Aircraft maintenance was a highly paid blue-collar job that required education, training, manual skills, and brains. It was one of the perfect American middle-class jobs with generous healthcare, retirement, and vacation benefits; and free flights! They were working for icons like Delta, American Airlines, Continental, TWA, or Pan Am. Icons indeed!
Entries in Europe - France (94)
In theory, a class-action lawsuit allows the little guy to stand up to a big corporation and seek redress. Alone, the little guy wouldn’t have the means. Justice comes down to money, and class-action lawsuits add leverage. In theory. It’s a world-famous American product, infested with flaws. And it’s about to be imported by ... France!
The French government is saddled with enough problems; in theory, it no longer needs to create new ones. But now it wrote another excellent chapter in its tome on how to interfere with private-sector businesses, hamper entrepreneurs, and encourage them to start up their operations elsewhere instead of creating jobs in France.
Eurozone countries are falling like dominos. Next: Slovenia. But bailouts – by taxpayers in other countries – keep banks from collapsing, governments from defaulting, and investors from incurring well-deserved losses. In the US, President Obama’s budget, with its new taxes, is causing heart palpitations left and right. But how do countries really stack up?
The mood in France is dark and has turned away from politics, he said. People always expressed hatred for certain politicians; now they express hatred for the system. Comments are more violent. People are looking for a strong voice that can pull them out. “When the Fourth Republic collapsed, we had de Gaulle. What if the wrong person comes along now?”
France might not even notice if the Eurozone fell apart—that’s how tangled up it is in the Jérôme Cahuzac fiasco that blew up with phenomenal effect. Former Presidents Chirac and Sarkozy were dogged by investigations and trials that laid bare misdeeds they personally had been involved in. By contrast, the Cahuzac fiasco doesn’t implicate President François Hollande. Not yet. But it’s tearing up his government.
Everyone learned a lesson from the “bail-in” of Cypriot banks: Russians who’d laundered their money there; bondholders who’d thought they’d always get bailed out; Cypriot politicians whose names showed up on lists of loans that had been forgiven; even Finance Minister Sarris. His lesson: when a cesspool of corruption blows up, no one is safe. And German politicians learned a lesson too: that it worked!
The Stunning Differences in European Costs of Labor: Or Why “Competitiveness” Is A Beggar-Thy-Neighbor Strategy
The ominous term “competiveness” is bandied about as the real issue, the one causing Eurozone countries to sink deeper into their fiasco. To address it, “structural reforms,” or austerity, have been invoked regardless of how much blood might stain the streets. And a core element of these structural reforms is bringing down the cost of labor.
For corporate welfare queens that know how to leverage worldwide tax systems, France offers a free ride. But as the French government tries in a vain and desperate effort to make ends meet, it’s not only going after multinationals and their tax optimization schemes but also smaller companies that are gasping for air. Revenues from aggressive collections—“not far from blackmail,” an insider says—have jumped, one of the rare areas of growth in France.
Catastrophic nuclear accidents, like Chernobyl or Fukushima, are very rare, we’re told incessantly. But when they occur, they’re costly. So costly that the French government, when it came up with estimates, kept them secret. But the report was leaked: an accident at a single reactor in a thinly populated part of France could cost over three times France’s GDP.
“I’m sitting on cash,” Felix Zulauf said when he was asked in an interview where he was putting his money. With decades of asset management experience under his belt, he’d founded Zulauf Asset Management in Switzerland in 1990. But now he was worried—and has turned negative on just about everything.
France is in upheaval. Arguments erupt live on TV, demonstrations block the streets, strikes shut down plants, and threats of mayhem are part of the show. The problem: an economy where businesses are suffocating under an obese public sector. Ever larger budgets have been the only source of economic growth. But now that model has run aground.
We’ve had an endless series of products whose ingredients have been cheapened in order to maintain the price. Consumers won’t be able to taste the difference, the theory goes. So, as the horse-meat lasagna scandal in Europe is spiraling beautifully out of control, we’re now getting hit where it hurts: Maker’s Mark is watering down its bourbon.
Prime Minister Ayrault himself presided over Monday’s meeting of the National Anti-Fraud Committee. “A first for a head of government,” he said at the press conference, to hammer home just how important this was. But he wasn’t worried about run-of-the-mill fraud that might fleece an old lady of her life savings. He was worried about people not paying their taxes. And he had a remedy.
The preannouncement came Thursday evening: PSA Peugeot Citroën, France’s largest automaker, would have a write-down of €4.7 billion. On top of a hefty operating loss. It would be colossal. An all-time record. Rumors spread immediately that PSA would need a bailout. The second in four months.
Tuesday morning, the 168 remaining employees of DMI in Vaux, a tiny town near Montluçon in the Department of Allier, smack-dab in the middle of France, rigged about ten gas cylinders throughout the factory they’d been occupying and threatened to blow it up—unless their demands were met. Another day in the decline of the private sector à la Française.
The drumbeat of layoffs and plant closures has been riling up desperate workers who have little hope of finding a job elsewhere, with unemployment at 10.5%. But now the Socialist government, worried about a “radicalization” of these angry workers, has instructed police intelligence services to keep an eye on them. Not exactly one of the campaign promises.
By now we should have gotten used to the odor emanating from banks—bailouts, money laundering, Libor rate-rigging, the other misdeeds. But in Europe over the last few days, it was particularly dense. “In this uncertain world, I cannot exclude anything,” said Deutsche Bank co-CEO reassuringly.
Ugly unemployment numbers are politically inconvenient in democracies. Red-faced politicians have to come up with excuses. Elections are lost over them. So, countries use inscrutable statistical systems to make unemployment look better. But France also has an administrative tool: removing tens of thousands of people every month from the unemployment rolls for spurious reasons.
Americans are cynical about politicians. Congressional approval ratings were mired just above single-digit levels in 2012, hitting 10% twice. An expression of utter disdain. But the French—with their economy spiraling deeper into crisis—expressed disdain for their political class, as they call it, in another way: with a desire for authoritarian leadership, a “real leader” who would “reestablish order.”