Best of times for very rich; worst for the working class!
France’s President Francois Hollande has learned many lessons on how to offer false promises from America’s President Barack Obama, who campaigned in 2008 with the following plans:
- convince the working class you stand for better wages and stronger unions
- say you will reduce job competition by ending reckless import of foreign labor
- suggest you will renegotiate current income-lowering trade deals that send factories overseas
- pledge to cut outsourcing jobs to new trade “partners”
- offer to increase social benefits for the middle class
- bring taxes for the very rich back up to fair, historic levels
The day he took office, Obama began breaking promises:
- The “goal” of passing card check for unions was forgotten.
- The number of Visas was increased and illegal aliens were not stopped at the border.
- He began negotiating for even more trade deals, didn’t touch NAFTA, and instead praised it.
- A loss every month in total manufacturing jobs in America was ignored by the White House
- Instead of increasing aid for workers, he formed a commission to cut Social Security benefits
- When Bush tax cuts expired, Obama agreed to lowest tax rates for very rich since FDR.
If a Republican U.S. president had broken all these promises and hurt the living standard of workers, there would have been protests, perhaps even riots. After all, we have also been told by big media (and our school teachers) that the GOP stands for big business and the wealthy, and the Democrat Party stands for the little guy. Laws from a “little guy” friend should be good for everyone, right?
The lesson is that the very smart people, who fund the candidates and generally favor unbridled capitalism, realize that a “liberal” reformer is the perfect Trojan Horse. He looks like a gift to the public, and is accepted warmly, When the Trojan Horse turns on the public, it’s too late, and protest is tempered by confusion that these so-called reforms somehow must be necessary, even if not expected from this politician.
In France what happened here, has happened there.
Hollande ran as as leader of the Socialist Party, promising what Obama promised to help the working class, and won election in 2012 with promises.
In September, 2014 his ex-partner, Valerie Trierweiler, published a book about her time with Hollande, titled Merci pour ce moment (Thank You for This Moment). The memoir claimed the president presented himself as disliking the rich, but in reality disliked the poor and called them “toothless.”
Hollande, left, has been fighting members of his own party and the French Parliament to pass changes in labor laws to appease big business interests. Workers have already seen boosts in their Social Security payments, lower wages from an influx of immigrants, and less legal protection from unscrupulous employers.
As a result of his arrogance of power, France has been hit by a wave of strikes over the past week after Hollande opted to force the unpopular labor market changes through the lower house of parliament, using special executive powers, after months of resistance.without a vote. “Executive action” has been imported from America to enable circumvention of the elected representatives.
There has been very little news of the issues involved, except videos on gasoline shortages and the tens of thousands of protestors in Paris.
What is at stake? These are the changes just made that can only be reversed by toppling the government:
- The 35-hour week remains in place, but as an average. Firms can negotiate with local trade unions on more or fewer hours from week to week, up to a maximum of 46 hours
- Firms are given greater freedom to reduce pay
- The law eases conditions for laying off workers, until now strongly regulated in France.
- Employers are given leeway to negotiate holidays and special leave, such as maternity or for getting married.
One French truck driver predicted he will lose about $2,000 a year, just because of overtime changes. Many will lose paid maternity leave (until now mandated by national law). Instead of year-round work, workers can be dismissed anytime without good reason.
The changes allow firms to not pay overtime if “averaging” is used. For example, the French can now be required to work 65 hours in one week without time-and-a-half pay, as long as the employer schedules them for no more than five hours the following week.
To many American workers these French labor changes are not alarming, since workers have even fewer rights in our country. Plus, we are more docile, perhaps picketing over nasty words and public bathroom rights, but rarely protesting how much we are paid, how long we work, and how we are treated by our employers.
Unlike the bristling French, Americans have been taught to blindly obey our “free enterprise system” and to believe that business needs very little or no regulation, and that somehow, “market forces’ cure all labor injustice. Seldom heard is the criticism that unbridled capitalism is very much like an NFL game with no rules – brutal, cruel, favoring the strongest and the most ruthless, promising fame to few and injury to many.