to remain the same, are going to have a hard time of it in this old world. Walling people off in little white Christian enclaves will not work in the long run.

  196. Working people of every color, religion, ethnicity in every country on the planet are experiencing exactly what the Yellow Vest protesters are experiencing in France, i.e., austerity for the working class and huge tax breaks for the wealthy—tax breaks that the working class is paying for out of pocket! What's missing is the profound sense among working people that indeed, this is what we share with our brothers and sisters across the world. We are the working class. The wealthy are the capitalist class—the CEOs and owners of the means of production, the banks, the mass media, etc. And the foundation of the vast sums of wealth owned by the "one percent" have been built upon hundreds of years of white-supremists’ continent grabs based on the enslavement of people of color that has its roots in Manifest Destiny—the right of the white man of property to rule the world. Only when the working class of the world wakes up to this truth will we be able to reverse our plight and create a new world based upon production for want not profit; from each according to talent and ability and to each according to want. Capitalism is slavery. Workers have nothing to loose but our chains and a world to gain.

  197. I am not a capitalist but old enough to know that what you are saying is just an utopia that can exist in a book. People need a society that provides opportunities. We all need to know that hard work pays and only those who work hard will have the things they desire. Resources cannot be distributed based on talent etc. Like it or not capitalism provides people opportunities to move upward in a society. Does it have its faults, of course. Presidents who give rich people and corporations tax breaks are unfortunately associated with capitalism, and to me, that’s one of the biggest problems. I still think with the right people capitalism can work.

  198. @Bonnie Weinstein The majority of the top 10% of wealth holders in the US started out as the so called working class. What kind of a reward system confiscates the wealth of poor people that made it big? Sounds short sighted to me.

  199. An accurate depiction of the economic inequalities in France. But I’d add a 6th number, the % of voters who chose Macron at the first round of the presidential election, which was 24%. If you consider abstention, it was only 18% of registered voters. Macron was then elected by default by most voters at the second round of the election against the far-right candidate Marine Le Pen. And even then, contrary to what happened in 2002 when her father Jean-Marie Le Pen surprised everyone by finishing second at the 1st round, right behind Jacques Chirac, a record % of voters decided not to show up to the polls, and Marine Le Pen garnered a record high number of votes for a far-right party. So you have to take into account that Macron’s program was not the French people’s first choice. And Macron and his government have repeatedly made arrogant speeches that failed to acknowledge this. Macron even enjoys portraying himself as the only democratic alternative to the far-right, painting all his opponents as opponents of the Republic, a rhetoric which actually undermines democracy. And it’s true that outside Macron’s party, the French are so divided between the anti-capitalist left, the disappointing Green Party, the shrinking traditional left, the weakening traditional right and the strong far-right, that it’s difficult to foresee a fall of Macron’s party that doesn’t lead to a deep institutional crisis. «Après moi, le chaos». After me, chaos.

  200. As a reader...I would have appreciated to get the US figures and percentages that correspond to the ones mentionned on the France side. Even if one has to be cautious about the potential dangers of the situation in France, one has to understand that, fundamentally, this uprising, over there, is the result of growing inequalities and of the incapacity of too many to make ends meet. I do believe that the situation in the US is the same, if not worse...but the culture, here, is different, the majority of us believing that being poor is the consequence of our own actions or inactions...

  201. @Jacques Mounier: "As a reader...I would have appreciated to get the US figures and percentages that correspond to the ones mentioned on the France side." Easy enough: Unemployment rate: France 9.1%, US 3.7% GDP growth rate: France 1.5%, US 3.5% Gini (disposable income, post taxes and transfers): France 0.295, US 0.391 The US is a high risk/high reward society. The rich are richer here than in France. And the poor are richer here than in France.

  202. I was born and raised in Belgium, then lived 25 years in the USA. Europeans don't understand that when workers are easier to fire, they are also significantly more likely to get hired. Also, most American workers don't expect the government to offer a safety net. If jobs become scarce, they move to a better location, learn new skills, do whatever it takes to improve their chances. Most Europeans see the State as a welfare parent. Also, my European friends and family refuse to invest in the stock market or other securities and have a deep distrust for anything related to finance. Then, they wonder why they have a hard time improving their financial situation...

  203. France should hold true to its values to correct the unemployment and poor pay problem. Change the standard work week from 35 hours to 30 hours and the standard 10 weeks of vacation to 15 weeks per year so more people are required to fill employment positions. France should also increase the minimum wage by 100% and institute a minimum income of 30,000 per capita. The French products are so respected and desired that businesses can just increase the price to maintain profits and all production will be sold. The final piece of the puzzle will be to raise taxes on the upper median by 75% and print more money. They just forgot to follow their past polices to create a cradle to grave society of greatness and wealth. It had worked so well in the past, so more should be better.

  204. How do you expect to get rich if you only work 35 hours a week? Obviously, if you work less, you earn less!

  205. Extremely high taxes posssibly people who pay more for services through taxation expect more from their government