Unrest In France

A major strike has practically crippled France as nearly one million workers went on strike against Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin’s efforts at reforming France’s pension system.

France’s pension system will go bankrupt in 20 years. The French government will be practically shut down unless the government ends efforts to reform the system. In other words, they can’t keep the program running, nor can they take it away without the nation practically shutting down.

This highlights the essential problem with these programs: when you create a government program that’s considered a right, there’s no opportunity to alter that program if it becomes to expensive to maintain. Social programs like France’s pension system become set in stone and immune to change even if they become anchors on economic growth. The prospects for any meaningful pension reform seem slim at this point, which means that sooner or later the government of France will find itself in a financial hole it can’t dig itself out of. Making the situation worse will be the restrictions of the Maastricht Treaty that will not allow France to use monetary policy to ease their decline. Unless something is done, the situation is not sustainable, but the labor unions are doing their best to see that nothing gets done.

3 thoughts on “Unrest In France

  1. As promised (and I know you’ve been on the edge of your seat waiting for it), I will analyze the eight Congressional districts of Minnesota to see how right (or wrong) your presumption of a Republican-trending Minnesota is.

    District 1–formerly the only stronghold the GOP had in Minnesota, my home district has changed dramatically in the past three decades. A perpetually declining economy in farm counties and significant immigration to the GOP’s long-standing cornerstone in the 1st district, Rochester, has resulted in a very obvious leftward trend to the district’s politics, much like the state of Iowa which it borders to the South. Mark Dayton shocked the world when he carried the first district in 2000, and George Bush was only able to eke out a narrow victory over Gore here. Counties that were GOP strongholds 20 years ago, such as Faribault, Watonwan and Fillmore, exemplify the district’s recent leftward shift. In fact, when Gil Gutknecht retires in 2006, I anticipate this district to be a good battle. An impressive DFL candidate could easily bring about regime change in the 1st. The district’s strongest DFL county, Mower County, can usually be relied upon to bring in a 3,000-vote DFL advantage. Couple that with narrower DFL wins in Freeborn, Blue Earth, Winona, Nicollet and Nobles Counties, and the increasingly less-than-overwhelming GOP margins in places like Houston, Steele, Martin and Olmsted Counties and the DFL suddenly becomes very competitive. It did become slightly more Republican with the collective addition of nine southwest Minnesota counties after the recent district gerrymandering, but the difference is negligible. With all the dark recent trends, the DFL’s ability to make the 1st a competitive bright spot is a rare bright spot, and the Pawlenty/Taxpayer League-imposed geographical genocide is only likely to accelerate the trend.

    District 2–hands-down Minnesota’s most Republican district. I knew Bill Luther made a mistake when he chose to run here rather than facing Mark Kennedy in the new 6th district. This district is plagued with what have become the two most Republican counties in Minnesota, Carver and Scott Counties. Carver has always been Republican, but Scott County politics have probably changed the most (and all for the worst) in the past two decades. In 1980, Scott County was one of 14 Minnesota counties to vote for Jimmy Carter. 22 years and about 60,000 narrow-minded yuppies later, Norm Coleman won Scott County with 63% of the vote. The region of Dakota County represented in the 1st district is almost as bad as the gruesome twosome to its west, not surprising considering its home to the fringe right duo of Tim Pawlenty and Pat “I got your bail money, honey” Awada. Rural Rice County is a DFL stronghold in the southern portion of the district and Le Sueur and Goodhue counties are swing, but they’re ultimately irrelevant with the population advantage of the suburban sprawl zone in the northern second. I believe Mike Hatch squeaked out a razor-thin victory in the second, but the GOP can expect to win this district 99 times out of 100. The 2nd district and its right-wing expatriate Texan Congressman John Kline represents exactly why Minnesota has trended Republican in recent years.

    District 3–The third district, representing Minneapolis western suburbs, used to be the only yuppie-dominated district of Minnesota’s eight, but is now one of three. The third is nowhere near as Republican as the second, being home to a fairly substantial bloc of left-leaning independents in places like Bloomington and Minnetonka. Still, it’s comfortable GOP territory and moderate Republican representative Jim Ramstad reflects the district’s values pretty well. A strong DFL candidate, or the absence of a marginally-competent GOP candidate, could result in a DFL victory in the 3rd district, but it’s odds-against.

    District 4–Hard-core DFL country. The city of St. Paul makes up half the district and the blue-collar suburbs in Ramsey and northern Dakota County make up the rest. As the GOP’s hostility towards the working class has intensified over recent years, the 4th has become slightly more DFL, although there’s a small yuppie contingent in suburbs like Shoreview and Vadnais Heights that dilute numbers a little. Still, it’ll be a cold day in hell before a GOPer wins her.

    District 5–the DFL’s strongest district in Minnesota, where the city of Minneapolis makes up three-fifths of the district and the rest comes from working-class inner-core suburbs to its west (and after gerrymandering, some to its north such as Fridley). Martin Sabo has represented the district’s staunch liberal values well in his nearly three decades in Congress. Few people in Congress possess the wealth of knowledge about economics that Sabo does, even though he’s being drowned out by the supply-side majority’s “fast track to derailment” approach. The GOP will probably never win a major race in the 5th.

    District 6–only slightly less of a GOP stronghold than the 2nd district. Mark Kennedy bulldozed his competition here in 2002, although I think Bill Luther would have put up a better fight if he had ran here instead of the 2nd. The GOP’s strength lies in the suburban sprawl regions in formerly swing counties Sherburne and Wright Counties northwest of the Cities. Meanwhile, former DFL bastions Anoka and Washington counties northeast of the Cities have also trended dramatically Republican in the past decade. The St. Cloud area, which would have been the most Republican portion of this district 20 years, is now the most competitive, but still leans Republican. The 2nd district and the 6th district explain Minnesota’s transformation almost by themselves.

