No right wing policies of taxing the working class are the problem in France.
They are protesting against Macron and right wing policies.
Although Emmanuel Macron campaigned for the French presidency as an exemplar of the Third Way, since taking office he has governed with broadly right-wing policies, even if that means ripping up some of his campaign promises.
In his first year at the Élysée Palace, the self-proclaimed “Jupiterian” president has put forward a dizzying array of reforms: the anti-corruption “moralisation” law, reform of the labour law by presidential decrees, reform of university admissions, reform of the railways, constitutional reform, a new domestic security law, new immigration and asylum immigration legislation … The list goes on.
And despite Macron’s flagship campaign slogan that he is “neither left, nor right”, most of these policies are on the right side of the political spectrum.
Macron’s economic policy is a prime example. He appointed Édouard Philippe as prime minister, Bruno Le Maire as economy minister and Gérald Darmanin budget minister – all erstwhile members of the right-wing Les Républicains party. In doing so, he set his economic reforms in a broadly neo-liberal direction.
This was made clear by the first finance law Macron introduced, which got rid of France’s wealth tax and replaced it with a 30 percent flat tax on income accrued from capital – considerably reducing the tax burden on the wealthiest. Meanwhile, tax reforms that help the working and middle classes are staggered over several months, in the case of employees’ national insurance contributions, and over several years in the case of housing tax.
So is Macron the “president of the rich”, as his left-wing opponents say? He has defended himself against this accusation by pointing to forthcoming reforms such as doubling funding for state schools in deprived inner city areas. But such measures pale in comparison to Macron’s policies aiding the rich – the latest example being his plan to abolish the “exit tax”, which was introduced in 2011 to combat tax evasion among French businesses.
In the eyes of many on the left – especially Macron’s supporters from that side of the ideological spectrum – this proposed law betrays his promise of a Third Way balance between “humanity and firmness”.
Security and immigration are key priorities for right-wing voters. In addition to Macron’s conservative overtures on these issues, there is his appointment of Jean-Michel Blanquer – who regularly denounces a teaching community associated with the left – as education minister. There is his government’s hardline approach to the recent waves of strikes and protests.
Perhaps even more tellingly, a study by Kantar Sofres-One Point, published in French daily Le Figaro on May 3, showed that 53 percent of Les Républicains supporters are happy with Macron.