Pensions: reason versus passion, the crash test!  by Jean-Francois Cope

Pensions: reason versus passion, the crash test! by Jean-Francois Cope

After the energy crisis, the government is preparing to face the rest of the winter in an equally electric atmosphere. In question, two figures announced by Elisabeth Borne on January 10: 64 and 43, respectively the legal retirement age and the contribution period necessary to benefit from a full rate. Two figures which, for long weeks, will fuel the debates on TV, in the hemicycle and especially in the street.

Yet there is another, presented just a few days after the government announcements, which should raise our questions more: ‘a percentage. 68% of French people say they are opposed to government reform. In 2013, on the eve of the Touraine reform, exactly the same proportion said they did not trust François Hollande to reform pensions. Three years earlier, in 2010, they were again 62% to support social mobilization against the Woerth reform. Whatever the party at the origin of the reform, two thirds of the French oppose it, condemning our country to relive the same unfortunate spectacle. How did we get here ? Because by dint of throwing out numbers, we have forgotten a few principles over the years.

First of all, we have abandoned the sense of realities; the one that had allowed the creation of a balanced distribution system to reduce poverty among the oldest. Today is the time for denials. Denial of a life expectancy which is getting longer and which makes our country the one where life expectancy in retirement is the highest: 23.5 years for men, 27 years for women. Denial of a declining birth rate: there were 4.29 contributors per retiree in 1965, it is now 1.7 assets who must contribute to a retiree’s pension. Our neighbors who are experiencing the same challenges have already spoken out in favor of retirement at… 67 years old. The measure is in place in Italy. The decline will be effective in 2030 in Belgium and in 2031 in Germany. Two countries where the retirement age is already 65. Suffice to say that in their eyes we are ridiculous.

Worse still, we are sacrificing the spirit of solidarity. Indeed, we prefer to wait to find our backs against the wall while selfishly hoping to pass between the drops. In short, to impose on our children the weight of a system from which they will only inherit the debts. Solidarity is also being eroded through strikes and blockades which primarily penalize those who find themselves without transport or childcare solutions: that is to say the most geographically or socially isolated. It does not come out unscathed either from the demagogic speeches which propose to increase once again sometimes the employers’ contributions to the detriment of the employment of the most fragile French people, sometimes the wage contributions to the detriment of their purchasing power.

Finally, the last principle that has changed since the creation of the pay-as-you-go system is that of work. For nearly forty years, the left has constantly presented it as a burden, a suffering, a problem. For forty years, the French let themselves be lulled by this discourse and by a conception of work foreign to that which prevailed after the Second World War during the reconstruction of the country. As a result, we are caught in our own trap: it is now retirement that alone is synonymous with fulfillment and social ties. Logically therefore, each additional quarter spent working seems insurmountable even though the reform will only concern 40% of the population, taking into account the hardship and long careers requires.

Three words: “reality”, “solidarity” and “work”. The demonstration is implacable, reasonable, perfect what! And yet, she comes up against something that goes beyond her and that is called passion. The passion of those who have it all figured out, but don’t want to hear it because it’s just too hard to swallow. It will therefore be necessary to hold on, not to let go and keep your cool. Because in the face of passion, that is to say excess, there is no other choice. It is, in a democracy, one of the rare moments when politics, when it is great, can still serve a purpose.

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