    District 7–Gerrymandering gave Collin Peterson most of the western half of Minnesota. This district isn’t exactly liberal in the spirit of Minneapolis, but the majority of its territory is strongly populist. The Red River Valley in the northwest corner of Minnesota has long been unpredictable politically, but the DFL has a substantial advantage in registered voters which most elections verify. The new territory Peterson picked up improved the DFL’s odds in the district as west-central Minnesota was ground zero of the farm populist movement a century ago, and the movement continues to leave its fingerprint on Minnesota politics today in DFL strongholds like Swift, Lac qui Parle, Big Stone, Chippewa, Yellow Medicine and Lincoln counties. A liberal DFLer is not likely to win in the 7th (although they liked Wellstone here in 1996, and Mondale did well here in 2002 also), but an independent-minded Democrat like Peterson certainly can. There are several “lakes counties” in the 7th with high populations and a strong Republican tilt that keep this from being a strong DFL district. Otter Tail, Douglas, Roseau, and newly-acquired farm counties like McLeod and Redwood Counties will make it a challenge to keep Peterson’s seat in DFL hands when he retires.

    District 8–regardless of GOP wishful thinking, the 8th district remains firmly in DFL hands thanks to Duluth and the Iron Range, blue collar areas being devastated by global market forces and, as of now, an inferno of destructive legislative priorities coming out of St. Paul. Portions in the southern part of the 8th district are conservative-leaning due to suburban sprawl, but it’s extremely rare for the GOP to overcome the DFL dominance in St. Louis, Carlton and Itasca Counties where the bulk of the 8th’s population lies. The conservative social tendencies of many Iron Rangers have occasionally motivated a precious few of them to vote Republican in the best, but now as they kneal in front of their own grave waiting for the cold muzzle of Pawlenty’s crown-plated revolver at the back of their head to go off and destroy their livelihood, it’s hard to see them making that mistake again

  2. I think your analysis is pretty good, except the 1st is solidly Republican, and will be for some time (espcially after redistricting). Gutknecht wins by solid numbers here, and Ruth Johnson lost District 27A despite the reliable DFL votes from St. Peter. The sentiment in even a blue-collar town like Waseca tends to like Pawlenty, and the immigrants who are moving in to these areas tend not to vote, offsetting their influence.

    You’re right – the Metro area and the Iron Range will be DFL for most of time, but Southern Minnesota and the suburbs are havens for the GOP. Then again, this is Minnesota, so anything could change. If the GOP fields a set of lackluster candidates they could lose their recent gains just as quick as they got them.

  3. I think the numbers bear out that, just like Iowa to its South, Minnesota’s 1st district is nowhere near as Republican as it was at any juncture in Minnesota history. Over the past couple decades, moderate-to-conservative DFLers such as Tim Penny, Tracy Beckman, Henry Kalis and Chuck Fowler have made considerable in-roads to previously die-hard GOP country. The last few election cycles have shown serious movement away from the GOP. I have attended numerous farm forums in the district and haven’t heard a good word spoken about Pawlenty and the House GOP yet. I promise you that you’re seriously overestimating Republican support in Greater Minnesota, at least among the informed, and the pain has only started from the budget cuts and the brain drain that will result from erasing hundreds of good jobs that rural communities desperately need. These are the places that may have strongly supported the previous three GOP Governors,who just yesterday took Pawlenty behind the woodshed for a much-needed ass paddling, but I seriously doubt that most of them will support the current GOP’s radical conservative agenda.

    Gutknecht’s numbers here are due to his incumbency, and the fact that his opponents have less and less money each year. After he goes in 2006, the district should be up-for-grabs. Ruth Johnson lost because her previously swing district inherited strong Republican territory in Sibley County, which isn’t even in the 1st district.

    I also think you’re overestimating the Republicanism of the 1st district’s new territory. Of the ten new counties, only Brown and Martin Counties post solid GOP numbers. There are pockets of fundamentalist religious conservatives in Pipestone, Rock and Cottonwood Counties that often give those counties narrow Republican victories, but the margins rarely exceed 300 votes in any of the counties. Meanwhile, Nicollet and Watonwan Counties are completely-up-for-grabs and seem to be trending DFL, while Irish Catholic-heavy Murray, Nobles and Jackson Counties are usually strong for the DFL. The Dems cause wasn’t helped by losing Rice County to redistricting, but the 1st remains a district that has become easily winnable for a good DFL candidate without Rice Co.

    Immigrants voting numbers are small now, but they were in California 15 years ago as well. Ask Bob Dornan and James Rogan how long that’s lasted. You don’t seriously believe that thousands upon thousands of impoverished newcomers can migrate to a region and not alter the politics do you? In Watonwan County, the Hispanic population has ballooned to more than 20 percent and that’s almost certainly a factor to the county’s leftward shift over the same time period.

    And having graduated high school in Waseca County, I consider myself pretty qualified to speculate on its politics. First of all, Pawlenty was lambasted in Waseca County. Favorite son Tim Penny won the county with 58% of the vote, and the city of Waseca with 63% of the vote. Other than that, I wouldn’t exactly qualify Waseca as a blue-collar town, at least in comparison to its neighbors to the south Albert Lea and Austin. To whatever extent that it is blue-collar, the German heritage offsets that. German heritage is an almost telltale sign that a community is Republican, and Waseca is no exception. With that said, GOP margins in Waseca are getting tighter and tighter. Norm Coleman won, but with less than 50% and only three of the six precincts. It’s Waseca County’s farmers who are Republican, and are able to be that way because of the area’s fertile and profitable farmland. Waseca County’s farmers are among the most Republican in the state.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.