Newsweek has a feature of how “Sky-high taxes and overprotective labor laws are driving out [France’s] best and brightest.”
Since the arrival of Socialist President François Hollande in 2012, income tax and social security contributions in France have skyrocketed. The top tax rate is 75 percent, and a great many pay in excess of 70 percent.
As a result, there has been a frantic bolt for the border by the very people who create economic growth – business leaders, innovators, creative thinkers, and top executives. They are all leaving France to develop their talents elsewhere. …
Granted, there is much to be grateful for in France. An economy that boasts successful infrastructure such as its high-speed rail service, the TGV, and Airbus, as well as international businesses like the luxury goods conglomerate LMVH, all of which define French excellence. It has the best agricultural industry in Europe. Its tourism industry is one of the best in the world.
But the past two years have seen a steady, noticeable decline in France. There is a grayness that the heavy hand of socialism casts. It is increasingly difficult to start a small business when you cannot fire useless employees and hire fresh new talent. Like the Huguenots, young graduates see no future and plan their escape to London.
The official unemployment figure is more than 3 million; unofficially it’s more like 5 million. The cost of everyday living is astronomical. Paris now beats London as one of the world’s most expensive cities. A half liter of milk in Paris, for instance, costs nearly $4 – the price of a gallon in an American store.
Interestingly enough, the piece is written by someone who likes socialized medicine and other largesse, but is tired of the high taxes combined with the “pure waste” that has left the state “bankrupt.”
I did not mind, initially, paying higher taxes than in Britain in exchange for excellent health care, and for masterful state-subsidized schools like the one my son attends (L’Ecole Alsacienne – founded by some of the few remaining Huguenots at the end of the 19th century).
As a new mother, I was surprised at the many state benefits to be had if you filled out all the forms: Diapers were free; nannies were tax-deductible; free nurseries existed in every neighborhood. State social workers arrived at my door to help me “organize my nursery.” My son’s school lunch consists of three courses, plus a cheese plate.
But some of it is pure waste. The French state also paid for all new mothers, including me, to see a physical therapist twice a week to get our stomachs toned again. Essentially it was seen as a baby-making opportunity (your husband is not going to touch you if you still have your baby fat – how very French!) after World War I, when so many young men were killed in the trenches.
When I began to look around, I saw people taking wild advantage of the system. I had friends who belonged to trade unions, which allowed them to take entire summers off and collect 55 percent unemployment pay. From the time he was an able-bodied 30-year-old, a cameraman friend worked five months a year and spent the remaining seven months collecting state subsidies from the comfort of his house in the south of France.
Another banker friend spent her three-month paid maternity leave sailing around Guadeloupe – as it is part of France, she continued to receive all the benefits.
Yet another banker friend got fired, then took off nearly three years to find a new job, because the state was paying her so long as she had no job. “Why not? I deserve it,” she said when I questioned her. “I paid my benefits into the system.” Hers is an attitude widely shared.
When you retire, you are well cared for. There are 36 special retirement regimes – which means, for example, a female hospital worker or a train driver can retire earlier than those in the private sector because of their “harsh working conditions,” even though they can never be fired.
But all this handing out of money left the state bankrupt.
So the producers shrug.
The most brilliant minds of France are escaping to London, Brussels, and New York rather than stultify at home. Walk down a street in South Kensington – the new Sixth Arrondissement of London – and try not to hear French spoken. The French lyceethere has a long waiting list for French children whose families have emigrated.
I grimly listen to my French friends on this topic.
From a senior United Nations official who is now based in Africa: “The best thinkers in France have left the country. What is now left is mediocrity.”
Coming soon to the United States.