Monday, March 9, 2015

The Anti-Socialist in the Administration of Socialist Hollande

Emmanuel Macron

I already have one profile, via Economist magazine, up at EPJ on French finance minister Emmanuel Macron (SEE: AWESOME A Deregulating Socialist French Economist is in Charge).

Now, WSJ provides further insight into the French finance minister:
French Economy Minister Emmanuel Macron got an earful in January from U.S. technology and retail executives as they lectured him in a meeting at the Venetian hotel in Las Vegas about France’s inhospitable business reputation.

They complained that the government meddles too much, the labor market is too rule-bound and corporate taxes are onerous, including a two-year 75% tax on salaries of more than €1 million ($1.1 million) imposed by President François Hollande after his election in 2012.

The 37-year-old Mr. Macron, a former investment banker who became France’s top economic official last August, folded his hands prayer-like and then responded with the message he had flown from Paris to deliver: “I agree with everything.”

He added: “I think the 75% tax was a big mistake.”...

In February, Mr. Hollande pushed economic overhauls designed by Mr. Macron—and known as the “Macron Law”—past the lower house of Parliament. Opposition from the president’s own party was so fierce that Mr. Hollande invoked special constitutional powers to bypass the National Assembly, the first use of that maneuver in nearly a decade...

In interviews with The Wall Street Journal, Mr. Macron said he is planning to strengthen his namesake legislation in ways that are likely to widen the divide. For example, he wants to allow companies to sidestep rigid labor rules and negotiate directly with employees, a move that could tread on France’s hallowed 35-hour workweek.

“You have to be more confrontational,” he says. The Senate is likely to start reviewing the legislation in April...

The Macron Law “is devastating to our principles because it annihilates much of what we stand for as Socialists,” [ Jean-Marc Germain, a Socialist lawmaker] adds.

Still, Mr. Macron has clearly won over the French socialist who matters most: Mr. Hollande...

The two men clashed when Mr. Hollande vowed to levy the 75% tax on salaries of more than one million euros. Mr. Macron fired off an email to Mr. Hollande, hoping to steer him to a softer stance: “This is Cuba without the sun!”

After his election, lawmakers approved the tax, and Mr. Hollande stocked his cabinet with left-wing Socialist Party members. Arnaud Montebourg, who regarded government as a guardian against corporate takeovers by foreigners, was named France’s industry minister.

But in a sign of Mr. Hollande’s determination to balance competing interests, the new president hired Mr. Macron as his deputy chief of staff and primary conduit to the business world...

Despite Mr. Macron’s willingness to challenge heavyweights of the Socialist Party, he left Mr. Hollande’s administration to launch an Internet startup. His plans changed when the French president telephoned in August 2014 with an urgent offer.

Mr. Hollande fired Mr. Montebourg and two other ministers for opposing cuts to government spending. It was a stunning rebuke of the rebellious left. Mr. Hollande promised the economic minister’s job to Mr. Macron if he wanted it.

Mr. Macron said he wanted a clear mandate from Mr. Hollande to overhaul the economy. Mr. Hollande replied: “You will be here to reform.” An hour later, Mr. Macron accepted the job...

At 1 a.m. on Valentine’s Day, Mr. Macron met Socialist Party baron Benoît Hamon, who was fired as education minister in the shake-up that made Mr. Macron economy minister.

While the two men had drinks at the bar of the National Assembly, Mr. Hamon made a quid pro quo offer: Socialist Party lawmakers would support Mr. Macron if the legislation included a nationwide increase in pay rates for Sunday workers.

“I would have ensured there was a majority,” Mr. Hamon says. “I didn’t want to go to war.” The next day, Mr. Macron delivered his answer in a heated address to the lower house. “I’m sorry, but I’m not open to shallow compromises to justify a vote,” he told lawmakers.

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