This article originally appeared in the George W. Bush Institute. Click here to read the full article.
By Ike Brannon
It’s hard not to feel a little sorry for French President François Hollande. After all, few have ascended to such power while looking so impotent.
For starters, there is the perception that the nomination more or less fell into Hollande’s lap after rival Dominique Strauss-Kahn’s career imploded over a sex scandal. Furthermore, many believe Hollande won the election because of the enmity that the French populace had for his opponent, the incumbent Nicholas Sarkozy, who did not show sufficient scorn for all things American.
On the policy front, Hollande has managed to anger both the left and the right. The left is angry he has not managed to follow through on some of the radical ideas he put forward on the campaign trail, like increasing tax rates to 75%. Meanwhile, the right (or what passes for such in France) is angry Hollande proposed such a boneheaded plan in the first place. Another populist campaign pledge was to undo a Sarkozy reform and reduce the retirement age to 60 years-old, a pledge Hollande managed to follow through on, although only for a narrow group of workers.
Lately, though, Hollande has made a tentative step towards fixing the country’s burgeoning pension problem, which feels like a Nixon-goes-to-China move and is much more than anyone else has done in Europe — or in America — to fix a pressing problem befalling all Western economies. Regardless of the outcome, Hollande’s move to address his country’s pitiful long-run financial situation sets him apart from nearly every other Western government.