Macron makes U-turn in face of protests

Macron makes U-turn in face of protests

"We need taxes, but they are not properly redistributed", protester Thomas Tricottet told BFM television.

A source in the prime minister's office told AFP that "the government has not necessarily played all of its cards", with more concessions such as a further cut in residence taxes possible.

But it's not so easy for people to think about long-term, global problems when they are struggling to get by.

But experts say they believe the government has reacted too late to the street protests, a regular feature of French political life which have repeatedly forced Macron's predecessors into U-turns.

Meanwhile, Saturday's planned rally of the yellow vests looks set to go ahead.

It's these "sans dents" (literally "without teeth"-a term of contempt reportedly used by former Socialist president Francois Hollande to describe the common people) who flocked to the cities to protest against the tax hikes". Dirigisme-government direction of the economy-may be a very French concept, but laissez-faire is also a French term, even if it's one that has fallen out of favor in the country where it was coined.

Griveaux defended Macron's decision previous year to narrow the wealth tax - known in France as "ISF" - to a tax on real estate assets, rather than all of an individual's worldwide assets, from jewelry to yachts to investments, over the value of 1.3 million euros ($1.5 million). But he vigorously defended it and won the presidency in part on a promise to fight climate change. "If you want to make energy taxes unpopular, step one is to be an unpopular leader", he said.

A Paris Saint-Germain football game against Montpellier scheduled for Saturday has also been postponed after a request by Paris police, and some schools near the Champs-Elysees have called off Saturday classes. "This is hard enough without adding poor design".

So what turned President Macron's honeymoon into such massive disapproval? He's also seen as the "president of the rich" - his first fiscal decision as president was scrapping a wealth tax.

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The budget can be renegotiated through the year, but given the scale of the recent protests, Macron is unlikely to revive the added fuel tax idea anytime soon.

But broader discontent with the government has spread, and protests have erupted over several other issues.

Wang said it is common for economic reforms to meet with resistance from ordinary people.

Now the demands of the "yellow vest" movement - named for the fluorescent safety gear that French motorists keep in their cars - is pressing for a wider range of benefits from the government to help workers, retirees and students.

"We're the ones who are going to eventually have to pay higher fuel prices", said Ines, one of around 150 high school students demonstrating in the southern Paris suburb of Cachan.

The key is giving a good chunk of money back to the people, Wesleyan University environmental economist Gary Yohe said. France is indeed, as we all know, a heavily taxed country, but everybody agrees that sending their kids to school for free from elementary school to university or not paying for medical expenses (our world-famous and much envied "social security system") has a price.

"Is it a death knell for the carbon tax or pricing carbon?"

"Unlike others, I'm not seeking to apportion blame for this anger", he said.

If Macron had bothered to recall past populist eruptions against the burdensome and ravenous state, he might have avoided the street violence of recent weeks, as well as the potentially risky political baggage that seems to inevitably adhere to these uprisings.

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