Wednesday, March 22, 2023

Sid Salter: French Pension Reform Protests Offer Lesson

François-Marie Arouet - known by his literary nom de plume Voltaire - was a French writer, historian, and philosopher who died two years after the signing of the U.S. Declaration of Independence.

Voltaire’s most famous work was the satire novella “Candide: The Optimist” in which the author engaged in social commentary while his protagonist Candide’s early privileged life transitioned to disillusionment and hardship.

In the novella, Voltaire offered this observation in French: “Le travail éloigne de nous trois grands maux: l'ennui, le vice et le besoin.”In English: “Work delivers us from three great evils: boredom, vice and want.”

Given the riots and civil unrest that grips France today over pension reform, one can only wonder what Voltaire would make of modern French society’s growing pension crisis and the generational divide over the issue that it engenders.

A more germane question for Americans is just what lessons can we learn from this episode when considering our own looming national crisis over the future of Social Security? First, perhaps a brief recap of the building blocks of the French protests.

After several political fits and starts in pushing a program of pension reforms, French President Emmanuel Macron used a constitutional loophole to bypass both houses of the French Parliament to raise the full retirement age from 62 to 64 without a parliamentary vote.

France doesn’t have a monolithic retirement program like Social Security – it has 42 different programs in which the rules of each program are tied to one’s job. Full retirement ages are different depending on one’s vocation and each of those programs are tied to unions or other powerful labor and trade organizations.

Depending on whose estimate is used, U.S. Social Security is facing insolvency in 2035. French pension systems – convoluted and disjointed – faces insolvency in 2025. But the protests in the streets of France suggests two distinct camps – older workers infuriated over being asked to work longer before they retire and younger workers being asked to pay into a pension system in which they don’t have confidence will be there for them.

Despite the fact that Macron campaigned loudly and openly on pension reform when seeking the presidency, protesters in France want their president to kick the political can down the road. In the meantime, mountains of uncollected garbage line the streets of Paris. Teachers, public transit workers, energy workers and air travel workers engaged in strikes or slowdowns.

Americans have a hard time fully grasping the anger of the French populace over a two-year increase in full pension eligibility from age 62 to 64. After all, the U.S. did the same thing back in 1983 when Republican President Ronald Reagan, GOP Senate Majority Leader Howard Baker and Democratic House Speaker Tip O’Neill compromised on a plan to raise the full retirement age from 65 to 67 – but it was implemented over a 40-year span from 1983 to 2023.

Macron’s plan to raise the French full retirement age from 62 to 64 will be implemented over just eight years. For French workers young and old, there’s an urgency in that schedule that spurs an anger that the Gipper and the Tipper had the good sense to stretch over four decades for American workers.

But that bit of foresight in 1983 doesn’t change the inevitable clash of Social Security math – moving forward there will be more people drawing benefits from the program than there are active workers paying into the system. 

In 1940, there were 42 workers paying into Social Security for every retiree drawing a benefit check. Today, there’s 2.8 covered workers for each beneficiary. By 2050, it is projected that there will be 1.95 covered workers for each beneficiary.

Social Security’s long-term funding shortfall already exceeds $20 trillion. So how great a leap is it in America – barring a recovery of the increasingly lost ability of Congress, the White House, and American taxpayers regardless their party to actually work together to govern – to see riots in the streets over Social Security?

Kicking the can down the road is not solution. We’re running out of road and running out of cans.

Sid Salter is a syndicated columnist. Contact him at


Anonymous said...

Somebody needs to figure out what the actuarial savings would be to social security by making it much more difficult to enroll in social security's disability benefit program -- or perhaps if we just moved that feature out of social security. Vast numbers of people who can work (and may of which DO work), but perhaps not at their previous vocation, receive full-time disability payments as if they were physically unable to work. I have never seen any analysis on what this part of the program has contributed to the shortfall in the social security fund.

Anonymous said...

It doesn’t matter. The money isn’t real and it hasn’t been real since at least 1913.
You either have faith in the Fractional Reserve Banking system or you don’t.
The system either collapses or stays afloat when they can no longer extract labor for fiat.
That’s why illegal immigration is so important to the elites. They need that labor for our fiat.

Anonymous said...

As Monsieur Le Saltier sips his Perrier on the Champs Elysee, he muses how, in an article, to relate the French retirement system with that of America so that his foreign adventure can be written off as 'work', n'est-ce pas?

Anonymous said...

Hey Sid, now compare and contrast the French retirement system with PEERS.

Anonymous said...

