Monday, May 7, 2012

François Hollande Wins; Sky Falls Down

At some point in time, I'll stop taking pundits seriously, but if you look at the results of the French presidential election, and the reaction it's gotten so far from individuals like Don Murray of the CBC, has been astoundingly depressing. And not all of the votes have been counted yet.

This is because a lot of the pundits, especially those that lean to the right or are German, see Hollande, the candidate of the centre-left (but increasingly centrist) Socialists, as the pure embodiment of Europe's backlash against "German-imposed austerity," as the Greeks like to call it. Now the Franco-German tandem that allows the Euro to live on features the stone-cold Angela Merkel in Germany and the skeptical François Holldane, a situation that Merkel found such a displeasing prospect that she campaigned for the centre-right incumbent Nicolas Sarkozy. Smart move, there.

However, there is of course some truth to all of this. Hollande has called for a renegotiation of the austerity drives and economic packages being exported from Germany. In his centre-leftness, alongside the probability of a Socialist sweep in the upcoming legislative elections, there is the possibility that Hollande and the French congress will fail to pass the needed tax reforms, social program changes, and spending cuts that France itself needs, before it too plunges to far below the surplus line that it needs a bailout, a bailout that would require a lot more money than has been currently doled out. Some say that point has already come and gone (France has had a budget deficit for 35 years), but Hollande's supposed hostility to austerity, either internally or within the greater European Union, won't make things any easier.

And yet despite the dangers, French voters still voted the anti-austerity Hollande in. Greek voters decided to vote out the pro-austerity government and centrist parties that had been swapping power for decades, in favour of real socialists and real Nazis. Governments introducing austerity have seen their popularity plummet or their governments actually fall.

That being said, there is a big difference between France and Greece, and the French are not being bailed out. Sarkozy likely lost votes over the fact that he allowed France to play such a major part in pushing for austerity, but overall the French were likely just tired of how ridiculous of a President he's been, and opted for Mr. Hollande, the "normal" president. And that's literally what he ran on.

But to pundits, it's all about austerity. Why can't Europeans wrap their heads around the fact that this is needed?, pundits wonder. Don't they understand that debt is bad? Are Europeans really just babies craving the nanny state which will eventually lead to their downfall?

Sometimes democracy is just a bitch like that, I guess. Personally, I think you need someone with an alternative viewpoint to challenge what's going on, and Hollande can provide that in a meaningful way. A counter to the austerity push by the likes of Merkel, Cameron, and so on will be good. Give people an outlet so their concerns can be heard. That's how people find consensus, and they're usually better off for it.

After all, you can't push austerity measures on the people if the people don't want it. I'm pretty sure that's not what Hollande's victory was about, but at the very least, people like Murray are not looking at things in the proper light.


  1. And... if he ends up creating jobs on a massive scale - like a Romanow or Blakeney - then no-one will complain. Properly infused gov't spending (NOT handouts to banks and major corporations - or what I like to call "right-wing stimulus"), geared towards infrastructure building, immigration, and jobs, is the way out. Austerity with corporate bailouts has failed in the US, and is failing in Canada. It may be time to try something new. When everyone "tightens their belts", everyone ceases to invest in the nation. That's when economies really hit a roadblock.

    While Liberal gov'ts in the 90s ran some austere budgets, they DID spend heavily in STRATEGIC economic areas geared to create jobs (and NOT Conservative "pet-projects" like buying foreign fighter planes, or handing out cash to private prison companies).

    1. "And... if he ends up creating jobs on a massive scale - like a Romanow or Blakeney - then no-one will complain."

      No kidding. It'll be funny to watch the smirks wiped off some people's faces if he does end up presiding over a good recovery.

      But you're right. People don't get it - you can't spend your way out of a deficit, but you also can't starve yourself out of it either. While the Liberals cut pretty severely in some ways, they made sure they shored up spending in areas that were, as you said, economically strategic and would create jobs and give healthy returns in investments.

      Yet when a good example like that is shown, people rarely listen. Amazing.