France Fries

Arnold Ahlert is a former NY Post op-ed columnist currently contributing to JewishWorldReview.com, HumanEvents.com and CanadaFreePress.com. He may be reached at atahlert@comcast.net.


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Anyone wondering where the Euro-style socialism endorsed by American progressives will lead us, need only cast their eyes towards France.  That country is in virtual shut-down mode, led by gangs of youths for whom car burning has become a national sport.  What has mobilized the descendants of those who overthrew an out-of-touch, self-entitled aristocracy beginning in 1789? A remarkably similar sense of aristocratic self-entitlement:  they are protesting government’s intention to raise the retirement age–from 60 to 62.

When one suffers from such a deep-seated sense of entitlement, reality is the first casualty.  Thus, the fact that France is raising the retirement age a mere two years–because they have a 32 billion dollar shortfall in their budget–means nothing.  So apparently does the fact that life expectancy in France is now nearly 82 years of age, which means every retiree will collect health and welfare payments a minimum of fifteen years on average.

Not nothing, exactly.  It means it’s time to burn cars, loot stores, and clash with police.  It means angry marches and blocking petrol distribution sites to the point where over 3000 of the nation’s 13,000 petrol stations have run out of fuel.  It means piles of uncollected trash, closed schools and under-staffed hospitals as public sector workers strike.  Half of all train service and an equal percentage of flights are grounded as well.

All for what?  “We are here to defend our pensions,”  a youth named Quentin, 15, said. “People shouldn’t have to retire at 70, especially when they have had to do difficult, manual jobs all their lives.”  “If the old work for two more years before retiring then there’ll be fewer jobs for the young,” said an 18-year-old girl named Maeva. “And there’s enough youth unemployment in France as it is. I probably won’t get a job until I’m 30.”  Maeva had something far more revealing to say as well:  “It was unbelievably easy to cause all this chaos.  It took no time at all.”

No doubt.  When one has been raised to believe government is the dispenser of all things necessary, it becomes almost unimaginable to discover that such dispensation has fiscal limits, or that France is, as Margaret Thatcher once elegantly expressed, “running out of other people’s money” to spend.

France is not alone. England’s Chancellor George Osborne has announced a plan which would be the biggest spending cuts enacted in the United Kingdom since the end of WWll.  Up to 500,000 public sector jobs could be eliminated.  And just like France, England is bracing for protests led by public sector unionists who, much like their French fellow travelers, cannot see past their self-interest and grasp the reality that the treasury in Great Britain is also running on empty.  And both countries are echoes of similar uprisings in Greece earlier this year.

Is America headed in the same direction?  With regard to our national economy, it is indisputable.  The bipartisan effort to make government “all things to all people” in which Republicans abandoned their principles and Democrats embraced theirs, has led us to the fiscal abyss.  And it is completely within the realm of imagination to envision a coalition of unionists, community organizers, racial arsonists and assorted communists, socialists and other left-wing organizations marching on Washington, D.C. demanding “social justice.”  Doubtless they would also be embracing self-entitlement without regard to fiscal reality.  And doubtless much of it would resonate as much here as it does in Europe.

Unfortunately, reality eventually prevails regardless, and at some point America is going to be forced to have a serious national conversation about such reality.  To wit:

–Life expectancy is increasing inexorably.  If one wishes to trace the root cause for almost every fiscal problem this nation faces, people living longer will eventually rear its head.  It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that the same Social Security System which worked when people retired at 65 and, on average, died a year-and-a-half later, is unsustainable when people now live, on average, fourteen years longer.  Chances for serious reform?  They don’t call Soc Sec the “third rail of politics” for nothing.  What separates it from the other entitlement plans is that Americans directly contribute to it, via their paychecks.  Thus, even those Americans who yearn for fiscal sanity draw a line using the argument that, “I paid for it, I’m entitled to it.”

Undeniably true–up to a point.  Yet what does Social Security become when the totality of what one has contributed to it (including the interest accrued) is exceeded by that which one draws out of it?  Perhaps telling Americans the truth, as in the fact that one’s retirement check just became a welfare check might make serious reform easier to implement.

We can’t continue to obscure the difference the difference between helpless and hapless.  There is no country in the world more generous than America when it comes to helping those who truly can’t help themselves.  At the same, time a government which has spent the last five decades catering to the lowest common denominator has facilitated the kind of moral corruption which produces legions of Americans who consider themselves “victims.”  It is a moral corruption evidenced, for example, by the highest percentage of out-of-wedlock birth rates in our nation’s history.  Such is only possible when “alternative lifestyles” are championed, even when those lifestyles virtually ensure that one will remain poor.

