Sarkozy just happens to be the guy sitting in the hot seat now that the socialist policies of every president since Charles de Gaulle have finally taken their toll. Unfortunately for Sarkozy, he's facing re-election in the spring. The French can either re-elect Sarkozy, whom they don't personally like because they find him hyperactive, somewhat grotesque and overly involved in petty matters, or they can do the same thing that's led to France's failure to date. That is, elect the friendly, funny, "aw shucks" Socialist Party candidate who only has personal qualities going for him.
Rather than get softer, Sarkozy needs to use the credit downgrading as an opportunity to take an even harder line in favor of limited government. Stop talking and start swinging the ax like the killer in a bad slasher film. Start by decimating a few levels of French government. Flatten that baby like a crepe. Set the example with the political class and make these so-called elites go out and start real businesses. Have people with kids take financial responsibility for them rather than supporting them from cradle to grave. Limit immigration to those who can contribute economically or professionally as ascertained by a points system like the one in Canada. Those who want to import their entire families from another country can move back there if they're that homesick.
And businesses in France are paying enough taxes, as are the people. The problem is that their taxes aren't sufficient to support the nanny state, so get rid of it. Anyone who doesn't like it can move to Scandinavia, where apparently socialism still "works" for those who love paying exorbitant taxes.
This is France's big chance, its Overton window -- the moment when previously unforeseen possibilities suddenly become possible because of an unexpected and significant event. It's the ultimate shot at setting France on course with a bold new model, not just a rebooted version of an old, failed model. Until that happens and the root of the collapse is addressed, the problem won't begin to disappear.