The new crisis budget arrives in the Senate on Tuesday. Will you vote it?
Overall, it seems to be up to the challenge. But it deserves to be improved. While national harmony imposes a spirit of responsibility on the opposition, it also requires the executive to hear the opposition. I would be amazed if he did not take a certain number of improvements which go in the direction of better protection of the French.
What do you propose ?
To show our gratitude to those on the front lines, bonuses are not enough. What we offer, in addition to the exceptional bonus promised, is the tax exemption and the uncapping of overtime beyond 5,000 euros, with exemption from social charges. Then, for a certain number of companies or associations which are going to lose almost a year of activity, as in tourism or culture, it is necessary to envisage as of now the transformation of the deferral of fiscal and social debt into a cancellation. Let’s sacrifice today’s taxes for tomorrow’s taxes because if these businesses go bankrupt, they will no longer contribute.
We also wish to propose the creation of an inter-company credit mediator, which is essential in times of “war”: it is not acceptable for companies to pass on the cost of the crisis to their suppliers. I proposed it several weeks ago and we wasted way too much time. Finally, we must help charities that take care of the poor: the ceiling of the tax exemption rate of 75% for donations could be raised from 546 to 2,000 euros for individuals and from 10,000 to 20,000 euros for businesses. This crisis invites us to go beyond the usual contemporary individualism.
How to manage deconfinement from May 11?
Health and the economy go hand in hand because the state of the economy also affects the health of our societies. These are the countries that have least controlled the epidemic – France is unfortunately one of them – that will deconfinate later. However the economic cost of the crisis is all the more important as the confinement is generalized and that it lasts. In France, it will be astronomical because we did not anticipate the start of this crisis, when we had the means to do so.
What troubles me today is that we are no longer anticipating deconfinement. It is immediately necessary to test massively, to detect, trace the contacts and isolate. At least in areas where the virus is very active, if we can’t afford to do it everywhere. It is immediately necessary to generalize the wearing of the mask. When Olivier Véran says that “the mask does not replace the barrier gesture”, it is nonsense. The mask itself is a barrier gesture. In reality, France’s strategy is the strategy of countries that have no other strategy than to manage the shortage.
You are severe. For you, the executive would be lagging behind from the start …
From the beginning. I never said you shouldn’t confine. The goal was to unclog the resuscitation services and, from that point of view, it works. This strategy helps curb the epidemic but in no case breaks the chain of contamination. Today, people who are still contagious are being returned to their families.
Furthermore, the disadvantages of containment outweigh the benefits that can be expected. On a human level, it is far from neutral: isolation kills, because the elderly let themselves slide and also because others give up consulting for diseases that are getting dangerously worse. On the economic front, shutting down the economy will have a huge and lasting impact. Because we will have deconfined late without having anticipated the conditions for deconfinement, the gap will widen with other countries, whose companies will be ready to restart before ours. This epidemic risks accentuating our decline.
For Xavier Bertrand, “this crisis is indicative of inequality and of a breathless capitalism”. Do you agree ?
It reveals first of all the bureaucratization of a state that is too Jacobin, both omnipresent and impotent. It also reflects an ideological blockage: the executive has long refused to consider closing the borders when this evidence was imposed everywhere. Nothing was said either at the press conference on Sunday on the essential role of city medicine. Everything happens as if there were only the hospital.
And then, let’s not get the diagnosis wrong. France is far from applying the revenues of world capitalism: it is the country where taxation is the heaviest, the most progressive, the most redistributive, and where the share of public expenditure is the highest. This crisis must be the death of neoliberalism, but not the death of freedom, on the contrary. I am for entrepreneurial capitalism, Rhenish – or Vendean – capitalism, but neither for Anglo-Saxon financial capitalism, nor for socialism …
Is this also a response to those who, at LR, want a big social improvement?
At the end of this crisis, France will have the choice between recovery and subsidence. Nothing would be worse than letting us go to the lies that have deceived the French for thirty years. They were led to believe that by working less, we could keep both the social standards to which we are rightly attached and our standard of living. Since 2000, our per capita wealth compared to the Germans has decreased by 13%. We are on the road to collective impoverishment.
Do you think it will be necessary to come back to the reduction in working time?
Yes, both to improve our national wealth and the wages of the French. This debate is still premature because we must not get lost in quarrels that divert the fight against the epidemic, but the time will come when, if we want to rebound, we will have no other choice but the start. I’m not aware of any case in history where you can get through and recover from an ordeal without extra effort.
Should we also reverse the planned tax cuts?
No. I think we will end the year with growth of minus 10%, a deficit of 10-12% of GDP and debt over 120%. But we are not paying down the debt by raising taxes. We reimburse it by creating wealth. Our potential growth, we can control it through the labor supply and additional investment. This is why it will also be necessary to put the package, tomorrow, on the easing of the constraints which weigh on the public and private investment. Tomorrow the great work of simplification, always mentioned, never carried out, will be imperative.