De-stigmatizing such human foibles as laziness or lack of ambition–or worse, telling people such traits are “someone else’s fault”–has produced precisely the same sense of self-entitlement currently tearing France apart.  Americans are sick to death of seeing able-bodied fellow Americans lining up for government handouts and programs.  Even more so, when the country is going broke underwriting those quite capable of underwriting themselves. As I’ve said before, Americans have no problem being their brother’s keeper.  Being his enabler is unseemly–and unaffordable.

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  • Bear from Russia

    France citizens are protesting against reducing of their privileges. Isn't it a right of free people? Unfortunately in Russia (and as I can see in US too) people are not so brave. For example your government reduces medicare projects and you silently agree with it. At the same time army budget continues to grow. The difference in profits between poor and rich continues to grow. Ofcourse it's not clever to burn cars and break shops. And France is really need this reform. But this situation is a good indicator that people are not afraid to stand for their rights.

    • Triple_AAA

      That's the point of Capitalism, communists like you wouldn't appreciate that! It was largely due to Capitalism, that the US of A crushed the Soviet Union during the Cold War. And in France's defense, they have actually shown much bravery in the face of Islamification by banning the hijab . These kinds of things are actually more important to the long term future of their country than a few minor pensions or benefit cuts.

      • Bear from Russia

        Fool! I'm not a communist, if you had been smarter you won't say such stupid things. By the way US didn't crush SU in the cold war. USSR crushed itself because of unefficient economic model. And I don't see any connection between comminism, cold war, USSR, USA and current situation in France.

    • bostonian

      Exactly what rights are you talking about? Rights to take some one else money. Russia did it already for 70 years and what is result.If you are living here in states and still did not learn it, than try it again in russia. By the way i am from ussr also.

      • Bear from Russia

        Where are you exactly from?

    • tagalog

      No one is saying the French don't have a right to protest against their nanny state raising the age of retirement. What we are saying is that (1) it's amazingly dumb -and selfish and shortsighted- for them to do so, and (2) it looks as if they've finally run out of other people's money to fund their retirements at 60 and might spend their time more profitably trying to figure out how to make their government and society run better.

    • hrayspitz

      The strikers don't have the right to use violence.
      And their employers (including the French government) should have the option to FIRE the strikers and replace them with more rational workers.

  • bob maram

    WOW! THERE'S the french for ya. teenage hooligans protesting rational social and economic decisions. too bad their grandparents and their grandparents mostly didn't protest against the vichy horror and the drw drefus persecution. i mean dreffus.

  • waterwillows

    Seems like a good article, but this grey background with black lettering is very difficult to read. BTW none, and I mean none of your ads can be read. It is just green fuzz.
    Hope this helps.

  • badaboo

    Does anyone here know the rate at which the French are taxed ?

  • badaboo

    Are the French right in protesting ? Going on strike ? YOU BETCHA . Are they right in destructive behaviour ? HELL NO .
    Having said that , what's wrong with a retirement age of 60 ? What'sd wrong with that being an entitlement in their society ? NOTHING ….THEY HAVE BEEN PAYING FOR IT all their working lives . Their government bought into the scamming greed and mismanagement which originatewd right here in the good ole' USA .
    Somehow "conservatives" in the US seem to think Social Security Benefits are a welfare handout . What an arrogant and IGNORANT point of view !
    NOTHING could be fuirther from the truth . Ther average WORKINGMAN has paid taxes on their income to the tune of 20% , a bit more if that income exceeds 50 k .. So when those workers accumulate the qualifying number of working quarters in their lifetimes . they qualify to retire at the minimum SS rates and at 65 are qualified for Medicare ..WGHICH THEY HAVE ALSO PAID for in EVERY paycheck . So who are you clowns kidding ??

    • bostonian

      That is only part true. SS is paid to eveyone even those who did not contribute. On ther other side if you work for more than one job you will not get everything you paid. Than current generations (boomers) paid much less than they recieve. So younger less affluent people pay for more affluent even thgou there will be no money for them. So consider this.

      • badaboo

        Not True bostonian , WHERE on earth do you get your info from ? I see that you obviously are not old enough to have recieved a yearly statement from the SS Administration , which clearly lists your years of employment , money earned ,and amount paid in . Get your facts straight before chiming in with nonsense .

