Economy: the five ideas that emerged during the presidential campaign

The political stables are somewhat the same but the markers have changed in the space of five years. During this strange countryside, unexpected proposals arrived on the table; others deemed old-fashioned not so long ago, such as industrial sovereignty, or “radioactive”, like the revival of nuclear power, have been debated. The proof that the climate transition and strategic independence have taken pride of place on the agendas… and concerns of voters. A tour of new or “rejuvenated” ideas.

1. Nuclear, the return to grace of the atom

How did he get so attractive again? Could it be for its climatic virtues, its supposed ability to wean us off fossil fuels, strengthen our energy autonomy, create industrial employment in France? One thing is certain, nuclear energy has emerged with a bang during this election. And we pinch ourselves looking in the rear view mirror as the atom hardly raised the crowds five years ago. No mention in the program of Emmanuel Macron, who followed in the footsteps of his predecessor with the closure of a good part of the park for 2025 (postponed to 2035 between the two elections). François Fillon side, a certain interest, but especially for small modular reactors. Marine Le Pen pledged to reconsider the closure of Fessenheim and to “modernize” the sector, without a concrete action plan.

The 2022 campaign will have left the impression of a pro-nuclear escalation. With promises to build six EPR 2 reactors for Valerie Pécresse, six reactors plus eight optional for Emmanuel Macron, eight EPR 2 for Fabien Roussel, fourteen EPR 2 for Eric Zemmour and at least ten reactors for Marine Le Pen by 2031. Who says better? On the left, Yannick Jadot and Jean-Luc Mélenchon are among the “big” candidates only to promise an exit from nuclear power by the middle of the century, the latter sticking to the dangerousness of the atom and its radioactive waste.

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France is no exception. The energy transition and the role that carbon-free nuclear can play in it are giving it back its nobility all over the world. The imposing report of the manager of the Electricity Transmission Network (RTE), published in the fall, reinforced the trend in France, underlining the economic relevance of a revival of the atom. The war in Ukraine, finally, and the urgency for Europe and France to turn their backs on Russian hydrocarbons drove the nail home.

That said, questions remain unanswered. With, on the political side, the consistency of a vision in a long-term industry that has suffered too much from procrastination. And on the industrial side, the ability of a nuclear industry, beyond promises, to rise to the height of its former glory, after the resounding fiasco of the Flamanville EPR and the current operational difficulties of its fleet.

2. Industrial policy, the very trendy idea

The tricolor industry, which seemed doomed to disappear without flowers or crowns, is making a resounding return to center stage. On the right as on the left, almost all the presidential candidates agree that it must be a primary concern of the state, and that it must regain its role as a major planner.

On the side of the candidate Les Républicains (LR) Valérie Pécresse and Eric Zemmour, we even imagine resuscitating an autonomous Ministry of Industry, separate from the economy and finance, as in the post-war period. Both convening abundantly the statue of General de Gaulle who knew how to restore the greatness of France by choosing nuclear power or even or by ensuring us sovereign access to space with the creation of the National Center for Space Studies (Cnes ) in 1961.

At the origin of this collective epiphany, the pandemic. With the first wave of Covid, France, like the rest of Europe, “discovered” with amazement its worrying dependence on China – which is planning everything – in terms of masks or even paracetamol. A crisis that disrupted the Meccano of world trade, causing in particular a shortage of semiconductors, chips embracing our modern life (smartphones, home appliances, cars, etc.) and which are mainly made in Asia. A shortage which, again, has come to underline the dependence and fragility of a French industry which has not been able to project itself. “But a crisis which also showed, perhaps for the first time, that politics was capable of orchestrating a rapid, effective response, and in coordination with other countries”, points out Vincent Charlet, general delegate of the think tank La Industry factory.

