Tuesday, February 06, 2007

 

Cool 'colas

French presidential candidate Nicolas Sarkozy faced an assortment of 100 French voters live on television last night, to answer their questions. I'm pretty sure it really was live and unfiltered; one question was so outrageous I couldn't stop laughing for five minutes, and missed most of the reply, but apparently he did not take the bait. I looked and looked for a report in this morning's news--to make sure I didn't just imagine it--but found only one somewhat mild description in le Figaro:

Avec Jérôme Monod, (un jeune homonyme du conseiller de Jacques Chirac), le ton monte franchement. Cet étudiant en droit affirme que « dire : la France, on l'aime ou on la quitte, ça rend racistes les gens simples ». Le ministre de l'Intérieur essaie de répondre, mais le jeune homme, intarissable, a enchaîné avec une fine allusion à l'affaire du fils Sarkozy. Il explique que lui aussi s'est fait voler son scooter, et qu'il tient un poil du coupable présumé à la disposition du ministre de l'Intérieur. Nicolas Sarkozy choisit de ne pas relever et s'explique sur sa politique de l'immigration.


What he actually said was «et je tiens un poil de son cul, est-ce que vous pouvez me le retrouver?»



The rest of the session was not funny. One or two things he said were quite revealing of his economic naiveté or stupidity, to give him the benefit of the doubt; he is probably owned by global finance, but I have no proof. He wants French consumers to get into debt. And would make mortgage interest deductible from income taxes so the French would buy more homes. Why? Because in the U.K., 74% own their home whereas in France only 55% do. That home ownership rates are significantly lower in Germany (42%) and Switzerland (31%) is apparently no reason to doubt the wisdom of the higher target.



One wonders, should it be considered ownership before it is paid for? At least mostly paid for? He seems to be not at all concerned that in the U.K., buyers can get mortgages for up to 110% of the purchase price! And in Spain, where ownership is 85%, 50-year loans have recently been introduced.



He also seems not worried that home ownership further reduces mobility (geographic flexibility) of labor in a country with a high level of chronic unemployment, and a recurring need to restructure the economy. Paying for a home, even more than paying rent, most often requires two salaries: relocating requires finding two jobs. For those particularly unfortunate, faced with a major reduction in the local economy (major employer or whole industry closing), home ownership makes it too costly to leave (particularly if the loan is not paid off): those who lose their jobs must sell low (because the demand is low to nil in the declining area) and buy dear in an area with jobs, if they can buy again. They may not have enough from the sale of the depreciated home to make a down payment, and they may not find a lender until they have kept their new employment for a couple of years.



I guess he is not too familiar with these aspects of home ownership.



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