The Contradictions of Macronism
President of the rich? The label has now stuck fast to the once-Teflon Macron, but does it reflect reality? Le Monde today published figures from the Institut de Politiques Publiques showing the cumulative effect of the bewildering array of tax reforms enacted under Macron on the various levels of the income distribution. And it turns out that while the reforms do boost the disposable income of the top 1% by nearly 6%, largely because of the reform of the wealth tax, the broad middle of the income distribution also benefits handsomely, with an increase in its purchasing power of nearly 1%. The group hardest hit by the reforms turns out to be the top decile exclusive of the top centile–which is where the money is. Unfortunately, the bottom two deciles of the income distribution are also net losers.
Now, the meme of “the one percent” has become synonymous with what we used to call “malefactors of great wealth,” partly through the influence of Thomas Piketty (and hence I bear some of the blame, or credit, depending on your lights). But I think that a reform that benefits the broad middle class at the expense of the upper middle class is a step in the right direction. Macron’s error, if it was one, was to abolish the wealth tax, which resulted in a large gift to that infamous one percent, instead of maintaining it and redirecting that revenue toward the bottom 22% disadvantaged by the ensemble of other tax changes. For that he is paying a steep political price, while any boost in investment by the ultrarich that he may have anticipated from the move remains hard to discern.
Meanwhile, Macron’s image has suffered from other recent setbacks. As Olivier Duhamel put it in a broadcast editorial last night, Macron is now perceived as the mirror image of Hollande: whereas the latter suffered from a deficit of “incarnation” and authority, the former suffers from excesses of both. His demolition of the old party system left a void around him, so that his solitary figure must bear every blow alone. His solitude has been underscored by the difficulty he has faced in replacing Collomb as interior minister. He is at once all-powerful and helpless to alter the increasingly widespread feeling that he is losing control of events. And, as Duhamel also noted, for all his gifts at high politics, he has turned out to be notably deficient at low politics.
Such are the contradictions of Macronism.