The idea, which each of the candidates is trying to assume today, is that in a certain number of strategic sectors (health, energy, defence, etc.), France must be sovereign. Ditto for the advanced technologies that will shape the world of the next decades, such as artificial intelligence, semiconductors, decarbonization of vehicles… But to plan effectively, it will first be necessary to put order in the millefeuille of current systems – General Secretariat for Investment, National Council for Innovation or even the High Commission for Planning -, and to set up an evaluation body. Neither the investment program for the future, launched in 2010 under Nicolas Sarkozy, nor the major investment plan put in place in 2017 by Emmanuel Macron have indeed been the subject of an evaluation, as has been underlined the Court of Auditors. Difficult to refine treatments without diagnosis.

3. Condition the RSA, the return of an old moon

It’s copy-pasted, choked Valérie Pécresse. Jobs at a discount, the unions and the opposition were indignant. While it did not appear in his program, Emmanuel Macron’s proposal to condition the payment of the RSA to fifteen or twenty hours of weekly work (or training) caused a lot of ink to flow. A gift made to the right? In reality, the subject has been on the table since the creation of the ancestor of the RSA, the RMI (for “minimum integration income”), Michel Rocard’s baby. The law of December 1, 1988 recognizes the creation of “a universal allowance, open to unemployed people aged over 25 […]but also the establishment of an integration contract specifying the actions and activities which will be agreed with each of the interested parties.

In fact, the “i” insertion has never really worked and battalions of recipients have grown over the decades. Today, France has 2 million beneficiaries. And the proposals of Macron and Pécresse leave professionals perplexed. “Wanting to exercise about fifteen hours of activity per week is, concretely, providing part-time work for the 2 million recipients. This requires tens of thousands of supervisors”, points out sociologist Julien Damon, specialist issues of poverty and social protection. A gas plant?

4. Inheritance taxation, the end of a taboo

For a long time, the subject of inheritance taxation remained absent from tax debates. Too many blows to take when this “death tax” is not really popular in public opinion. We preferred the wealth tax, which was more politically divisive. And then, the subject of inequalities gradually imposed itself: in France, it is inequalities in heritage that have clearly progressed over the decades, to the point that some experts describe France at the beginning of the century as a new society. balzacian. Thus, 60% of the total wealth of the French is made up of inherited wealth, compared to 35% at the beginning of the 1970s, according to a recent study by the Council for Economic Analysis, a study body attached to Matignon.

On paper, taxation on inheritances is progressive according to the sums involved. But in reality, the multiplication of deductions has undermined the base and 40% of the inheritances transmitted would escape the tax authorities. In an astonishing about-face, Emmanuel Macron, who in 2017 wanted to tackle pensions (like most economists), now proposes to reduce inheritances up to 150,000 euros per child, more or less joining the candidates of law.

A proposal which represents a shortfall in the coffers of the State of nearly 2.5 billion euros, almost as much as the relief simmered by Valérie Pécresse. On the left, Jean-Luc Mélenchon table, him, on a shock on the taxation of inheritances which would bring about 17 billion euros. In the meantime, more than eight out of ten French people are in favor of reducing inheritance tax.

5. The universal time savings account, the consensual solution

What do Emmanuel Macron and Anne Hidalgo have in common? The two want to make the time savings account (CET) universal – an idea that has been pushed for several years by the CFDT, and which is part of the major project to reinvent the employment of tomorrow. This device now makes it possible to accumulate days of leave not taken in an account in order to be able to use them later, or monetize them. The problem is that companies are rather hesitant to set it up. Another problem: its portability. The idea is therefore to extend the CET to everyone, and for it to follow employees during their career, so that they can organize their working time throughout their lives.

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“This was not one of the ideas we worked on at the start, but we had feedback from the field which showed a strong appetite for this device which allows you to interrupt your career for a retraining project or deal with an accident. of life, or so to have more purchasing power”, explains a close friend of Macron. Concretely, this new device could be managed by the Caisse des dépôts, which already deals with the CPF, “with which we imagine synergies to finance training”. But it still has to pass under the Caudines forks of the social partners.



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Economy: the five ideas that emerged during the presidential campaign

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