by Rob Roper

Since the election of Donald Trump, the Left has had a revived interest in the works of George Orwell, 1984 and Animal Farm. I’m not sure they’re actually reading these cautionary tales about the evils of socialism and how it destroys the human spirit, generates violence, poverty, and general misery, but I sincerely hope they do. Orwell was in many ways prescient.

Watching the antics of college students at Middlebury, where they chased Charles Murray from the stage and assaulted his host, at Berkley where they rioted against one speaker and chased Anne Coulter away before she even got there, and most lately at Notre Dame where they walked out Vice President Pence’s commencement speech, I am reminded of the dogs in Animal Farm. Here’s how that story goes….

In Chapter 3, Napoleon, the pig who represented Stalin, takes away the new puppies born to Jessie and Bluebell, “saying that he would make himself responsible for their education. He took them up into a loft which could only be reached by a ladder from the harness-room, and there kept them in such seclusion that the rest of the farm soon forgot their existence.”

Let’s call that The Animal Farm college campus “Safe Space.”

Months later, when the farm animals had to vote on an issue of importance to the community, Napoleon’s rival, Snowball, was making an eloquent and inspiring speech rallying the other animals to his noble, rational cause.

But just at this moment Napoleon stood up and, casting a peculiar sidelong look at Snowball, uttered a high-pitched whimper of a kind no one had ever heard him utter before.

At this there was a terrible baying sound outside, and nine enormous dogs wearing brass-studded collars came bounding into the barn. They dashed straight for Snowball, who only sprang from his place just in time to escape their snapping jaws. In a moment he was out of the door and they were after him…. Then he [Snowball] put on an extra spurt and, with a few inches to spare, slipped through a hole in the hedge and was seen no more.

Silent and terrified, the animals crept back into the barn.

This could easily be a scene from almost any college campus today where a conservative speaker takes the stage. So, let’s stop referring to these students as “snowflakes,” which implies fragility and a certain amount of insignificance, and recognize them for what they are – the isolated, brainwashed, fiercely loyal, and dangerous attack dogs of an aspiring totalitarian regime.

Rob Roper is president of the Ethan Allen Institute

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by John McClaughryJohn McClaughry

The sudden political struggle over health insurance for unionized teachers isn’t over but some useful lessons are emerging.

 This struggle was triggered by a provision of ObamaCare called “the Cadillac tax”. Starting in 2018, plans with premiums of over $10,800 a year for individuals and $29,500 for families will face a crushing 40% tax on those premiums.

Congress has delayed the Cadillac tax before, and could do so again. But next year school employees need to be in one of the Vermont Education Health Initiative plans designed to escape the tax.

In mid-April, with the Senate hard at work on the House-passed budget, Gov. Phil Scott suddenly produced a major new proposal or, it turned out, a demand.

The outcome envisioned by the governor is eminently desirable. School employees would enroll in a VEHI “Gold-level” health insurance plan, with premiums far below those of the “plutonium” level plans negotiated by the teachers’ union. This would result in reduced school budget expenses of $75 million.

 Out of that $75 million, Scott proposes to annually fund teacher Health Savings Accounts in amounts large enough to hold the teachers harmless from the Gold plan’s higher deductibles and co-pays. By owning their own HSAs, the employees would become more sensitive to the benefits of preventive care, and reduce their overutilization of “free” health care.

Scott says this new arrangement would produce “up to $26 million” that would lower school property taxes.

 The problem lies in getting from today to that outcome. The Governor wants to personally negotiate with the teachers’ union to effect these changes. The Vermont-NEA union is wedded – some would say fanatically wedded – to keeping health benefits in their negotiations with local districts.

Sen. Tim Ashe’s counterproposal on the union’s behalf is to have the State force school boards to somehow cut their budgets if they are not able to negotiate the exact amount of reductions prescribed by the State in the legislation. It’s hard to imagine a more insulting and demoralizing intrusion into what’s left of “local control.”

