When Socialist President Francois Hollande took office, he swiftly made good on his pledge to raise the top tax rate on Frenchmen who earn a million euros a year – to 75 percent.
The regime would now confiscate three of four dollars that the most successful Frenchmen earned. Paris also imposes a wealth tax on assets worth more than $1.7 million.
This broke it for Gerard Depardieu, the famed actor and bon vivant who has performed in scores of films in such roles as Jean Valjean in “Les Miserables” and Cyrano de Bergerac.
Depardieu put his Paris mansion up for sale, crossed the border into the Belgian village of Nechin, gave up his French passport and is renouncing his French citizenship. A tiny community of French already reside in Nechin, a kilometer beyond the reach of Hollande’s tax police.
Depardieu says that this past year 85 percent of all he earned went for taxes. Over a 45-year career, he contends, almost $200 million in income has been taxed away by the French government.
“I don’t like the rich,” Hollande has said.
The sentiment is reciprocated. One French radio station claims that 5,000 French citizens have fled since he took office.
Hollande’s regime, writes Edward Cody of the Washington Post, has all but declared Depardieu a traitor. Labor Minister Michel Sapin calls him an example of “personal degradation.” Culture Minister Aurelie Filippetti charges him with “deserting the battlefield in a war against the economic crisis.”
“When someone loves France, he should serve,” says Hollande, calling Depardieu “pathetic” and “unpatriotic.”
Which raises a question for Americans. For our revolution was born of a tax rebellion against the Stamp Act, the Townshend duties and the tea tax that led to the Boston Tea Party.
Purpose of these taxes: Have the colonies pay a fair share of the cost of the French and Indian War, in which British soldiers had driven the enemies of the colonies out of the Ohio Valley.
But when farmers in Pennsylvania rebelled against a whiskey tax to defray the cost of our Revolutionary War, President Washington marched out with 13,000 militia to crush that tax rebellion.
While the socialist left has come down hardest on Depardieu, he is well within a tradition of the cultural left.
As the Associated Press’ Thomas Addison reports, when the British top tax rate was 95 percent in the 1960s, the Beatles’ George Harrison wrote “Taxman” with the lyrics, “There’s one for you, 19 for me.”
In 2005, Beatles drummer Ringo Starr moved to Monaco, where the income tax rate is zero.
Sean Connery, the first “James Bond,” departed Britain in the 1960s for Spain and the Bahamas, writes Addison, “another spot with zero income tax.” In the 1970s, his successor as 007, Roger Moore, also chose tax exile in Monaco. In those years of confiscatory tax rates in England, the Rolling Stones relocated to Southern France.
What does this teach us?
That socialism, the forced redistribution of income and wealth from those who produce it to those who do not, eventually forces a man to choose between himself and his family – and his government.
Socialism creates and exacerbates a conflict in loyalties. A regime that takes three of every four dollars a man earns is an enemy of what that man works to accomplish for himself and his family.
Mitt Romney was castigated for keeping bank accounts in the Caymans, Bermuda and Switzerland. Yet countless U.S. companies leave profits abroad to evade U.S. taxes.
Californians flee to Nevada, Arizona, Idaho and Colorado to escape Golden State taxes. Are they disloyal to their home state, or are they doing what is right by their families, their first responsibility?
With federal income taxes on America’s most successful rising today to almost 40 percent, New York City residents will also pay a top rate of 12 percent to the state and city plus a 9 percent sales tax on their purchases, plus payroll taxes for Medicare and Social Security, plus property taxes, auto taxes, gas taxes and cigarette taxes.
For many successful Americans, over half of all they earn is now taken by government. And reading the New York Times’ year-end editorial, these may soon be seen as the good old days.
The Times urges Obama to consider sweeping new taxes to “reduce income inequality.” Among the revenue raisers for which it urges consideration: Almost tripling the capital-gains tax rate to 40 percent, capping deductions for high earners, restoring the estate tax to confiscatory levels, higher tax rates or surcharges on multimillion-dollar incomes and raising the corporate tax rate – already the highest in the world.
“All that would be only a start,” says the Times. A carbon tax, a value-added tax, a financial transactions tax should all be looked at.
Can a man love his country and hate its government? Of course. Ask Alexander Solzhenitsyn. Ask the patriots of ’76.
This un-American and egalitarian fanaticism rearing its head today may one day force just such a question upon American patriots.