There have been quite a few news stories recently about the damage that high agricultural subsidies have done to various European economies, and their contribution to high unemployment rates.
Now France is facing the possibility that it can no longer pay for its subsidies. According to The Telegraph:
French PM Fillon tells farmers ‘France is broke’
France is bankrupt and can no longer afford to pay its workers generous salaries and subsidies, its prime minister has declared.
Francois Fillon made the undiplomatic outburst during a trip to the French island of Corsica, where farmers were demanding more government money.
“I am at the head of a state that is in a position of bankruptcy,” he said.
“I am at the head of a state that for 15 years has been in chronic deficit. I am at the head of a state that has not once passed a balanced budget in 25 years. This can’t go on.”
Mr Fillon’s government is due to announce the 2008 budget this week with a deficit of €41.5billion (£29billion).
But his remarks drew immediate fire, both from within his own ranks and from the opposition.
Francois Bayrou, the head of the centrist Modem party, said Mr Fillon seemed to forget that both he and Nicolas Sarkozy, who was finance minister before becoming president, had been in government since 2002 without improving the situation.
He added that Mr Sarkozy’s decision to spend up to €15billion (£10.5billion) on a package of tax cuts had only made things worse. One deputy from Mr Fillon’s UMP party added: “This phrase was badly timed. The French are liable to ask why we committed all this spending on the fiscal package if we are in such a bad way.”
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Some observers say Mr Fillon has decided to speak out because he is tired of being stifled by the “hyper-president” and his media-friendly aides at the Elysee, and is keen to push ahead with reforms.
One colleague from the Sarthe region, where Mr Fillon is a deputy, said: “Fillon has immense pride. While Sarkozy continues to stifle him and wants to do everything, Fillon will try and give provocative speeches in order to exist. It’s a process that could get out of control.”
Others argue that his “spontaneous” outbursts are part of a co-ordinated double act, with Mr Fillon playing the tough guy and Mr Sarkozy the conciliator.
French politics seem to be much like American politics: as soon as anyone points out the damage done by excessive government spending, the Left is quick to cite the most recent tax cut as the source of the problem.
It’s the first commandment of Socialism: Thou shalt never, ever cut taxes.
In this case, it was a “centrist” who decried the tax cuts, but that only proves how much of the European “center” has been occupied by the Left.
Another thing to notice is the high drama of the political personalities involved, with Mr. Fillon crying havoc in order to upstage Mr. Sarkozy. It’s too early, and I’m too ignorant of French affairs, to say whether this is all just sound and fury, or whether it signifies something.
Hat tip: Fjordman.