@9:39am Salter deserved that... but the comparison isn't too far of a reach. Whether Social Security or PERS, these systems can (and will) collapse if not attended to - very slowly, then all at once - as usual throughout history.

Anonymous said...

Hey Champ! There's no such thing as PEERS!

I have never understood why the system, by law, stops taxing wages at a certain level. That should immediately be removed to the dung-heap of dead-law.

The rationale commonly given to explain that is as weak as explaining why the taxes collected on wages for someone who dies (prior to collecting SS) are NOT returned to his survivors.

If any wage should be taxed then all should be taxed. Those most able to afford the 'all wage' tax calculation are enjoying millions, ne billions, or trillions in FICA-untaxed wages.

Anonymous said...

They need that labor for our couldn't explain that if your life depended on it.

Anonymous said...

Social security is a tax, was a tax and will always be a tax masquerading as a retirement plan. It was proposed and signed by FDR as a way of getting workers to pony up a portion of their wages on the promise of something tomorrow. Think Wimpy of Popeye fame "I'll gladly pay you tomorrow for a hamburger today." It was 5 years before benefits were paid. They did not invest it, they spent it. ohhh they bought Government bonds you say. Think about it rationally, if they “Bought Government bonds, all that means is that they moved the money from one government pocket to another government pocket using accounting trickery. The Government still has the money, it is just in another pocket. Retirement age was 65, average lifespan, in the us at that time, was 61 or 62. Tell me another lie that they wanted us to collect. The Lock Box is a lie and always has been. There is no social security Slush fund, never has been, it has been spent - recklessly. The money goes to the government, then moves to the general fund to be spent on whatever our spendthrift government decides to spend it on. Sorry, it's not your money, it's the governments money and as such, they can change the requirements to collect at any time. If you cannot leave it to your kids, wife or significant other in your will, then it is NOT your money, it's good ole Uncle Sam's money. When they say the SS fund is going insolvent all that that means the tax collected is less than the benefits paid and the government is going to be upset that it doesn't have the excess to spend recklessly.

Anonymous said...

Kicking the can down the road is not solution. We’re running out of road and running out of cans.

Except when it comes to PERS.

Anonymous said...

We need to duplicate what Reagan did in 1983.

So simple and it would save SS for another 25 years or so.

Anonymous said...

7:00 - Earlier you claimed it was PEERS.

Anonymous said...

SS reform is nothing more than making the next generation work longer and pay more so baby boomers can retire earlier and pay less. They did it in the 80s when they raised the retirement age to 67 and gonna do it again soon to kids starting their careers now.

Anonymous said...

Maybe we could just reduce the number of beneficiaries through something, I don’t know, like a huge pandemic that would mow down like a scythe huge numbers of oldsters and younger ones with diabetes, high blood pressure, or fat asses.

Recent Comments

Search Jackson Jambalaya

Subscribe to JJ's Youtube channel


Trollfest '09

Trollfest '07 was such a success that Jackson Jambalaya will once again host Trollfest '09. Catch this great event which will leave NE Jackson & Fondren in flames. Othor Cain and his band, The Black Power Structure headline the night while Sonjay Poontang returns for an encore performance. Former Frank Melton bodyguard Marcus Wright makes his premier appearance at Trollfest singing "I'm a Sweet Transvestite" from "The Rocky Horror Picture Show." Kamikaze will sing his new hit, “How I sold out to da Man.” Robbie Bell again performs: “Mamas, don't let your babies grow up to be Bells” and “Any friend of Ed Peters is a friend of mine”. After the show, Ms. Bell will autograph copies of her mug shot photos. In a salute to “Dancing with the Stars”, Ms. Bell and Hinds County District Attorney Robert Smith will dance the Wango Tango.

Wrestling returns, except this time it will be a Battle Royal with Othor Cain, Ben Allen, Kim Wade, Haley Fisackerly, Alan Lange, and “Big Cat” Donna Ladd all in the ring at the same time. The Battle Royal will be in a steel cage, no time limit, no referee, and the losers must leave town. Marshand Crisler will be the honorary referee (as it gives him a title without actually having to do anything).

Meet KIM Waaaaaade at the Entergy Tent. For five pesos, Kim will sell you a chance to win a deed to a crack house on Ridgeway Street stuffed in the Howard Industries pinata. Don't worry if the pinata is beaten to shreds, as Mr. Wade has Jose, Emmanuel, and Carlos, all illegal immigrants, available as replacements for the it. Upon leaving the Entergy tent, fig leaves will be available in case Entergy literally takes everything you have as part of its Trollfest ticket price adjustment charge.

