The gilets jaunes (“yellow vest”) protests started November 17, as nearly 300,000 people pushed back against tax increases on fuel in France.
Since then, the anger has spread, leaving four dead, over 130 injured and over 400 arrested while protesting in the yellow vests that are required in cars for emergencies.
They’ve blocked traffic, vandalized national monuments, lit fires and turned over cars. Police have responded with tear gas and water canons in an effort to restore order.
What started as a fuel-price protest has expanded, and now includes discontent over the cost of living in France, President Macron’s indifference to it and the sense that the middle class can hardly make ends meet.
The protesters are mostly people on modest incomes living in rural or suburban areas of the large and diverse country, and who drive long distances to work.
The protest started and spread on Facebook and social media, and seems to have no spokesmen, organizers or common objectives. It’s the worst protest for France in 50 years.
taxes in France
France has the highest level of government spending and second-highest taxes in the OECD (the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development; includes 36 developed countries), relative to the size of its economy.
47.7% of the country’s GDP was from tax revenues in 2017.
The French have tolerated and even defended paying high taxes in order to get public services and social protection.
But the yellow vest protests suggest they have had enough.
Emmanuel Macron and the carbon tax
Since his election in May 2017, Macron has been one of the world’s leading advocates for climate change measures. He tried to convince President Trump to stay in the Paris climate agreement (unsuccessfully).
Macron defends the increase in tax as a way in which to pay for the country’s transition to clean energy.
Should the US impose a gas tax in order to increase revenues to rebuild its infrastructure? Check out the Debater.
Federal tax on gas may be low at least for now, but your state adds its own gas tax to the price at the pump. Geek out on how much your state is charging relative to its neighbors.