Le Pen’s presidential program: make it rain!

French magazine Challenges obtained an advance copy of the presidential program that Marine Le Pen will present this weekend in Lyon. Of the no less than 144 proposals that she intends to implement, an overwhelming majority of these promise to cost sums of money that France doesn’t have. Marine Le Pen has given up semblance of a budgetary balance, and only “fighting against tax evasion”, preventing foreigners illegally living in France to access subsidized health care, and a vague 3% import tax would create new revenue. No wonder she doesn’t want to reimburse the 300 000€ she owes the European Parliament.

A look at the main proposals that Le Pen is putting forward:

- the organization of a referendum on France’s EU membership remains a key part of the presidential platform, even if Le Pen has been VERY quiet on this front since observing the adverse effects of BREXIT on the European economy and the diminishing role of the UK in the world. All polls taken after the referendum indicate that a large majority of the French, even if they may want a referendum, would vote NOT to leave the EU. No indication is given of when the referendum would take place.

Level of deliriousness: 3/10. She can conceivably make this happen, but would need to do as quickly as possible after the election.

- the idea of a complete and immediate exit of the Eurozone has now been excluded, and replaced by the vague idea of France “regaining monetary sovereignty” and to (re)establish a national currency. There remains an arbitrage to be made between those who favor purely and simply leaving the Eurozone (the Philippot line, vice-president of the party) and the line defended by her main economic counselor who proposes the coexistence of the euro as an international trading currency with a national currency, used for internal purposes (welcome to Cuba). A lack of clarity on such a key issue should be a boon for any candidate: the dangers of financial instability should scare the living hell out of people for their pensions, savings, stock market ownings and forgotten piggybanks in the attic. Guaranteeing that any and all treatment turned into francs would ensure a similar purchasing power would require a large-scale concertation will all major economic actors: banks, social security, government offices, and virtually all of the private sector. The costs to the state budget, if large-scale interventionism is

Level of deliriousness: 8/10. No one in their right mind would go for this. Should be attacked by every other politician as fiercely as possible.

- Reducing the amount of MPs from 577 to 300 and Senators from 348 to 200/”Popular initiative referendum” if 500 000 voters request it (about 1.5% of the electorate): pure populism coupled with the illusion of direct democracy. Simple but hard to oppose, even if you think that the problem is elsewhere, which it actually is.

Level of deliriousness: 10/10. Both initiatives require a constitutional reform which she won’t have a parliamentary majority for.

- Retirement at 60 yo or after 40 years of work, instead of 41.5 at the moment and 43.5 by 2035 under the current system. This would go against every policy set in place by all the previous governments and general evolution of life, lifestyle, improvement in medicine, new types of work, and could cost upwards of 15 billion euros if implemented.

- This would be coupled with the recruitment of 15 000 policemen, 6000 customs officers, 50 000 soldiers (good luck finding them!) and an undefined number of hirings in public hospitals and the judicial system. NB: teachers are mentioned nowhere.

Level of deliriousness: Lehmann Brothers/10.

- Tax cuts for everyone: medium size businesses would pay a 24% (instead of 33%) tax, while SMEs would keep their 15% rate. The middle class — identified as the voter group in which Le Pen needs to make progress in order to win — is promised a 10% tax cut on the lower tax brackets. If tax cuts aren’t enough, a “purchasing power bonus”, remindful of Poland, will be granted to households with low earnings up to €1500 per month, in the shape of a further tax rebate. Finally, property owners would see their property tax diminished to an extent that is not yet known (less money for the municipalities, on which the government has little control but for coercion).

Level of deliriousness: Zimbabwean dollar/10.

- Reserving preferential access to public tenders to French companies over their foreign counterparts, under the condition that the price difference is “reasonable”. A FN official quoted on the topic explains the difficulties to convince Marine Le Pen that 25% was not a “reasonable” price difference, as it would mean that 25% more public money would be spent for reasons that are not electorally easy to explain.

Level of deliriousness: “reasonable”/10. (And illegal under European law.)

- In an effort to channel the best of Donald Trump, the program also plans for the instauration of a 3% import tax, and to raise the military budge to 2% of the GDP in the shortest delay and 3% by 2022 and the end of her term. The first item would apply at first only to non-EU markets unless FREXIT happens, while the second item, as necessary as it is, would need to be concerted closely with the military in order to ensure French long-term strategic autonomy, regardless of the fact that spending a significant amount of money on the military budget would require : 1) buying off the shelf, meaning more likely American; 2) putting the 50 000 new hires in barracks and train them, and increase everyone’s wages in the military.

Level of deliriousness: 5/10.

On other issues, it is interesting to notice that Le Pen wants to keep the 35-hour work week but at the same time supports the idea that collective bargaining agreements can set longer work weeks, while wanting to abrogate the famous “Loi El-Khomri”, the labor law that specifically enshrines this possibility.

On identity issues, Marine Le Pen has preserved the idea of social housing being attributed in priority to French citizens but has walked back her earlier promises of asking foreign workers to reimburse the cost of sending their children to public school and for them to have to pay into Social Security for two years before they can have their expenses reimbursed under the standard operating procedures.

Finally, my favorite proposal concerns the introduction of quotas for French players in the three professional football leagues. For someone who looks down on the sport, its mention in a presidential platform is an awful lot of importance given to it.

Martin M.