In France, Budget Austerity Talks Are Taboo
LINDA WERTHEIMER, Host:
This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Linda Wertheimer.
STEVE INSKEEP, Host:
The debt crisis in Europe has forced many countries to cut their budgets and undertake serious economic reforms. Those austerity measures are really beginning to sting, as we will hear in a moment from Greece. But there is one country that has shrugged its shoulders and ignored the trend - France. There, life goes on as usual, and even the mention of austerity makes people angry. Eleanor Beardsley reports.
ELEANOR BEARDSLEY: Unidentified Man: (Foreign language spoken)
BEARDSLEY: Socialist President Francois Mitterrand granted the French early retirement nearly three decades ago, and many protesters, like Pricilia Barquet, say it's non-negotiable.
PRICILIA BARQUET: (Foreign language spoken)
BEARDSLEY: Philippe Fremaux is the editor of the magazine Economic Alternatives. He says the French are willing to make some sacrifices, but they don't think the system needs radical change.
PHILIPPE FREMAUX: We have succeeded to build a compromise between the hardworking capitalism and also some social advantages. We pay a lot of tax for this, but we have the benefit of the tax we pay. So we have a good retirement system. We have a good health system. We have the possibility to have 50 days of holidays a year, and we have good wages.
BEARDSLEY: Unidentified Woman: (Foreign language spoken)
(SOUNDBITE OF SCREAMING)
BEARDSLEY: The country should have changed many things a long time ago, says Philippe Manniere, an influential business consultant, but he says governments on the right and left are too afraid of the street.
PHILIPPE MANNIERE: Any government in France thinks it has a kind of special responsibility towards people who protest, which has no political logic, no political legitimacy. You should not care whatever people say or do on the streets in a free country with regular elections. But that's how it is.
BEARDSLEY: For NPR news, I'm Eleanor Beardsley in Paris.
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