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France Suspends Fuel Tax Plan That Sparked Yellow Vest Protests
Written by <a href="index.php?option=com_comprofiler&task=userProfile&user=42799"><span class="small">James McAuley, The Washington Post</span></a>   
Tuesday, 04 December 2018 09:23

McAuley writes: "French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe announced Tuesday that the French government would temporarily suspend the controversial carbon tax plan that triggered weeks of often violent protests around the country."

For the better part of three weeks, protesters - clad in high-visibility yellow vests - took to the streets across France. (photo: AFP)
For the better part of three weeks, protesters - clad in high-visibility yellow vests - took to the streets across France. (photo: AFP)


France Suspends Fuel Tax Plan That Sparked Yellow Vest Protests

By James McAuley, The Washington Post

04 December 18

 

rench Prime Minister Édouard Philippe announced Tuesday that the French government will temporarily suspend the carbon tax plan that triggered weeks of often violent protests nationwide.

To help curb climate change, the government had proposed the taxes, which were slated to take effect in January and were designed to wean consumers off diesel and other polluting fuels and to favor electric cars. But the price increases those taxes represented led to social unrest unseen in recent years that quickly became a full-blown crisis, and President Emmanuel Macron became the latest world leader to suffer at home for imposing green taxes.

“No tax is worth putting in danger the unity of the nation,” Philippe said as he announced the suspension.

The French government’s announcement came as delegates from around the world gathered in Katowice, Poland, for a climate conference designed to advance guidelines for how to meet the demands of the 2015 Paris Agreement.

Macron has ranked among most passionate advocates of curbing climate change by any and all available means, and his government’s reversal is likely to cast a pall over this week’s conference.

For the better part of three weeks, protesters — clad in high-visibility yellow vests — took to the streets across France. In Paris especially, the scenes were particularly violent, with demonstrators defacing monuments, torching cars and smashing shop windows. The government went so far as to weigh the possibility of imposing a state of emergency to quell the unrest.

Tuesday’s announcement — a six-month suspension of the proposed taxes — was a major reversal for a government that had initially stood its ground. Macron, who was elected in a landslide in 2017, has struggled to maintain his popularity, with critics accusing him of being out of touch with the concerns of ordinary people.

According to one November poll, Macron’s approval ratings are as low as 26 percent.

In his remarks, Philippe sought to ease tensions. He emphasized that the French government was indeed well aware of the financial difficulties that many working-class and middle-class protesters had pointed out for weeks, which went far beyond of carbon taxes.

His conciliatory, understanding tone stood in marked contrast to earlier statements from the government, including a television appearance by a deputy from Macron’s party who was unable to name the national minimum wage when pressed by two representatives of the yellow-vest movement.

“The French who donned the yellow vests love their country,” Philippe said. “They want taxes to go down and work to pay. If I have not succeeded in saying it, we have to change something.”

Despite the violent spectacles in Paris over the weekend, the prime minister also went so far as to say that the yellow-vest protesters have a right to be angry. “This anger is widespread and has been simmering for a long time, and it’s often remained silent out of modesty or pride,” he said. “But it was expressed today. You would have to be deaf or blind not to see or hear it.”

Macron, a former investment banker, has long been derided by left-wing critics as “the president of the rich,” largely because of liberalizing market reforms he has pursued since taking office in May 2017.

Although smaller protests and railway strikes have accompanied the introduction of those earlier reforms, Macron — whose political party holds an absolute majority in the French Parliament — has always gotten his way with little resistance.

The proposed fuel taxes, however, were different, representing in the eyes of many an urban ignorance of the reality of life in rural areas relatively unserved by train lines or other forms of public transportation. France has more diesel cars than any other country in Europe.

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+1 # laborequalswealth 2018-12-04 17:56
Here is the real story: "In his remarks, Philippe sought to ease tensions. He emphasized that the French government was indeed well aware of the financial difficulties that many working-class and middle-class protesters had pointed out for weeks, which went far beyond of carbon taxes."

Why did this article willfully bury the lead? This isn't just about a gas tax but about a myriad of issues over equality and the degredation of working people.