Video: French throw national tantrum over small reduction to pension "birthright"

If they shake that magical money tree hard enough, a few more Euros are bound to fall out. Non?

For Gilly and many other Frenchmen and women, social benefits such as long vacations, state-subsidized health care and early retirement are more than just luxuries: They’re seen as a birthright — an essential part of the identity of today’s France…

“We want to stop working at 60 because it’s something our parents, our grandparents and even our great-grandparents fought for,” says Gilly, 50, a union representative at Saint-Pierre Cemetery, the largest in this bustling Mediterranean port city.

“And over the years … you can see that we’re losing everything they fought for. And that’s unacceptable.”…

It was in 1982, under Socialist President Francois Mitterrand, that the minimum age to stop working was lowered from 65 to 60. The measure, emblematic of the 14-year Mitterrand presidency, was adopted by a special ordinance that bypassed parliament.

The draconian Sarkozy proposal that’s got them in such a lather: Raising the retirement age to … 62. In other words, not only are these entitlement addicts living beyond their means, they’re returning to a pension age that’s still lower than it was within living memory of many French adults. And even so — weeks and weeks and weeks of protests.

Somehow this seems like a good place to link the Times’s piece this morning wondering where, oh where, the GOP proposes to start cutting federal spending.

But while polls show that the Republicans’ message is succeeding politically, Republican candidates and party leaders are offering few specifics about how they would tackle the nation’s $13.7 trillion debt, and budget analysts said the party was glossing over the difficulty of carrying out its ideas, especially when sharp spending cuts could impede an already weak economic recovery.

“On the actual campaign trail, you are hearing virtually none of the kind of blatant honesty that we need about what changes would fix this situation,” said Maya MacGuineas, the president of the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, an advocacy group in Washington that promotes fiscal restraint…

A small number of Republicans, notably Representative Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, have called for sharp reductions to Social Security and Medicare to change the nation’s fiscal trajectory. But party leaders and candidates on the stump have largely shunned those proposals, which risk alienating core segments of voters.

As a result, the campaign rhetoric has been largely general if not simplistic.

What MacGuineas means by “blatant honesty” can be seen in this graph put together by AmSpec’s Philip Klein. So massive a component of the federal budget is mandatory spending, a.k.a. entitlements, a.k.a. Social Security, Medicare and unemployment, that even if you cut all defense spending and all discretionary spending, you still wouldn’t quite erase this year’s $1.4 trillion deficit. Laugh at these idiots raising their fists in the clip, then, but don’t laugh too hard: Our boat’s sinking too, and until the public gets serious about it — which they aren’t yet — it’ll keep on sinking. Read Monty’s post at Ace’s site for further thoughts on that.