Donna Ladd of The Jackson Free Press will give several classes on learning how to write. Smearing, writing without factchecking, and reporting only one side of a story will be covered. A donation to pay their taxes will be accepted and she will be signing copies of their former federal tax liens. Ms. Ladd will give a dramatic reading of her two award-winning essays (They received The Jackson Free Press "Best Of" awards.) "Why everything is always about me" and "Why I cover murders better than anyone else in Jackson".

In the spirit of helping those who are less fortunate, Trollfest '09 adopts a cause for which a portion of the proceeds and donations will be donated: Keeping Frank Melton in his home. The “Keep Frank Melton From Being Homeless” booth will sell chances for five dollars to pin the tail on the jackass. John Reeves has graciously volunteered to be the jackass for this honorable excursion into saving Frank's ass. What's an ass between two friends after all? If Mr. Reeves is unable to um, perform, Speaker Billy McCoy has also volunteered as when the word “jackass” was mentioned he immediately ran as fast as he could to sign up.

In order to help clean up the legal profession, Adam Kilgore of the Mississippi Bar will be giving away free, round-trip plane tickets to the North Pole where they keep their bar complaint forms (which are NOT available online). If you don't want to go to the North Pole, you can enjoy Brant Brantley's (of the Mississippi Commission on Judicial Performance) free guided tours of the quicksand field over by High Street where all complaints against judges disappear. If for some reason you are unable to control yourself, never fear; Judge Houston Patton will operate his jail where no lawyers are needed or allowed as you just sit there for minutes... hours.... months...years until he decides he is tired of you sitting in his jail. Do not think Judge Patton is a bad judge however as he plans to serve free Mad Dog 20/20 to all inmates.

Trollfest '09 is a pet-friendly event as well. Feel free to bring your dog with you and do not worry if your pet gets hungry, as employees of the Jackson Zoo will be on hand to provide some of their animals as food when it gets to be feeding time for your little loved one.

Relax at the Fox News Tent. Since there are only three blonde reporters in Jackson (being blonde is a requirement for working at Fox News), Megan and Kathryn from WAPT and Wendy from WLBT will be on loan to Fox. To gain admittance to the VIP section, bring either your Republican Party ID card or a Rebel Flag. Bringing both and a torn-up Obama yard sign will entitle you to free drinks served by Megan, Wendy, and Kathryn. Get your tickets now. Since this is an event for trolls, no ID is required. Just bring the hate. Bring the family, Trollfest '09 is for EVERYONE!!!

This is definitely a Beaver production.

Note: Security provided by INS.

Trollfest '07

Jackson Jambalaya is the home of Trollfest '07. Catch this great event which promises to leave NE Jackson & Fondren in flames. Sonjay Poontang and his band headline the night with a special steel cage, no time limit "loser must leave town" bout between Alan Lange and "Big Cat"Donna Ladd following afterwards. Kamikaze will perform his new song F*** Bush, he's still a _____. Did I mention there was no referee? Dr. Heddy Matthias and Lori Gregory will face off in the undercard dueling with dangling participles and other um, devices. Robbie Bell will perform Her two latest songs: My Best Friends are in the Media and Mama's, Don't Let Your Babies Grow up to be George Bell. Sid Salter of The Clarion-Ledger will host "Pin the Tail on the Trial Lawyer", sponsored by State Farm.

There will be a hugging booth where in exchange for your young son, Frank Melton will give you a loooong hug. Trollfest will have a dunking booth where Muhammed the terrorist will curse you to Allah as you try to hit a target that will drop him into a vat of pig grease. However, in the true spirit of Separate But Equal, Don Imus and someone from NE Jackson will also sit in the dunking booth for an equal amount of time. Tom Head will give a reading for two hours on why he can't figure out who the hell he is. Cliff Cargill will give lessons with his .80 caliber desert eagle, using Frank Melton photos as targets. Tackleberry will be on hand for an autograph session. KIM Waaaaaade will be passing out free titles and deeds to crackhouses formerly owned by The Wood Street Players.

If you get tired come relax at the Fox News Tent. To gain admittance to the VIP section, bring either your Republican Party ID card or a Rebel Flag. Bringing both will entitle you to free drinks.Get your tickets now. Since this is an event for trolls, no ID is required, just bring the hate. Bring the family, Trollfest '07 is for EVERYONE!!!

This is definitely a Beaver production.

Note: Security provided by INS