    • evergreen78

      If I understand the situation correctly, the protesters in France & Greece are government employees. This is what I don't understand about socialism, i.e., wealth redistribution, in any form: Where do they think money comes from in the first place? It comes from those "rich" people who own those shops & Mercedes Benzes & whatnot that are being vandalized — those "rich" people who are providing jobs in the private sector. The businesses pay taxes, and the "rich" people pay taxes, and the employees of the rich people pay taxes. Seems to me like the protesters are biting the hand that feeds them, or killing the goose that laid the golden egg, or something. I mean, if the goal is "wealth redistribution," somebody's got to create some WEALTH. Right? I mean, Yes, govt. employees pay taxes, but that's just taking money from one pocket & putting it in another pocket.

      No one, including the TEA parties, says that there should be NO government. We need government for a few things, like a common currency among the 50 states, national defense, & a few other things. You know . . . the powers enumerated in the Constitution. (cough!) A govt. big enough to give you everything you want is big enough to take away everything you have. I say, If you want to retire at 60 (or even 50), then start SAVING when you're 20. See?

      As far as this part — "Ther average WORKINGMAN has paid taxes on their income to the tune of 20% , a bit more if that income exceeds 50 k .. So when those workers accumulate the qualifying number of working quarters in their lifetimes . they qualify to retire at the minimum SS rates and at 65 are qualified for Medicare ..WGHICH THEY HAVE ALSO PAID for in EVERY paycheck." — do you think that the taxes you pay today are put into a special interest-bearing account in DC with "your" name on it? Uh, NO. The money that is withheld from your check TODAY is used to pay the salaries of govt. employees, fund Medicaid & other "social" programs (which dollars are being spent TODAY), along with building roads & taking over GM & Chrysler & stuff like that. The money that "you" pay in to Social Security is used to pay OTHER PEOPLE's Social Security benefits. The money that "you" are paying in to Social Security & Medicare is already SPENT. In fact, this year, for the first time since its inception, Social Security paid OUT more than it took IN. That's the fact, Jack. Social Security was originally intended to SUPPLEMENT one's retirement income. Today, people think it IS their retirement income.

      In conclusion, it has been my observation that every time a Leftist says the word "fair," whatever they say after that, no matter what the subject, is the exact OPPOSITE of "fair."

  • jacob

    Of course, one of the reasons for so many people on welfare lines is being out of work…

    I'm not talking about professional freeloaders which the lax system allowed to proliferate like mushrooms after a rain but plain working stiffs.

    However, not a single politician, PRESIDENT I NCLUDED, filling up their traps with the JOBS, JOBS, JOBS speeches, dares mentioning the bringing back of the "MADE IN USA" tag and the end of the imported garbage under the "MADE IN CHINA" tag…

    Since practically all footwear comes nowadays from CHINA, anybody noticed that even
    their slippers make your feet STINK LOUDLY ???

  • badaboo

    And that notion is UNIVERSAL among ALL real working people in the US . And no , it's not "socialism " as some of the IGNORANT and ARROGANT so falsely claim . It is simply a Government sponsored 401 k , a government sponsored HEALTH plan for those over 65 , who have PAID into it all their working lives .Imagine what would be if some of bthe fools a few years ago had their way and offered to put those funds into Wall Street !!__ It was designed to work , and it still does. The FACT that the morons we have elected since its inception , have treated those funds like a piggy bank , and "borrowed "from it , so much so that [ fact] 1 TRILLION DOLLARS is owed that fund . So cut the crap about Social Security and retirement . And I dare any politico , from ANY quarter to start messing with it , they'll soon find themselves , back to WORKING for a living like the rest of us .

  • badaboo

    Union Members ….long ago , sported bumper stickers on their cars that read – BUY AMERICAN ,THE JOB YOU SAVE MAY BE YOUR OWN ……..prophetic words indeed !
    So go ahead , keep on slamming Unions , and let the Chinese eat your lunch . BTW , cotton products are due for a sharp rise in price …Why ? Failure of the cotton crops in pakistan and Indonesia ……..want cheap labor , high profits ? You got it .Badaboo

  • GUEST

    tell it to the muslims in Britain. Oh I forgot, they're all on welfare.

