Monday, June 28, 2010

Protests in France

I saw this story this morning and was interested in how well it displays problems with socialism.

PARIS – The front lines of the latest French protest against raising the retirement age revealed a remarkable sight: Not the slightest wrinkle, not a single gray hair.

Brandishing "Save our Pensions!" banners, students who haven't even entered the job market yet are already worried about what happens when they leave it.

Welcome to France, where workers' rights are so deeply entwined into the culture that even teenagers are unsettled about plans to raise the retirement age from 60 to 62, which is still among the lowest in Europe. The reform protest brought nearly a million people out into the streets across the country Thursday.

Young people fear they will lose the most from President Nicolas Sarkozy's pension reforms, which aim to cut France's ballooning deficit and make the money-losing pension system break even starting in 2018.
This nicely demonstrates the entitlement mentality. Fiscal reality isn't important to them. It doesn't matter that there's no way to keep their pension system going the way it is presently organized. They want what's coming to them even though they haven't yet contributed to the system. They're in school, financed by by other taxpayers, and demanding more than 40 years in advance that taxpayers yet unborn bear the burden of their early retirements. Not that they'll go to the trouble of giving birth to those imaginary taxpayers.

Shouldn't it be people in their 50's protesting the unexpected delay in their retirement? Maybe some are, though I haven't seen the stories. And maybe they're old enough to realize France has hit the point Margaret Thatcher is famously quoted as having brilliantly warned of: "The problem with socialism is that you eventually run out of other people's money."
Julie Mandelbaum, a 23-year-old geopolitics student...says the government should tax high wage-earners and banks instead to ensure there is enough money for pensions when she retires.
Oh, great idea Julie. Except banks don't pay taxes. They pass costs on to consumers through fee and rate hikes, just like any business does. So ultimately, she's saying she needs to pay more to cover her own retirement. I agree, though that's not really what she means, as indicated by the "top wage earners" line. Are there top wage earners in France any longer? I know personally a family that was doing really well, and emigrated here to leave the socialism behind (sorry guys, we're building it here despite watching it fail in Europe).

French students are staying in university longer and doing more internships because it's difficult to get into the job market. That means many don't start paying into the pension system until their late 20s — yet the reforms require workers to pay for 42 years to get a full pension.

Mandelbaum held a white placard with the equation, "27 + 42 equals 69."

"We don't get a steady job until we're 27, if we have to pay taxes for 42 more years on top of that, there's no way we'll retire at 62, not if we want to have a full pension," she said.
Wait, 42 whole years of work before you get to retire? That's just barbarian. What slave drivers the French government must be filled with to set such unreasonable expectations. I won't say 42 years of hard work, because it's nearly impossible to fire a bad worker in France, which is the reason French students have trouble finding jobs. Companies are so heavily taxed and regulated they can't afford many workers, and when they do hire they have to be really, really sure about the employee. It's often better not to hire anyone lest they be saddled with more dead weight.

What's wrong with retiring at 69? Doesn't that socialized medicine in France mean a longer, healthier life expectancy? A few more years of work shouldn't be a big deal, since pension ages were set years ago when life expectancy was much lower.

I do not understand how anyone can think it's a good idea for the U.S. to emulate these unsustainable systems.

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