The hard truth is that the union can’t “negotiate” with the State. The State has all the cards, and the union has basically none (other than a statewide strike and political revenge).

Scott needs to drop his hasty, late in the game proposal to have the State (him) negotiate with the union. Then we should do what we did with teacher retirement in 1946. The legislature should enact a law that makes teacher health insurance a state-specified benefit, defines the coverage, HSA contributions, and the 80/20 premium split (as for state employees now), and obliges the legislature to transfer the required premium dollars from the Education Fund to VEHI. If the union thinks it isn’t getting enough – a chronic condition – it can appeal to the legislature to change the law.

This leaves untouched the union’s statutory privilege to bargain with local districts over salary schedules, grievance procedures,  hours of work, pupil discipline, sick leave, seniority, termination, vacations, special duty provisions, class schedules, dues deductions, and a dozen more issues customarily subject to bargaining.

In 2011 the Vermont-NEA aggressively supported Gov. Shumlin’s Green Mountain Care, which would have taken health care out of union bargaining altogether. In 2013 it successfully supported a law imposing agency fees on non-members instead of leaving it as an issue for local bargaining. One would think it would be content to get the complicated issue of health insurance off the local bargaining table as well. But… NO!

Why is the union so fanatic about preserving “local control”? Never mind the rhetoric about “best for the community”, “a sacrosanct right”, and even “don’t take power away from working women”. The real reason is explained in an excellent report by Tiffany Pache on Vermont Digger (May 18).

The union’s seven UniServe Directors ($136,000 a year salary, plus benefits) stage manage local teacher negotiators facing often inexperienced school board members. Their whipsaw strategy is to get a favorable provision into one district’s contract, and then use that as a “comparable” to persuade “fact finders” to rule in favor of the union’s demand in other more resistant districts.

Scrapping the idea of “negotiations” over taxpayer-paid health insurance benefits altogether will make the union howl. But it can still play its whipsaw game with salary schedules and the many other contract issues, at least until taxpayers stiffen up and do something about it.

Democratic legislators need to tell the Vermont-NEA that Scott’s desired outcome offers many benefits for both teachers and taxpayers. But to achieve them, the Democrats should explain that they aren’t going to impose impractical and belittling conditions on local school districts just to preserve the union’s practice of whipsawing districts on health benefits, in addition to all the other negotiated benefits.

If the Democrats can’t stand up to the union to make this overall good idea happen, they are pretty likely to hear a lot about it in the fall of 2018.

- John McClaughry is vice president of the Ethan Allen Institute (www.ethanallen.org)

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by Rob Roper

Several issues remain unresolved following the 2017 legislative session. Two big ones are the $15 minimum wage and Paid Family Leave. Both will be top of the agenda when the legislature returns in January.

A Paid Family Leave bill (H.196) passed the house and awaits action in the senate. This bill would mandate all employees “purchase” what is essentially a state-run insurance policy through a payroll tax. The the program would allow an employee to take up to six-weeks of paid leave from work while receiving up to 80% of full salary or $1000 per week, whichever is less. These benefits would become available after one year of employment and contributing to the program. The language in the bill sets the payroll tax at 0.141% of one’s first $150,000 of income, but acknowledges that if revenue necessary to fund demand the program is not met by that rate, the rate will rise to meet demand. In other words, the costs for this program, which nobody really seems to want, could — and probably will — explode.

While the House prioritized Family Leave, the senate under President Pro Tem Tim Ashe (D/P-Chittenden) is focused on passing a mandatory, statewide $15 minimum wage. This is, of course, becoming a Holy Grail of the Left across the country, not just in Vermont. It is also a de facto tax on labor, and whenever you tax something you get less of it.

Both of these policies are pieces in what is an ongoing war on business, particularly small business, in our state. Both will make it more expensive and complicated to employ people. Governor Scott has done an admirable job in his first year saying no to tax and fee increases. In his second year let’s hope he is equally focused on blocking new mandates and regulations that stifle economic activity. Maybe even push to get rid of some that are already in place.

