News comes that French actor Gérard Depardieu would rather live in Russia than pay a tax of 75% — although the law stipulating the rate has been thrown out by French courts — and I say, “don’t let the door hit you on your way out.” As well as, “Enjoy the snow! The political mayhem that sees journalists killed for telling the truth and young women jailed for singing songs that criticize the dictatorial Putin!” And most of all “Good luck!” — considering the lack of services that Putin’s much vaunted tax rate of 13% must surely buy Russian citizens.
It astonishes me quite frankly how regular folk may grumble about taxes but still pay up by being taxed at source while the super rich fall into paroxysms of rage when asked to pay a few million more. They have everything they could possibly want yet it drives them round the bend to have money they don’t need or use taken away from them to help their nation run better.
Look at the United States for example. Its millionaires and billionaires have so much money that they throw vast piles of it down the drain in presidential races like the one recently lost by Mitt Romney. They spend mega-millions on hobbies like Formula One racing teams or on ridiculous fashions, sports cars they don’t have time to drive and houses they don’t have time to live in.
Take Depardieu: he apparently already owns a chateau, vineyards in six different nations — a sumptuous Paris apartment no doubt — and three restaurants, among other assets. He gets excellent free health care when he is sick, sees the parks, gardens and roads in his city clean and looked after, does not need to worry that his flights into CDG will crash because there are too few air traffic controllers, or that he will be poisoned by an uninspected piece of filet mignon. His taxes help pay for all of that and while there is no doubt in my mind that all governments ought to stop wasting some of the tax money they get — especially on defence — it is good for everyone that governments have revenues to continue to do useful public services.
Maybe Gégé ought to go to Haiti if he’d really like to see what it’s like to live in a country that refuses to tax its elite. But it’s not pretty. Roads are a mess, garbage is strewn everywhere, water is undrinkable and the electrical grid barely functions. No money is spent on public housing so the poor live in violent slums. Schooling is free for a tiny minority of the population so half are illiterate. Police are insufficient in number and underpaid so crime flourishes. And don’t get me started on health care. For the rich of the Caribbean, a trip to hospital means a flight to Miami.
In fact, the furor over the current French government’s attempt to deal with their massive deficit by paring a bit more fat off the super rich and their resulting departures for countries like Belgium (and now Russia) reminds me of something Luis Inacio da Silva once said, long before being elected president of Brazil. Some pundit said that, were he ever to be elected, the country’s top entrepreneurs would flee in droves. And Lula said he would be happy to issue them all passports. (Instead he gave them giant BNDS loans but that’s another story.) His reply, his suggestion that if being rich means more to you than your home, your neighbourhood and your nation, then you probably really should leave anyway, was right on. Who needs you?
For people who already have so much, and live such comfortable, carefree and luxurious lives to feel so threatened by the prospect of seeing a percentage of their bulging bank accounts disappear into the maw of public good almost makes me feel sorry for them. Almost. Because I realize that they would probably all be a lot happier if they’d just relax and pay up. Enjoy what they have. And be grateful they live in a country like France — and not in nations of chaos, inequalities and real injustice.