The art of the shock formula: the "rent shield"

The art of the shock formula: the “rent shield”

Indeed, we are starting to know a little more about this “purchasing power package” promised by the government several weeks ago! Guest of BFMTV Monday June 27, Bruno Le Maire, Minister of the Economy, did not come empty-handed. “We are now putting in place a rent shield, announces Bruno Le Maire. Rents will not increase, for one year, by more than 3.5%. As electricity prices have not increased by more than 3.5%. As gas prices have been frozen. I think this rent shield is the best compromise for everyone.” So there will be, you hear, a “rent shield”, just as there was an “energy shield”. Tenants will have theassurance that, for one year, and regardless of inflation, their rent did not increase by more than 3.5%.

Basically, in terms of economic policy, it is simply a cap on the increase in rents. But as soon as we start talking about “capping”, the question naturally arises at what level the ceiling is fixed. In this case, it’s 3.5%, but why not 4, or 3, or less? Whereas the idea of ​​a shield completely eliminates the question of the threshold from the discourse. Our attention is drawn less to the terms of the device than to its raison d’être. And precisely: this raison d’être, Bruno Le Maire briefly mentioned it. “We are at the heart of the peak of inflation. All the more reason to protect our compatriots. Protect those who have the greatest difficulties. That is the logic of the protection that we want to provide. Protection that is temporary. We We’re here to protect.”

A “rent shield” for “protect” the French: government communication is already in place. One can only note the skill of the government when it comes to forging a striking name – what is called, in rhetoric, an exercise in nominalization. And besides, it doesn’t stop there. Bruno Le Maire wanted to warn about the growing weight of the national debt that inflation is carrying on the French economy. He could have said it exactly in those terms. But he found better. “Everything is not possible because we have reached the alert rating on public finances.”

The “public finance alert rating” : it’s scary. So we don’t really know what this danger level is, when it starts, what it entails, but whatever. The formula is strong enough to carry, on its own, all the communication. And besides, the government of Emmanuel Macron is not at its first attempt. the “whatever it takes”the “at the same time”the “great debate” : all these outstanding formulas have made it possible to condense, to crystallize on them whole sections of public action.

French Minister of Economy, Finance, Industry and Digital Security Bruno Le Maire delivers a speech during the Vivatech fair for tech startups and innovation in Paris on May 15, 2022. (BERTRAND GUAY / AFP)

There are counter-examples, but the paradox is that they are just as clever! Look, for example, at how the government communicated at the start of the previous five-year term, when it was a question of capping, no longer rents or energy prices, but the taxation of dividends paid by companies. Emmanuel Macron did not make the same mistake as Nicolas Sarkozy in his time. He didn’t talk about “tax shield”, which would have implied that it was necessary to “protect” shareholders. Instead, he spoke of a “flat tax on dividend income.” A “flat tax, a technically incomprehensible Anglicism, whose main virtue was precisely to be difficult to decode, and therefore difficult to criticize, for the uninitiated.

You see it: naming with force and clarity what one wants to make known, and in a tortuous way about what one wants to hide, is one of the keys to communication. But let’s not be fooled. Do not confuse words and things. Whether or not the words are well found, it is on the things that we must form our own idea.

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