Hollande is caught between a rock and a hard place. The rock is the European Commission, which has been pushing him to reduce deficits significantly. Having been given a two year extension on the rules that demand a 3% deficit or lower, Hollande has to find the money. The easiest way to do that, and the fastest, is to raise taxes. That French taxes are high is not the main problem, despite the fact that they are the highest in the Euro-area. Like the Scandinavian countries, French citizens get a lot for their money in terms of a high level of public services, including high quality day care and generous allowances for child-care, which have translated into France having one of the highest birth rates in the EU (alongside Sweden). The problem is that with the economy slowing and unemployment high (esp. youth unemployment), ordinary citizens don’t want to hear of any tax increases, in particular because they see the rich leaving for across-the-border tax havens, such as Belgium, and government officials maintaining their perks. The hard place, then, is the citizens. It is all the harder for Hollande, given his popularity ratings, which are the lowest historically for any President of the Fifth Republic, and because he has failed to find a discourse that legitimates his adherence to Eurozone agreed austerity—remember that he pledged ‘growth’ in his presidential campaign—or a strategy that actually could deliver growth.
Hollande’s Tax Rebels Underscore Mounting Opposition by Gregory Viscusi and Mark Deen (Bloomberg 11/20/13)