Covid 19: Why Emmanuel Macron is trapped, confinement or not

Once again, the country is in suspense, waiting to know what the Head of State will have decided in the last resort, in order to face the new epidemic outbreak. Knowing that the main problem is no longer knowing what measures would be effective to contain it and make it flow back (containment is almost the only option in reality), but what measures would be acceptable, more than a year after the start of this health crisis that never ends. And confinement, again, is in the top position of … unacceptable measures. The brutal and almost immediate retreat of Angela Merkel, forced to cancel strict containment measures for Easter 48 hours after announcing them, probably spelled the end of the all-powerful state for Western democracies.

Because if the solution of a new confinement, third in the name, (different from the first no doubt, but even more obviously different from the second, too lax), is the one that would give the most rapid and concrete results in theory, in practice , it is quite simply … the authority of the state that is at stake today.

We have indeed reached a turning point in the political history of our country, knowing that the situation is totally unprecedented. Of course, France has known many crises, wars, jacqueries, secessions and betrayals. But in the end, at least, on the national territory, either, they were put down, or, a compromise was found, or they were out of breath and extinguished on their own. Or else, they have changed the policy.

The episode of the yellow vests, which seems very distant today, was one of these real crises. She could have tipped the country into the most complete discord. The rebellion of the yellow vests, and not only in Paris but in several prefectures, showed how weak the authority of the State was ultimately, based on a social contract that a few hundred thousand people, “morally supported” by a few million others can easily cause them to falter.

If the protest movement of the yellow vests had started not in the middle of winter, but at the beginning of summer – like many revolutions in the history of France – the government could have fallen. And maybe the whole system with it?

Will Macron announce a third confinement, at the risk of being disobeyed?

Suffice to say that the decision to announce a third confinement is not just one health measure among many others. It is first and foremost a bet: is the executive power still capable of being obeyed? Knowing that with a state of emergency, he alone takes responsibility for the decision! The promise of an announcement by the Prime Minister to the chambers on Thursday April 1 (without comment) followed by a “debate” obviously does not fool anyone, since the decision will have already been taken. Group presidents (including that of the presidential party?) Will have a good time saying that they are relegated to the rank of extras, or registration chamber.

Let us be even more clear and concrete: what is the stake? If the French refuse to submit to strict confinement, that is to say, that they leave their homes with or without good reasons, that they cross the “borders” of the confined regions in defiance of threats of sanction from Gerald Darmanin, then, in no time at all, the entirety of state authority will collapse. In a few weeks or a few months.

This means that millions or tens of millions of French citizens will no longer put their spleen in court bouillon by receiving a letter or a registered letter from the administration requiring the sending of a paper, or the accomplishment of a administrative process. That those who want to build a hut at the bottom of their garden, or an extension to their house to receive their small children on vacation, will no longer bother to file a declaration of work or an application for a building permit. That bailiffs will no longer dare to ring the doorbell to claim a debt or send an eviction notice. That the administrative harassment (not to say mess) to which every entrepreneur, farmer, craftsman is subjected on a daily basis, has a good chance of leaving with the bathwater.

Admittedly, the public power, the administrative authority, will still have computer resources to constrain the citizen, essentially by knocking on the wallet, with the ATD (notice to third party holders) sent to the very docile banks. But it will no longer have to rely on the “complicity” of the judicial authority, whose courts are as crowded as ever. In terms of traffic offenses, the police courts are currently examining cases dating from 2017 or 2018! Suffice to say that the one who refuses to submit to an administrative sanction today, is not ready to go before a judge tomorrow, or even the day after tomorrow.

In addition, constraint by body, now replaced by financial constraint, has no effectiveness on citizens or companies who have no money, whose accounts are permanently in the red. As such, the threat brandished by Bruno Lemaire against restaurant owners, and more broadly, all traders tempted to violate administrative closure measures, “you will not receive any help“, is absolutely pathetic. Especially when we see how the calibration of aids, and the examination of the application files, is just shitty, there is no other word.

€ 6,000 in aid for unsold stocks … which are worth ten or twenty times more

The (nervous) laughter of the day for thousands of traders was triggered by the promise of aid of € 6,000 on average, to “compensate for the shortfall” of billions of euros of goods in stock, at traders prohibited from exercising their profession. When we know that an average shoe store, or even clothing store, returns at least 100,000 euros of goods per season, we pinch ourselves when reading that the average aid will therefore be 6000 €, capped at 8000 €!

The rest of the story is already known to accountants. In most firms, hard-pressed clients announce that when they reopen, and for several months or years, they will not regain the level of turnover before the crisis. And that for this, credit card payments will be discouraged, not to say quite simply prohibited. These machines break down all the time …

Few of the customers will not play the game, fully aware of the glaring injustice to which traders will have been victims during these months of closure. The cash machine is not far away. Cash not dead.

Today, Bercy is crying because business support costs it more than 7 billion euros per month. Tomorrow, Bercy will cry to see tax revenues, (mainly VAT), collapse. In 2019, the state collected 186 billion euros in VAT. Obviously, 2020 and 2021 cannot serve as a benchmark. So, how much VAT will be collected in France in 2022, if the health crisis is behind us? Do not forget that VAT is the first tax in value: it represents 44% of the total taxes collected by the State. This is first where the citizens will strike, sorry, catch up tomorrow. Are we doing fifti-fifti?

But once again, the subject is not only financial and fiscal, even if Money with a capital A (otherwise known as poverty / hunger / inequalities) is at the base of many crises.

Reconfining France in April, one year from the presidential elections, is therefore anything, except an innocuous decision for Emmanuel Macron.