There's a basic contradiction at the heart of last week's noisy demonstration by some 50,000 French civil servants, who took to the streets to protest cuts in the public payroll and social welfare programs.

The demonstrators, who snarled traffic and disrupted life during their six-hour march, enjoy strong public support. Nearly two-thirds of French voters told pollsters they think the government should soft-pedal its plan to reduce public spending and the national deficit.But voters also said they want lower taxes, which suggests cutting the country's bloated civil service ranks and reducing social support payments; and they want lower interest rates, which would follow from smaller deficits.

It falls to the government of Prime Minister Alain Juppe to break the unpopular news: Citizens cannot have their gateau and eat it, too.

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