Do You Hear the (Rich) People Sing?

(Elliott Brown)

(Elliott Brown)

The new Les Mis movie was 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 theme of the movie.

One of the most powerful scenes comes at the end, when all the citizens are singing,

“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, only viewing them as a means to an end.

Today, the lyrics of the song seem to 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% 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% of GDP then to over 90% 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% top marginal tax rate.

The top French court recently ruled this 75% proposal unconstitutional, but Hollande and his government have vowed to continue fighting for it, despite the cries of wealth creators.

Even more appalling is the lack of economic incentive behind the proposed 75% 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 as follows:

“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 seems to forget that although it may be “patriotic” for one to agree to pay almost all their earnings to the government, forcing citizens to do so is certainly oppressive. Especially if the proposal 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.

4 responses to “Do You Hear the (Rich) People Sing?

  1. 1. Are you comparing the current French government to the monarchy of 1832? Is the parliament agreeing to these new taxes or is Hollande doing this unilaterally?
    2. Is the government oppressive, or are the taxes oppressive? He was recently elected; I’m assuming this means the people are not too unhappy with these policies. Did he see his election as sort of a mandate to take these actions?
    3. 75% taxation rate at the top does seem to be excessive. But, we’ve had even higher rates in our history haven’t we? This makes 35% seem not excessive. (smiley face) The truth is, I’m already angry about the lack of movement toward cutting spending in our country, from entitlements to defense.
    4. However, if a people, such as those in France, are committed to a kind of socialist vision that requires oppressive taxation, I think it’s important that we make careful distinctions between such taxation and oppressive government, which implies a much broader criticism.

    • “I think it’s important that we make careful distinctions between such taxation and oppressive government, which implies a much broader criticism.”
      That’s the critique I expected. I understand there is something fundamentally different between passing a high tax rate and killing citizens. My point was to demonstrate how Hollande’s government seems to treat the rich as sub-human, with an automatic disdain for them simply because of their success. Whether or not the “majority of French citizens” approve of his actions, he is still running the country into deeper financial trouble (but yes, not technically “oppressive” in the Les Mis sense of the word).

      It’s also to show that the rich won’t simply “endure” his antics – there comes a point when it is simply not worth living in the country anymore. Particularly despicable to me is how he acknowledges the fact that the rate does almost nothing to help the deficit. He just likes taking more of their hard-earned income as a “social responsibility.”

      Regarding American history, I could also use the argument that we once had a time where politicians promised the income tax rate would “never go above 1%”. It all depends on your reference point.

      • Do you consider a top rate of 35% to be oppressive? May I expect a gun-control post soon?

        • I don’t think anyone actually pays 35%, so no. But if they did, perhaps. Clearly not as bad as 75% – I would argue anything higher than 50% should begin to fall under that classification.

          I’m debating on whether to post about gun control. I suppose I’m obligated to. But not yet. I don’t believe Obama’s “executive actions” warrant my response yet, because they are all talk. When a law is actually on the table (which appears to be end of January), I’ll likely weigh in.

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