Another important issue that remains unresolved is the Independent Contractor bill, which the House Commerce Committee once again shelved after being unable to find a compromise with big labor. Passing something that is compatible with the changing economy and nature of work in the 21st Century is key to getting more people employed. However, three years of handwringing with nothing to show for it does not inspire confidence.

- Rob Roper is president of the Ethan Allen Institute

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by John J. Metzler

UNITED NATIONS—Storm clouds are buffeting the coast of Venezuela, the once rich South American state which is sliding into economic chaos and combustable political confrontation.

Mass demonstrations have rocked the capital Caracas. As democratic opposition protesters confront the riot police and paramilitary forces of the entrenched socialist dictatorship, the country of 31 million slips deeper into turmoil.

It did not have to be this way.

Once a fairly prosperous and middle class country, Venezuela challenged the paradigm of much of Latin America in the post-war period having a working democracy which was not jolted by periodic military coups detat. Nor was this the stereotypical “banana republic.” Anything but.

Yet the rise of the petroleum fueled and politically high octane presidency of Colonel Hugo Chavez starting in 1999 changed the political equation. A dozen years of left wing politics, nationalizations and increasing authoritarianism of the Bolivarian Revolution put Chavez’s Venezuela near the pinnacle of progressive Latin American regimes. President Chavez presented himself as a buffoonish populist and regular critic of the USA. Having witnessed his antics during his UN visits, one could be assured of colorful rhetoric and a peculiar charm fitting of a Latin despot.

In a sense Venezuela’s oil boom was both a blessing and a curse. In the beginning petrodollars fueled the state and lavish social welfare programs for his United Socialist Party. Later petrodollars provided a massive political slush fund to support political solidarity with Castro’s Cuba, and a host of other Marxist states looking for the flow of Peso diplomacy. But the drop in global oil prices and the cost of socialist mismanagement by Hugo Chavez turned a once prosperous state into an economic basket case.

When Chavez died of cancer in 2013, his mantle fell to vice President Nicolas Maduro, a less talented demagogue, who’s since been swamped by falling oil prices, corruption, and inflation.

After Maduro’s left wing Supreme Court dissolved the National Assembly, which was controlled by the opposition, street demonstrations reignited. Once again, as many times during the Chavez years, especially in 2002, the middle class opposition rose up to challenge the Maduro government. Yet widening food and medicine shortages across Venezuela have swelled the ranks of the protesters to include many of the poor proletariat who once supported the Chavismo movement.

The Washington-based Organization of American States (OAS) issued a 75-page report accusing the Maduro government of violating human rights and democratic standards. The OAS Secretary General later warned, “In Venezuela, the rule of law does not exist even in appearance…The group of people who hold power in Venezuela has no right to inflict the harm and damage it is causing on the country and the hemisphere.”

Weeks ago the Caracas regime decided to quit the OAS, of which it was a founding member.   Former congresswoman Maria Corina Machado stated that Maduro’s leaving the OAS “formalized Venezuela’s outlaw status.”

The human rights watchdog group Freedom House rates Venezuela’s political rights and civil liberties as “Not free” and scores its standing as lower than Zimbabwe! Venezuela is regarded as the “least free” country on the South American continent, a tragic turnaround from its historic standing. Political prisoners, media harassment/intimidation and human rights violations have become part of Venezuela’s new normal.

During a May Day rally speech, Maduro proudly proclaimed plans for a new constitution, one which will be written and framed by regime appointees who know what the Boss wants.

The armed forces, while constitutionally barred from politically meddling, may be biding their time. Nonetheless, the National Guard and the regime’s loyal People’s Militias keep Maduro in power in the short run albeit it to the backdrop of tear gas, and dozens of dead thus far.

Caracas is seething. While the opposition wants fresh elections and a release of political prisoners, the biggest threat to Maduro comes from weak petroleum prices on which 95 percent of the country’s exports depend. This combined with hyper-inflation, food shortages, and a health care crisis present a toxic mix to the regime.

