WASHINGTON, D.C., February 19, 2013 ― The new Les Misérables movie is a moving adaptation of one of the most well-known musicals of all time. Today, the state of France’s economy certainly brings to mind the last scene of the movie.
In this powerful scene, all the citizens sing, “Do you hear the people sing? Singing a song of angry men? It is the music of a people who will not be slaves again!”
The French people are fighting against the oppression of a government that doesn’t care about them, treating them only as a means to an end.
Today, the lyrics of the song ring true as France’s financial position looks worse and worse. The Economist calls France the “time-bomb” at the heart of Europe, warning:
“Even as other EU countries have curbed the reach of the state, it has grown in France to consume almost 57 percent of GDP, the highest share in the euro zone. Because of the failure to balance a single budget since 1981, public debt has risen from 22 percent of GDP then to over 90 percent now.”
When the new Socialist president, François Hollande, was elected, the warning signs were clear. Companies and entrepreneurs were leaving France due to anti-business policies. It was imperative that France reformed its stance before alienating investors.
Unfortunately, President Hollande has no intention of lowering taxes. In fact, he continues to raise them, demanding more of his citizens while refusing to consider any reduction in government spending. France’s taxes are considerably higher than the OECD average, and the corporate tax is second-highest in the euro zone. Still, Hollande has continued to demand a 75 percent top marginal tax rate.
The top French court recently ruled this 75 percent proposal unconstitutional, but Hollande and his government have vowed to continue fighting for it, despite the cries of wealth creators.
Even more appalling are the economic disincentives behind the proposed tax. The effect on France’s deficit would be minimal, but Hollande sees the tax as a message of “social responsibility.” When he first announced the tax proposal, he described it this way:
“It’s a signal that has been sent, a message of social cohesion, there is an effort to be made … It is patriotic to agree to pay a supplementary tax to get the country back on its feet.”
Hollande forgets that although it may be “patriotic” for people to agree to pay almost all their earnings to the government, forcing them to do so is certainly oppressive. It is even worse when the confiscation barely helps to solve the problem!
It seems President Hollande does not hear the “music of the people who will not be slaves again.” Unlike in Les Mis, the wealthy will not rebel against their oppressive government. They will simply take their companies, jobs, and money somewhere else. As successful citizens in every industry pack up and move to another country, France’s economy continues to suffer.
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