the issue of debt, central for decades, has disappeared from the campaign

For those who dream of embarking on a political career, this is undoubtedly the ideal time. For the first time in several decades, the budget constraint seems to have disappeared. And the credibility of the candidates in terms of handling public funds is not a concern for the public, or for the candidates, or even for the economists. A few months ago, analysts, elected officials and pollsters predicted an election centered in part on the issue of debt. Evidence after two years of “whatever it takes”, more than 150,000 million euros spent on support measures, a deficit of 7% of gross domestic product and a debt of more than 115%. It hasn’t happened.

The campaign, although dominated by economic and social issues with the issue of purchasing power and inflation, seems to have evaded the media issue. With the exception of the pension reform, proposed by some of the candidates, the programs are mostly unfunded. The right and the extreme right promise billions from the fight against social fraud, the left billions from tax evasion, while Emmanuel Macron bets on the fruits of growth more uncertain due to the war in Ukraine.

How can you blame them? According to latest survey conducted by Ipsos-Sopra Steria in partnership with the Center for Political Research Sciences Po (Cevipof) and the Jean Jaurès Foundation to The world, the issue of public debt and deficit ranks penultimate in the top ten concerns of the French (12% of those surveyed), far behind crime (16%) or social inequalities (17%), in a ranking dominated by the standard of living (53%), the war in Ukraine (44%) and the environment (26%). as if he “whatever it takes”, so strongly supported by the country during the Covid crisis-19, had drowned the issue of debt.

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The situation is unprecedented: “I don’t have in mind a campaign where we have talked so little about the debt”admits Frédéric Dabi, director of the IFOP institute. Five years ago, the right-wing candidate François Fillon had made a serious budget the cornerstone of his program, and had imposed it on the debate. In 2012, François Hollande attacked Nicolas Sarkozy in his “degraded accounts”while two rating agencies had just withdrawn the “triple A” from France, guaranteeing the quality of their signature. “Unlike today, the financial crisis excuse was absolutely inaudible,” recalls Mr. Dabi. Five years earlier, it was François Bayrou, the “third man”, who had made debt the political marker of his candidacy, for which he had managed to secure part of the right. Even in 2002, Lionel Jospin’s campaign was tainted, at least in part, by the “jackpot” affair that he was supposed to have hidden.

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