The paradox facing the Trump Administration and many Latin American partners is how to defuse this tinderbox before it becomes a regional crisis. Preventive diplomacy is needed before the crisis explodes.

John J. Metzler is a United Nations correspondent covering diplomatic and defense issues. He is the author of Divided Dynamism The Diplomacy Separated Nations: Germany, Korea, China.

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by Rob Roper

The budget battle in the state house between Governor Scott and Democratic Leadership appears to be devolving into a fight over the VTNEA (Teachers’ Union) and political power rather than sound policy.

Governor Scott wants to save property taxpayers an estimated $26 million by taking advantage of a one time opportunity created by the Affordable Care Act (ObamaCare) requiring all teachers to drop their “Cadillac” health insurance plans and move onto the Vermont health exchange. Teachers would not be harmed, nor would funding for student programs. The School Boards Association supports the plan, as do the Superintendents. Sixteen Democratic house members broke with their party leadership to vote for the governor’s plan because, from a policy perspective, it makes a lot of sense.

But….

The VTNEA jerked the choke chain it has clipped around the necks of state Democratic leadership and said no.  (See WCAX’s story, Teachers Union Warns Democrats to Stand Firm Against Gov. Scott.) The union does not want to end the practice of bargaining for healthcare benefits with scores of local school boards and, instead, bargain in one place one time with the Administration.

Why? Because the union’s job is to extract the maximum amount of money from the taxpayers while minimizing the amount of work its members are required to do to capture that cash. (No judgment here, it’s their job to represent their member’s interests. But it’s legislators’ job to represent their constituents – all of them.) The union takes advantage of the current system by winning a big benefits increase one district, then using that deal as a benchmark for everybody else in the next bargaining period. Costs to taxpayers keep ratcheting up.

This lucrative dynamic for the union, and others like it, is what the Democratic leadership is being paid to protect. (NEA Candidate & Party Expenditures 2016.)

What we are watching is a very powerful special interest group exert way too much influence over public policy makers. It is why since passage of Act 60 in 1997 the cost of K-12 education in Vermont has doubled despite losing roughly 25,000 students (over 20% of the total). And, also why one party has been able to consistently dominate state elections. One hand washes the other.

Today Democratic Leadership upped the political ante, moving legislative language into the budget bill that would create a $35 million housing bond that would finance affordable housing. This is a priority for Scott, so if he vetoes the budget he will also be vetoing his affordable housing program. But here the thing: It’s not just Governor Scott who wants lower property taxes and more affordable housing. Most Vermonters want these policies too.

- Rob Roper is president of the Ethan Allen Institute. 

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by Rob Roper

The Vermont Democratic Party leadership held a press conference today (5/17/17) at the State House announcing a complete impasse with the Governor over a statewide teachers’ healthcare contract and the potential savings that could be derived from such a policy.

Asked specifically about what the timeline is for moving forward and what a date for adjournment might ultimately be, Sen. Ashe (D/P-Chittenden), and Speaker Johnson (D-South Hero) avoided the question with shrugs.

So what happens if there’s no budget by the start of the next fiscal year on July 1?

I have been asking this question since January (thinking that there would be a budget veto battle over increases in taxes and fees), and until today nobody has been able to give a definitive answer. Does funding continue at last year’s levels? Is there no money to fund government operations? If there is no money, does that force a government shutdown? What would that mean? Today some hints of clarity bubbled to the surface, but not too much.

If there is no budget, there is no money. That much is clear. The legislature would have to pass a continuing resolution to keep funding “essential” government operations. There is no definition of what “essential” is, as far as I found out. But, as one wag in the cafeteria commented, “We’d save a lot more than $26 million if we cut out all non-essential services!”

