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Macron Under Siege

Continuing on the foreign affairs front (and the U.K. is up on Friday), Benjamin Netanyahu is not the only leader of a key U.S. ally who is dealing with mass unrest right now. French President Emmanuel Macron has his hands full, too.

The issues in France are pretty simple, actually. France's system of old-age pensions is at risk of becoming illiquid in the near future. Perhaps this problem sounds familiar to American readers. In order to address the problem, Macron decided on some strong medicine, and got the French prime minister to go along, thus bypassing parliament. The plan is to increase the retirement age in France by 2 years, to 64, and to also require workers to contribute more of their paychecks to the pension system.

This did not go over well, to say the least. With trade unionists taking the lead, there have been mass protests across the country. We are talking literally millions of people taking to the streets. There have been 10 general strikes of varying lengths, and while everyone is (reportedly) heading back to work tomorrow, there will be an 11th strike next week. While most protests have been peaceful, there have been a few violent confrontations between police and angry French citizens.

As to what happens next... who knows? If there are French readers who have insights to offer, we welcome them. Macron says that the plan is moving forward, since there's no real alternative. That said, the upheavals are wrecking the French economy and costing everyone, including the government, a lot of money. Plus, everyone knows what can happen to leaders who push their luck too far with the French people (see XVI, Louis the). One wonders if Macron will dial things back a little in an effort to restore the peace.

Meanwhile, this has got to be making politicians in the United States nervous. One of these days, not too far off, the U.S. Social Security system will be in similar straits, and something will have to be done. The U.S. doesn't have the tradition of trade union activism that France does, but it does have plenty of experience with people reacting badly when they feel their financial security is being threatened. So, what's going on in La Belle France right now could be a preview. (Z)

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