After French vote, will Europe switch course?

The French are not a modest bunch. So it wasn’t a surprise last night when the victorious candidate in the French presidential election, the Socialist Francois Hollande, said that his victory represented “a new hope for the world.”

The way Hollande sees it, Europe should chart a different course than the tough budget-cutting austerity packages that have cut the tax base in the U.K. by increasing unemployment and driven Greece into the arms of the neo-fascists.

If Europe switches course, the debate about economic stimulus will intensify here and could affect the election campaign. Already there have been signs of nervousness in the Obama administration about the effects of the massive cuts by the Cameron coalition in the U.K.

Hollande, who invoked Obama’s campaign slogan of hope and change, set himself up as the cheerleader of anti-austerity. "I'm sure in a lot of European countries there is relief, hope that at last austerity is no longer inevitable," he told his cheering supporters last night.

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He wants “growth, jobs and prosperity.” Don’t we all. But France can’t wish away its debt by spending its way out of trouble and taxing the rich. He will have to negotiate with Germany and the rest of the European Union. And the markets will be watching.

So a new hope for the world? I doubt it. I remain deeply pessimistic about economic recovery and the prospects for the euro. The next few months will be a rollercoaster ride for France, Europe and the global economy.