The Secretary of the Senate, couldn’t remember if a continuing resolution had ever been used for the budget, and indicated that there is still quite a bit of uncertainty surrounding the process. According to another source a continuing resolution was employed during the Keyser Administration (1961-63), when it took until August to reach agreement on a budget. Historical note: Keyser lost his bid for re-election to Phil Hoff, marking the last time in Vermont history that an incumbent governor lost a race.

At an afternoon caucus meeting, Republicans and at least one stalwart Independent made it clear that harvesting the savings from a statewide teachers’ healthcare contract to the benefit of property taxpayers has tri-partisan support, and they intend to hold firm if it comes to a budget veto. But the waiting game continues.

Rob Roper is president of the Ethan Allen Institute

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by Rob Roper

Vermont legislators were publicly shamed into passing an ethics bill this session, thought what they ended up passing is pretty weak tea in terms of actually policing and enforcing bad behavior. But here’s the aspect of the story that’s really infuriating….

Asked why it was so hard to do anything governing the behavior of elected officials, Sen. Anthony Pollina (D/P-Washington) replied, ““We’re really eager to make laws that impact other people, but when it comes to laws that affect the Legislature itself, we’re not really willing to do that. We’ll judge others but not judge ourselves.” (VT Digger, 5/16/17)

Sen. Jeanette White (D-Windham) shared a similar sentiment, “… part of it was people thinking it was impacting legislators, and we never like to pass things that impact ourselves… Look at when we passed campaign finance. We don’t like to do that. We like to pass things that affect other people.”

While I appreciate the honesty, and in fairness to Pollina and White I think they are lamenting this dynamic, still…. Go screw yourselves. There’s no more polite way to say it.

Ever heard of the Golden Rule? Do unto others as you would have others do unto you. Legislators don’t like laws that tell them what to do and how to act? Guess what? Neither do we. Maybe consider that fact the next time some busybody, nanny state bill comes across your desks that affects your constituents in ways that you wouldn’t want to be affected yourselves. Then don’t pass it.

- Rob Roper is president of the Ethan Allen Institute. 

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by Rob Roper

I had an enlightening exchange with the news editor of a local paper (I won’t say who out of respect for what was a private correspondence) regarding my recent Op-Ed, “If Science Is the Standard…,” about the dangerous and unfortunate attempts by the left to politicize and weaponize the word science. This person just couldn’t understand what the problem was. Why was I even writing on this topic?

Particularly, he couldn’t understand why I was picking on VPIRG over what science says about the impact of proposed climate change solutions versus their claims of “saving Vermont winters.” He wrote:

…there are plenty of cases of hypocrisy that you could have spent your time and effort writing about that would have more consequence than whether VPIRG is lying about the extent of our ability to slow down climate change.

Here I disagree. This is no small lie! It is a lie upon which policies affecting the future of our landscape, ecosystems, and economy are being founded. And the hypocrisy is not just VPIRG’s but the press’ as well. If they really believe in the sanctity of true science, they would be pressing VPIRG and the politicians to scientifically substantiate the claims they make regarding the impact of state environmental policy on future temperature trends, severe weather, etc. They don’t because they know there is no such evidence.

We went back and forth on climate change and “science” for a couple of days. I explained to him why I wrote the piece and the thinking behind it. Having done my best to answer his questions, I asked one concluded by asking him to take a shot at answering one of mine: “Why won’t the press call out VPIRG and our politicians (you have a few good candidates in [your community]) for essentially perpetrating a fraud on the people of Vermont when it comes to energy policy and its impact on climate change?”

It’s been two weeks. I haven’t heard from him.

I had a similar experience with Mike Polhamus of Vermont Digger. He was writing an article on Carbon Tax proposals and, as part of a fairly long interview, asked if I denied climate change was happening. I said no, what I deny is that there’s any scientific data to support the notion that these Carbon Taxes or going to 90% renewable energy sources by 2050 will do anything to impact climate change, certainly not to the extent where it will “save winter” in Vermont. I challenged him to put that reallity to the sponsors of these bills. He didn’t.

