The French gov. is putting a temporary stop of 6 months to fuel tax hikes to “bring calm and serenity” back to France.
Will that actually bring calm and serenity back?
Not guaranteed. It might look like Macron has caved in to the demands of the “Yellow Vest” movement, but the planned fuel tax raise hasn’t been cancelled, it’s just postponed. Also, the protests have become a nation-wide anti-Macron movement now. So just addressing the fuel tax increase might not be enough to satisfy the protesters.
Let’s dial back. How did the “Yellow Vest” movement start?
Nicknamed after the yellow safety vests worn by protesters, it started as a grassroots movement against fuel tax hike and was mainly made up of working class rural dwellers that rely on long drives into cities for their jobs and couldn’t afford the tax increase.
More tax on fossil fuel sounds like a good thing, though.
Fuel tax hike was the straw that broke the camel’s back. Working class people in France had been fed up with the rising cost of living. In addition, president Macron’s tax-cuts for the wealthy made them feel even more marginalized and feel the financial burden for the pollution was fell on them unfairly. One of the protest coordinators told AP that the “fuel tax was the spark” and “If it hadn’t been that, it would have been something else.”
The president of the rich
Macron is known as “the president of the rich”. Not only did he cut taxes for the rich people, he also told a young man he could get a job if he just tried harder , and told pensioners to complain less. What was he, like, an investment banker? Yes, he was. Unsurprisingly, he is wildly unpopular right now. Nobody likes douchebag finance bros.
French people support the movement, minus the violence
The protests became very violent last weekend but still have the support (72%) from the French people according to a recent poll, although 85% disagreed with the violence. The movement has grown larger (even high-school students joined in) and now has a long list of demands including minimum wage raise, rolling back tax cuts for the wealthy, and resignation of Macron.
What happens to the fuel tax, then?
Fuel tax IS needed to cap carbon emissions – it just needs to be implemented and communicated better. This Guardian article tells you how it could be done right (hint: give tax revenue back to the people) with an example from British Columbia, Canada.