  • stephencuz

    The fact is that we will outlive our contributions, including interest, which means we live on "other people's money" which is unsustainable. Marco Rubio has addressed this topic in a thoughtful manner. He suggests a program where the age of retirement for anyone over 55 stays as is. For anyone younger it increases one month for each year to the present retirement age. This should be the case until the new retirement age is increased by the necessary two or three years to make the system viable. Seems like a sensible approach to a problem most want to ignore. I too want the program there when my grandkids need it. Making no changes now will ensure it isn't

  • badaboo

    Not quite cruz , the FACT that politicians of ALL stripes for the past several decaeds have been treating Social Security , like a "piggy bank " , so much so that , at this present date in time , the social Security Funds are owed [ FACT ] about 1 TRILLION dollars . Every REAL working person has contributed in EVERY [paycheck ] to the tune of about 20 %,and in addition to their own Medicare Health benefits . Contrary to the present line of B.S. the naysayers are spouting , Social Security was an ingeniuos idea , which in effect was a govt. sponsored 401k , which after a worker accrued the required amount of working quarters and reached the age of 62 was ENTITLED , YES …ENTITLED , [not welfare ] [not a govt handout ] but something that worker paid into , which if even minimally and reasonably managed ,should provide a decent pension for the retiring workingman .

  • badaboo

    Your "fact is " is not fact at all , but just part of an arrogant and ignorant excuse , that unfortunately most conservatives have latched onto as a talking point , linking Social Security to everything from socialism , communism to welfare .Most people who have ACTUALLY WORKED for a living know this . Most people who criticize Social Security for one reason or another , or claim , like you , it needs to be fixed , are uninformed or just plain ignorant of the facts . Let the politicians payback the Trillion dollars owed that fund , and it will be just fine .
    ASnd to any politician who tries to change it , will find themselves , back in the position of the people on whose backs this country rests ….WORKING for a living .

  • badaboo

    Pensions at age 62 and Medicare at age 65 ,. are BOUGHT AND PAID for by the workingmen and women of this country , and are not worthy of the snide and arrogant criticism they are recieving from know-nothings , who would compare them to "welfare " or use the term "entitlement " with a facetious intent . The contibutions presently made are more than ample , even with the present day interest rates, Politicians wont mess with it because they know it will mean they will have to go backb to working for a living .

  • jimbo1932

    "Yet what does Social Security become when the totality of what one has contributed to it (including the interest accrued) is exceeded by that which one draws out of it?" Our beloved government doesn't "invest" the money forcibly taken from both the employees and the employers. It puts it into the general fund and spends it. So there is no interest accrued, but that's not the fault of the "investor." The government has turned what was supposed to be a self-supporting program designed to help prevent old people from becoming destitute, depending only on their families or charity for support, into a welfare program used for political purposes. Don't try to make me feel bad drawing "my" Social Security. The Feds. certainly showed me no pity deducting it from my paycheck for the last 50 years or so.

    • badaboo

      Damn right Jimbo. And that "govt ." you refer to includes ALL of 'em . The way some people talk around here , you'd think you'd be wrong in expecting WHAT YOU HAVE ALREADY PAID FOR .
      What we are really hearing , is arrogance , ignorance and inexperience , based in misinformation and force fed ideological propaganda .
      Those new boys on the block , had better think twice before denigrating Social Security, or putting down recipients as if they were welfare cases , try that crap at election time and see where it gets 'em .

  • badaboo

    The statement that we are "outliving our contributions " is pure B.S. , FACT is PAY BACK the TRILLION DOLLARS , owed it , and it will be just fine . This "new math " is simply part of the new B.S. conservative politik , actuaries of the 40 and 50's forgot more than any of these "new thinkers " will ever know or hope to learn .
    LOL….and our present day situation ios more than proof positive of that .

    • Wideband

      OK let's make this simple. Say you save 10 dollars every paycheck in a bank. The bank promises to keep it for you while it earns interest, but instead, they use it to buy new cars, crack, hookers, and give it to their relatives who don't work. The day comes when you retire and you want your money, and despite the fact that you EARNED your money, and the interest is BOUGHT AND PAID FOR, the bank doesn't have the money you gave them, they just don't. The interest never was accrued, because the bank mishandled your money, and the best they can do is directly hand you the money that new investors are giving them now. However, this means that since you are getting this money, the new investors' money is not accruing any interest. They might have EARNED it, but no amount of capitalization can bring their money back, unless you decide to give it back, and we know you'll never do that, because you EARNED it. Eventually this system collapses under it's own weight, and regardless how much you SHOUT about the corruption of the past, the money just isn't there. If you can't understand that, you're just not trying.

  • zsqpwxxeh

    I know! Let's ask a Frenchman!

    "A democracy cannot exist as a permanent form of government. It can only exist until the voters discover that they can vote themselves largesse from the public treasury with the result that a democracy always collapses over loose fiscal policy, always followed by dictatorship. The average age of the world's greatest civilizations has been 200 years."

    Alexis de Tocqueville

    • evergreen78

      I wish I could give this post TWO "thumbs up"!