The Vermont press knows that Vermont environmental policy is a fraud. Sadly, it’s a fraud they would rather perpetuate than uncover.

Rob Roper is president of the Ethan Allen Institute.

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by John McClaughryJohn McClaughry

If you watch the news media, and especially the accounts of things like the Peoples’ March for Climate, Jobs and Justice, you would believe that the most critical  problems facing America are deportation of immigrants for entering the country illegally, employer resistance to paying low skilled workers $15/hour, carbon dioxide emissions that cause “climate change”,  pipeline threats to sacred Native American burial sites,  intolerance toward those whose religion commands jihad, and allowing conservatives to speak on campuses.

Well, people are entitled to march to draw attention to issues important to them.  But could we pause just a moment to look at four threats that unarguably have the potential to cripple or even destroy American and global civilization?

First, our national government is $20 trillion in debt, plus owing unfunded liabilities (mainly Social Security and Medicare) totaling at least $80 trillion more, depending on the time period and interest rates used. The $20 trillion is 105% of the nation’s Gross Domestic Product, a level that indicates a government in serious financial trouble.

The disability insurance fund is projected to run dry in 2023, the Medicare fund in 2028, and the retirement fund in 2030 (earlier, if retirement funds are used to stretch out the failure of the disability fund.)

All that’s keeping us out of the fiscal poorhouse is foreign and domestic investors who see U.S. debt as completely secure, although dollar depreciation is reducing that debt’s real interest rate to near zero percent.

Thousands of knowledgeable and responsible people know how to fix the federal fiscal problem – but there are hundreds of millions who are in denial about an approaching collapse, and oppose any tax and spending austerity program to fend it off.

Second, and less political, is the threat of asteroid impact. None have been recorded since 1908 in Siberia, but on February 15, 2013 a space rock of the same size – 140 feet across – passed within 17,000 miles of Earth. A hit would have destroyed New York or Shanghai. The impact of a 3,000 foot wide asteroid could well kill off the human race.

We must identify and plot asteroids heading our way years or decades ahead. We can intercept and deflect them with (as yet untested) “laser bees” or “gravity tractors”. But nations with space programs aren’t much interested in dealing with what they tell themselves is a low-frequency threat. Our President is promising a manned base on the moon and even more absurdly, a manned mission to Mars. Enough already! We should be leading a worldwide effort to protect our planet from destruction.

Third is the threat of an Electromagnetic Pulse (EMP) event – or attack. A solar superstorm called the Carrington Event blew out telegraph lines in 1859. A small one left Quebec without power for nine hours in 1989. In July 2012 a huge solar storm crossed earth’s orbit, fortunately while our planet was on the other side of the sun.

A rogue nation like North Korea could explode a nuclear device three hundred miles above the US. The blast effect would be minimal and the fallout manageable, but the EMP would cripple or destroy every unshielded electronic system in its target cone. Experts debate how long it would take to recover – weeks or years.

The fix is twofold: destroy rogue missiles, and harden power and communication systems. Peter Pry, executive director of the Congressionally-created EMP Commission, reports that the Senate has three times refused to advance EMP threat reduction bills passed with bipartisan or unanimous support in the House.

Fourth is the threat of an epidemic like the 1918 Spanish Flu that killed millions of people worldwide. The heavy use of antibiotics threatens to produce mutated “superbugs” that can defeat antibiotics. The FDA is offering incentives to drug companies to find new antibiotics, but this is probably a losing race.

One answer may be ultraviolet blood irradiation (UBI). It was an important anti-infection treatment until streptomycin and penicillin appeared in the 1940s. It is still done, reportedly successfully, by a handful of alternative medical practitioners willing to defy the disapproval of the orthodox medical profession.

There are other almost forgotten non-pharmaceutical alternatives like the Rife Raytube that deserve modern reexamination, but “official medicine” shows little interest. The Bush Defense Department rejected a proposal to test UBI on anthrax infected cattle  after 9/11.

