(This report courtesy of the Media Research Center.)
The Today show team has found its socialist utopia in France. “How does this sound to you?” Katie Couric teased on last Wednesday’s Today: “Shorter working hours, longer holidays and no pay cuts?” The French, Couric insisted, “are making it work.” By forced government mandate on large companies, viewers soon learned, as reporter Keith Miller raved about the “miracle” success of “a government-mandated 35-hour work week.”
An impressed Miller applauded the French system: “With more free time workers are rested, productivity is up” as “60 percent of those on the job say their lives have improved” and, Miller highlighted, American women working in France now “have time for lunch and a life.”
After Miller’s one-sided report, which did not include a single negative thought about the French government mandates, Couric gushed: “So great that young mother being able to come home at three everyday and spend that time with her child. Isn't that nice? The French, they've got it right, don't they?”
Couric set up the August 1 fawning over the French system, which aired during the 8am half hour: “Okay, so how does this sound to you: shorter working hours, longer holidays and no paycuts? Economists said, 'no way Jose or Josette,' but the French are making it work. Unemployment is down, the French economy is strong and workers are smiling a lot more these days. NBC's Keith Miller has the story.”
In a taped piece from Paris, Miller enthused over video of a street-side band playing next to a sidewalk restaurant:
“Break out the band, bring on the drinks. The French are calling it a miracle. A government-mandated 35 hour work week is changing the French way of life. Two years ago in an effort to create more jobs the government imposed a shorter work week on large companies, forcing them to hire more workers to maintain production. Even the people playing characters at EuroDisney cut down on their time spent in costume. American economists said it would never work.”
After a clip of Polly Platt, identified on screen as a “French culture expert,” saying no U.S. company has left France over the law, Miller continued: “Economists warned shortening working hours without reducing salaries would discourage foreign investment, ruin competitiveness and raise taxes. None of that has happened. Instead, the unemployment rate dropped to its lowest level in 18 years.”
From what high level to what lower but still high level Miller did not say.
Viewers then heard from Charlotte Thorne of something identified on screen as “The Industrial Society.” She boasted about how the new law puts value in ensuring that workers are respected.
Miller moved on to relay some happy anecdotes: “Benedict Refaie is in the mood to sing. The 28-year-old mother is working only 32 hours a week for a French electrical company. She can get off work at three everyday or work just four days a week. Or spend more time on vacation.”
The woman spouted on about how “it’s wonderful” as she now has “time to do things” and she gets five weeks off in the summer.
Miller listed all the wonderful benefits of working less: “With more free time workers are rested, productivity is up and what makes it work is flexibility. Employers and employees agree on when it is most efficient to take time off. 60 percent of those on the job say their lives have improved. These American women, all working in France, have time for lunch and a life.”
Avivah Wittenberg-Cox: “More Americans should be more aware that an economy as successful as the French one managed to be successful without giving up everything else in life.”
Gayle Cloud: “When they are at work, since work isn't their total focus in life they are able to be more productive.”
Miller asked the women around a table: “Do you think then it's just the American culture of succeeding and striving? I mean there are some very good values behind all of that.”
Cox: “When you are squeezed tight, so tight that your agenda is so full and your calendar is constantly booked you don't have those impromptu moments with your children that make families. Where, where are family values in a culture that won't give parents any time with their children?”
Miller: “The Americans work harder than anybody else in the world. They also make more money. Americans make more money than the people in France.”
Cloud: “But they don't have the time to enjoy it! Americans take two weeks holiday a year if they’re lucky.”
Miller concluded by endorsing an expansion of the system: “Next year the 35 hour work week will be extended here to smaller businesses. France could become a nation devoted to leisure. A classic case of the French having their cake and eating it too. For Today, Keith Miller, NBC News, Paris.”
Back on the Today set couch, Couric let out a loud and approving sigh as news reader Ann Curry suggested: “We should take our show to France and do it from France. What do you think guys?”
Matt Lauer: “Five weeks off every year, consecutively. We'd have to be retrained.”
Couric gushed: “So great that young mother being able to come home at three everyday and spend that time with her child. Isn't that nice? The French, they've got it right, don't they?”
Lauer noted: “In a lot of ways they do. But you know, I think they pay a lot higher taxes than we do, from what I understand.”
Curry castigated him: “You had to spoil it! You just had to say something.”
From NBC’s reporting, Lauer couldn’t have come to “understand” anything about high taxes or any other downside to France’s socialist system.
Can you think of any industrial or information sector product or field in which France leads the world?