French Riots

This is a partial transcript from "The O'Reilly Factor," March 28, 2006, that has been edited for clarity.

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BILL O'REILLY, HOST: Now for the top story tonight. Joining us from Washington, Jeff Faux, founding president of the Economic Policy and author of the book "The Global Class War." Were you surprised about the demonstrations today, Mr. Faux?

JEFF FAUX, AUTHOR, "THE GLOBAL CLASS WAR": No, I wasn't surprised. The French society has been feeling the stresses of globalization just like societies all over the world, and that means basically workers — people who work for a living — are getting squeezed. So the welfare state has actually been dismantled over the last 10 or 15 years in France, and this is a reaction to it.

O'REILLY: OK. But I think this is far beyond anything that I have seen in America where you can't fire anybody, and the French say look, we just want a little adjustment to the law. Two years of a probation period for somebody who doesn't have experience. And these people go out on the streets and they paralyze the country. And this happened not just in Paris, but all over. And they are basically saying look, we're entitled to work. The government has to pay us. You know they have a wage over there. They have seven-weeks vacation. Five vacation weeks. Two weeks of holidays. I mean it's insane. You can't run an economy like that, can you?

FAUX: Well, sure you can because actually the productivity of the French worker, the hours that the French worker puts in, is at U.S. levels.

O'REILLY: Then why doesn't the economy grow at U.S. levels?

FAUX: Well, there are lots of reasons. One is the French don't borrow as much as we do. But the second point here, I think it's really important, it's not true that you can't fire anybody in France. But almost every worker in France has a contract — from the person at the top to the person at the bottom. And that contract spells out certain rights. They have certain rights on the job. Most workers in the United States don't. Except for those at the top. The CEOs have contracts. If you fire a CEO it's going to cost you money.

O'REILLY: Wait, wait, wait. Let's be honest here. If you're a French worker, you get seven-weeks vacation. You work 35 hours a week. Thirty-five hours a week! That's your workweek.

FAUX: And what's wrong with that?

O'REILLY: What is wrong with it is you are now taking away from private enterprise any wiggle room at all, and the government from the top down runs the economy. In fact, if you're an employer and you make somebody work 44 hours a week, you can get put in jail. That's against the law. Now, I'm saying this in a free society. France is not going to be able to keep up the entitlements. That economy is going to collapse. That country is going to collapse. It can't keep it up. It doesn't have the workers to support the elderly, and you know it, sir.

FAUX: I don't know who is going to collapse first. The French have problems, we have problems. But the idea that, for example, in this country after 70 years, we can't reduce the workweek doesn't make sense to me. What the French do and many Europeans do it, is they take their economic growth and more time off. Now, you may be against it.

O'REILLY: I'm not against anything. I don't want the government calling the shots in a free economy. That's what I'm opposed to. If you want to work 25 hours a week, more power to you if you can get that deal.

FAUX: Well, sure, you could get that deal, but you can't get that deal except if you're at the top in this country. Some people have the ability to work 30 hours or 35 hours. But most people who work for a living get a job, and it's 40 hours, take it or leave it, or more. And the French don't see it .

O'REILLY: But that's capitalism.

FAUX: Oh, there are many varieties of capitalism.

O'REILLY: The workplace sets the rules, not the government. I only have 90 seconds.

FAUX: We had 60-hour weeks 100 years ago and we changed it.

O'REILLY: I work a 60-hour week now.

FAUX: I bet you have a labor contract.

O'REILLY: I have a contract, but I work to 60 because I want to stay on top.

FAUX: Right. Most people in America don't have a labor contract.

O'REILLY: Now, do you believe that the government should be providing all these entitlements that they do in France and these other Western European countries, that they should guarantee a job for life, guarantee a wage?

FAUX: They don't guarantee the job for life. There's no place...

O'REILLY: As long as the country is solvent. You have to have a big cause to get rid of somebody, and you know it.

FAUX: You have to have a cause. I don't think that's unreasonable.

O'REILLY: A big cause. Like you have to hit somebody with a hammer.

FAUX: No, no. If you're not doing the job, you get fired just like anyplace else. But you can't get fired for nothing. And I think...

O'REILLY: So you like the French system. You like the government running, micromanaging the economy over there, you like that, you think that's good?

FAUX: It's not the government micromanaging the economy. The government is enforcing a contract. Everybody's got a contract. You've got a contract. Lots of people in this country don't.

O'REILLY: Do you want to bet the French economy falls apart way before the American does.

FAUX: Define falling apart.

O'REILLY: They won't be able to pay their bills. This is just the beginning of the riots you're going to see over there. Most people feel the government owes them a living. In America, we feel we make our own living.

FAUX: You may see riots, but because it's the French elite who are raking off the benefits of globalization, and the riots will continue.

O'REILLY: Mr. Faux. Thanks. Very interesting. We appreciate it.

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