So there are four really serious threats facing America and the world. We could take steps to overcome them, but there seems to be little enthusiasm. Instead, we see one politically sponsored march after another on issues of at most far less consequence.

Where is the leadership that will get serious about the huge threats that face our country and our planet?

- John McClaughry is vice president of the Ethan Allen Institute (www.ethanallen.org).

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by John J. Metzler

UNITED NATIONS—Though the political setting of the recent French presidential election bears superficial comparison to the U.S. election of 2016, the contest is anything but an American rerun. While an establishment favorite was opposing an firebrand nationalist, the jarring reality remains that this is the first runoff election in the history of the Fifth Republic since 1958 where neither of the major parties have a candidate.

Two political outsiders faced off on May 7th. Emmanuel Macron, (39) the former Socialist economics minister and newly minted “wonder boy” of French politics, won in a landslide with 66 percent of the vote.   And, Marine Le Pen the rebranded longtime fixture of the Euro-skeptic right National Front and a political lightning rod was trounced.

Despite never having held elected office Macron, becomes the youngest man to lead France since Napoleon.

A former Socialist, Macron emerged out of nowhere as the darling of the establishment with burnished insider credentials and near unquestioned political acceptability to a wide swath of young and entrepreneurial French voters. Macron embraces “globalization,” long a dirty word across the French political spectrum. He supports the European Union and scoffs at Britain’s BREXIT.   A man of the center left, Macron could offer Clinton/Blair type economic policies, admittedly rare for any French politico.

His En Marche (Forward) movement has attracted not only widening support but an enthusiasm not often seen in the staid realm of French political circles. But is he the ultimate card of the ruling Socialist Party and the discredited President Francois Hollande?

Macron remains the Hologram candidate, a real but different shade and reflection on every issue to conform to what you see at the moment. He’s certainly pro business but lacks the support of a formal political party in the National Assembly to push through his policies.

Marine Le Pen, led the FN away from her father’s deserved political wilderness.   She remains Statist and a hardline rightist (certainly not an American conservative) who believes in Big government. A populist politician, she loathes the EU and the EURO currency, and supports unencumbered French sovereignty.   As a NATO skeptic, she’s not surprisingly an admirer of Russian president Vladimir Putin. She’s anti-American in a way which makes her quite acceptable to many marginalized and disaffected older Socialists and even communists who lost their jobs to globalization or to immigration.

Macron remains a committed Europhile.   Le Pen has ridden the wave of anti-EU sentiments which however probably crested last year at the time of Britain’s BREXIT.

Sadly the once dominant Republican right narrowly lost with Francois Fillon.   The traditional mantle of the late President Charles De Gaulle is missing in the mist and miasma of political uncertainty. The day following the first round vote, the center-right daily Le Figaro summed it up in a bold headline “The Right; Knocked Out.”

Surprisingly much of the center and moderate right has thrown its support to Macron. Many conservatives feared a Le Pen win would trigger a FREXIT to leave the EU.

Noted French political commentator Franz-Olivier Giesbert called the campaign “lamentable.”

Macron inherits a France whose economy has deteriorated under the tepid Socialist presidency of Francois Hollande. Unemployment remains solidly over 10 percent and jumps over 20 percent for the young. Many workers in manufacturing industries have lost their jobs. France is increasingly uncompetitive. Terrorism has become an entrenched threat.

A suffocating socialist welfare state saps not only taxes but especially economic incentive. No wonder that young French entrepreneurs often flock to Britain or the USA to pursue their dreams. Macron promises to trim, however politely, the bloated bureaucracy.

Yet Le Figaro adds editorially, that “much of Macron’s popularity comes from his vagueness.” How do his views on the identity of France balance with the country’s role in globalization? Now given Macron’s victory, we will have the next five years to find out.

John J. Metzler is a United Nations correspondent covering diplomatic and defense issues. He is the author of Divided Dynamism The Diplomacy of Separated Nations: Germany, Korea, China.

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