France Rages Over Pension Reforms

Happy Tuesday! What better way to start the day than reading an 8,000-word research paper from MIT engineers on how best to twist apart Oreos. “For me this all started as a personal question,” Crystal Owens told The Wall Street Journal. “But I guess everyone else was also thinking like, ‘Oh, let’s understand my Oreos better.’”

Quick Hits: Today’s Top Stories

  • Six people were killed—three 9-year-old children and three adults—when a 28-year-old transgender person opened fire at a private Christian elementary school in Nashville on Monday. The shooter, reportedly armed with two assault-style rifles and a pistol, was killed by police minutes after they arrived on the scene. John Drake, chief of the Metro Nashville Police Department, said the shooter is believed to have once been a student at the school, but any motive is not yet clear.
  • Facing mass protests, strikes, and criticism from members of his own government, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced Monday he would pause his controversial push to overhaul the country’s judicial system. “Out of national responsibility, from a desire to prevent the nation from being torn apart, I am calling to suspend the legislation,” he said. “When there is a possibility to prevent a civil war through negotiations, I will give a timeout for negotiations.” 
  • The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) announced late Sunday night First Citizens Bank had agreed to purchase large portions of what was formerly Silicon Valley Bank, acquiring about $72 billion of SVB’s assets—including deposits, loans, and branches—at a discount of $16.5 billion. Approximately $90 billion worth of securities will remain in FDIC receivership, and the agency estimated the episode’s total cost to the Deposit Insurance Fund to be about $20 billion. 
  • President Joe Biden signed an executive order on Monday restricting the use of commercial spyware by the federal government, arguing it’s in the United States’ “fundamental national security and foreign policy interest” to stop the proliferation of the software, which has been used to hack and surveil mobile phones. At least 50 U.S. government officials have been targeted with such commercial spyware in recent years, according to the White House.
  • North Carolina on Monday became the 40th state to expand Medicaid coverage under the Affordable Care Act, with Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper signing into law legislation passed by North Carolina’s Republican-controlled legislature after years of opposition. “Now we have a Medicaid system that is stable,” Republican State Sen. Phil Berger said. “By transforming our state’s Medicaid program, we’re now in a place where our system can handle those additional enrollees.”
  • Democratic Rep. Ro Khanna of California announced Sunday he won’t run for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Sen. Dianne Feinstein next year, opting instead to run for reelection in the House. He told CNN’s Jake Tapper he is endorsing Rep. Barbara Lee in the race instead.
  • President Biden’s pick to run the Federal Aviation Administration, Phil Washington, withdrew his nomination to run the agency over the weekend after Sen. Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona joined Republicans in expressing skepticism about the Denver International Airport CEO’s qualifications. Acting FAA Administrator Billy Nolen—a former airline pilot—is emerging as a likely replacement, favored by both Republicans and industry leaders alike.
  • Cecilia Rouse, chair of Biden’s Council of Economic Advisers, told Bloomberg over the weekend she will leave her post on Friday, at which point Jared Bernstein—Biden’s former chief economist as vice president—will assume the role.

Little Fires Everywhere

Youth in France take part in a demonstration Tuesday after the government pushed a pensions reform through parliament without a vote. (Photo by NICOLAS TUCAT / AFP) (Photo by NICOLAS TUCAT/AFP via Getty Images)
Youth in France take part in a demonstration Tuesday after the government pushed a pensions reform through parliament without a vote. (Photo by NICOLAS TUCAT / AFP) (Photo by NICOLAS TUCAT/AFP via Getty Images)

As fans of Les Misérables know well, the French have something of a history with kings. Perhaps with an eye toward forestalling any unsavory parallels, French President Emmanuel Macron decided to postpone British King Charles III’s visit to France—the first state visit of the new king’s reign—that was set to begin Sunday. The optics of a gala banquet at the Palace of Versailles while protests raged outside were just too much. Plus, several buildings in Bordeaux—a southwestern city the King and Queen Consort Camilla were slated to visit—were on fire

Regular TMD readers can guess what has set France ablaze, first figuratively and now literally: Macron’s ongoing effort to reform the country’s pension system by raising the retirement age for most workers from 62 to 64. 

As we noted a few weeks ago, Macron succeeded in passing his signature pension overhaul using Article 49.3, a constitutional provision that allows the President’s Council of Ministers (his cabinet) to bypass a National Assembly vote when the legislation in question has already passed the Senate. While neither illegal nor terribly uncommon—the mechanism has been used dozens of times by politicians of all ideological stripes since 1958—its use this time nonetheless set off waves of fury inside the lower house of parliament and across the country, where strikes and protests over the reforms have been a fixture since early this year.

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