You have all read in the press that the French were striking because their government was moving their retirement age from 60 to 62. They have it pretty good, you thought. What’s wrong with them?’
Actually, on this account, not much is wrong with the French, but plenty is wrong with the American press that leaves out the most important facts. The French could indeed retire at 60, but they received a full pension only after they had contributed for 40 years into the retirement system. Otherwise, they received a meager portion of their full retirement. Consequently, most people went on working until they could receive a full pension, usually at 65. Now, they will have to wait until they are 67.
If everyone had been squeezed for the common good, the French would probably have swallowed the pill. But, at the very same time their pensions were being reduced, the Sarkozy administration was creating tax reforms to pamper the rich (just like the Bush administration here)—for example giving $60 million in tax refund to the l’Oréal heiress. The French, who understand that letting the government dig into their pockets in order to give more to the wealthy is not to their advantage, took to the street. So they (along with most Europeans) are baffled when they see working class Americans take to the street not because they want something, but because they don’t want the health-care insurance that will keep them alive.
When people start fighting against their own self-interest, it’s not humorous, it’s frightening. I would much rather put up with the regular French strikes than I would watch the working class participate in its own undoing.
-- Odile Ayral - San Luis Obispo