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December 4, 2018

The French Tell Macron Where to Stick His Gas Tax

 

Like virtually all progressive elites, French President Emmanuel Macron wants to be seen as a leader fighting climate change. And also like virtually all progressive elites, he doesn’t care how much his desired legacy will cost his working-class constituents.
 
But it turns out his French constituents do care—a lot.
 
Hundreds of thousands of demonstrators—many of them referred to as “Yellow Vests” because of the vests they wear—have taken to the streets of Paris and other parts of the country. The protests have turned violent, with 130 people injured and 412 arrested last Saturday, according to NBC.
 
The rebellion started when Macron announced tax increases on gasoline and diesel. Electricity prices would also rise.
 
The reason for the increase: to fight climate change. Or more accurately, so Macron can claim he’s fighting climate change.
 
The average price of a gallon of gas or diesel in France is currently more than $7 a gallon, according to the Associated Press, which adjusted for the European use of liters. That’s more than $140 to fill up a 20-gallon tank, in a country where the average income is two-thirds that of the U.S.
 
Macron’s proposed increase would have boosted that price by about 25 cents per gallon immediately, and continue rising from there.
 
While we certainly do not condone violence, is it any wonder the French people are angry?
 
Macron and his government have been stunned by the reaction, not knowing what to do next.  After claiming he wouldn’t blink, he did—for now. He’s postponing the increase for six months.
 
Gasoline taxes are one of the most regressive taxes a government can impose, because everyone buying gas pays the same price regardless of income. Aren’t progressives supposed to be opposed to regressive taxes?
 
The French pushback is an important lesson for U.S. progressives, both for those who will be taking control of the House of Representatives in January and for the multitude considering a 2020 presidential bid.
 
Like Macron, U.S. progressives are on a mission to raise taxes on fossil fuels and use that money to subsidize green energy projects—many of which will be connected to big Democratic donors.
 
That’s exactly what President Obama did, handing out billions of taxpayer dollars, with much of that money going to projects that eventually failed.
 
But the lesson from France is that working-class voters have a limit.  Democrats need those voters back if they want to win key states that voted for Donald Trump in 2016. Jacking up taxes on fossil fuels is not the road to victory.


 

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