A week later and there is a lot of talk about what happened in France, as my good friend Barry Casselman wrote:
President-elect Macron, 39, will take office next Sunday, and represents a belated Gallic version of the model of left-to-center political figures that came to power in the 1990s in the U.S. and U.K., Bill Clinton and Tony Blair. While both Mr. Clinton and Mr. Blair were quite successful with their pro-entrepreneurial, "third-way" liberal politics, their successors have moved decidedly to the left -- and to political defeat.
We will see what happens in France. I understand Barry's note about Mr. Clinton and Mr. Blair but I see some important differences:
1) Mr. Clinton inherited a growing economy and rode it for much of his presidency. Despite the low unemployment and high approvals, he couldn't deliver Arkansas to VP Gore on election day; and,
2) Mr. Blair replaced a tired PM Major who succeeded PM Thatcher. PM Blair turned out to be a very responsible leader.
Mr. Macron will not be as lucky as Mr. Clinton, to say the least. He is inheriting a basket case brought to you by French socialism. This is from CNN Money:
After years of slow growth, the country's GDP figures are finally turning higher.
But they remain at very low levels.
The French economy expanded by 1.2% in 2016, according to the International Monetary Fund. The two larger economies in Europe -- Germany and the U.K. -- posted growth of 1.8% over the same period. The IMF predicts growth of just 1.4% for France in 2017, one of the weakest rates in the EU. France is also struggling to bring down its unemployment rate, which stands at roughly 10%. That's higher than the eurozone average and more than double the level of joblessness in Germany and Britain. The unemployment problem is even worse for young people: 24% of those between the ages of 15 and 24 don't have a job.
Government debt, meanwhile, has ballooned to almost 90% of GDP, up from just 58% a decade ago.
So what do you when your country is a socialist basket case? The French have voted to double down by electing a socialist! Good luck with that approach!
To be fair, France did not choose between a man of the left and a woman of the right, such as Mrs. Thatcher in 1979 UK. Too much of the election debate was about meaningless Obama-style "hope and change" and rejecting Miss Le Pen's anti-immigration views.
Mr. Macron now has a hard choice. He can keep the socialist dream and do nothing about those young people out of work. He can be a visionary and call for structural changes. He may want to visit with President Trump and listen to what he is hoping to do with tax reform. France is exhibit A in the world on passing tax reform and doing something about the unsustainable welfare state.
He will be unpopular either way but the second approach will at least turn France around. It may help him get reelected down the road.
It won't be pretty in France. Don't leave your car outside because it's likely to get torched!