      • badaboo

        how about giving credit where it is due de Toch's notions on democracies ,were actually predated by about 200 years ….by a GREEK .

  • Andre

    I just returned from France 3 days ago and had many conversations with people over there. The compromise being worked out to get out of the current mess is something which we may want to think about. Retirement will no longer be based on age but on a certain number of points accumulated by people throughout their career. Any year during which someone would contribute to the government retirement plan would earn people point. When people decide to retire, their retirement would be based on the number of points they accumulated. It is fair and it is viable in the sense that there would be no entitlement but rather a return on the investment people made in their pension.
    So before you look at the French as a bunch of whiners, think again…they may very well be onto something which could solve the inescapable bankruptcy which awaits SS in its current form.

    • badaboo

      we've already got half of that Andre – what you get as a pension on age 62 is based on how many qualifying quarters you have worked in your lifetime , which of course is commensurate with what you have contributed. And it all worked just fine until our sniveling corporate bought and sold politicians raided the SS funds to the tune of TRILLION BUCKS . And in order to solve this "alleged inescapable bankruptcy " , all this govt. need do, is PAY BACK THAT TRILLION BUCKS IT ''borrowed " and leave the damn thing alone . It works , it has worked , as it was set up by men much more intelligent and honest than the ones we have leading government today , and I mean every one of 'em .

  • IslamIsPolitical

    Tearing up their country and destroying the very resources they need to survive? Barbarian, short sighted and stupid, if you ask me. I guess they have nothing else to resort to, being that they agreed to be disarmed years ago. The government doesn't have to listen to them, so they self inflict wounds to try to get their attention. The French have brought their impotence to influence their bankrupt government on themselves, just like America will suffer because of a bunch of short sighted, gullible ignoramouses elected a communist Muslim to the most powerful position in the world. The aftermath doesn't happen by accident. Vote the bumbs out of office here, and keep doing it, until our country is stable and great again.

  • http://www.japanorama.com/prj.html PacRim Jim

    As the great American philosopher Nelson Mundt says, "HA-ha."

  • IslamIsPolitical

    badaboo: I know very well that for many years the Republicans have been just as abusive of their power, and neglegent of their responsibilities to the posterity of this nation as the Deemokrats. Obama is just dismantling/ruining our country much faster than McCain would have done it. They both lead down the same road: loss of personal freedoms, Socialism, destroying the financial strength of this nation, and lastly, Islamization/multiculturalism/Shariah Law/Dhimmitude whatever you want to call it. I am not a Republican any more, I never was a Deemocrat. I am an Independent,/Constitutionalist, which is what the earliest leaders of our country were.

    badaboo….do you have Oppositional Defiant Disorder or are you a sociopath? You seem to be here to just fight with everyone….you should see your psychiatrist, because your meds aren't working anymore.

  • obamalmao

    i can see november from my house

  • ebonystone

    Some comments have compared the SS scheme to a 401-k or IRA plan. But they're not comparable at all. One main difference is that the funds one invests in a 401-k or IRA remain one's property. If one dies before reaching retirement age, the funds in his 401-k or IRA go to his heirs. But his heirs get nothing from his years of payments into SS. Likewise if one dies shortly after retirement, before taking much from a 401-k or IRA: what's left goes to one's heirs. Again, with SS the heirs get nothing from one's years of payments into the system. [That's assuming there's no surviving spouse.]

  • Bear from Russia

    I don't get it. Do you mean that France is not a Western Society? And I never said that stealing and crushing is good. I wrote " Ofcourse it's not clever to burn cars and break shops". I just say that people are brave enough to fight for their rights.

  • badaboo

    First off it 's not a "scheme " , secondly the surviving spouse recieves the higher pension of the two . The comparison to a 401k is only in the sense that it provides a retirement pension that one pays into , and is NOT subject to market gains or LOSSES . This distinction should be easily discernable as a retirement metaphor . They are in FACT individual accounts based on IONDSIVIDUAL contributions . Why should "heirs ' get anything ? These funds have never been at risk , they are universal funds for all contributore and served ONE PURPOSE -your comparison is facetious in what you attempt to imply .401's are taxable and subject to early withdrawals and penalties for such , making depletion of said retirement funds a likely occurrence . 401's are for the mutual benefit of investment firms and the likeand are subject to management fees . SS pensins are guaranteed , 401's are not . SS benefits are in fact highly individualized .A 401 is a bank account , therefore an asset ,which should be transferable to an heir .The purpose of the two are entirely different in nature and intent . 401's enhance retirement [in most cases ] SS provides a guaranteed retirement pension assuming one has contibuted .