France’s “yellow vest” protests, now in their ninth week and showing no signs of stopping, have put president Emmanuel Macron in the unusual position of having to ask for help.
The typically self-assured president has tried different strategies to appease the yellow-vest movement—to no avail. Now, he is trying something new. In an open letter to French people (link in French) published in national newspapers today, Macron announced a nationwide consultation that will run until March 15, allowing people to air their grievances online and in local mayors’ offices. To kickstart the debate, he asked fellow citizens 20 big questions—and pledged to listen to their answers.
The questions, separated into four main categories, apply to any country struggling with economic inequality, austerity, the role of the state, climate change, and democracy. (That is to say, just about all of them.)
Macron writes that “taxes are at the heart of our national solidarity” because they “finance our public services.” France levies some of the highest taxes of any developed country.
One of the yellow vests’ central grievance (link in French) is that taxes are too high and disproportionately affect the working class. The movement also demands more public services, financed by higher taxes on high earners and large corporations. This goes against Macron’s business-friendly economic policies, including ending the so-called wealth tax, or ISF, and instituting a flat capital gains tax rate (paywall) of 30%.
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