... but today I am bloody grateful that I am penniless. I really really am. Because in France war has been declared on the rich. I have said before that in the US I would be considered a socialist, possibly even a communist. In the UK I would certainly be considered left wing. But in France I am slightly to the right.
I believe that a government should aim to minimise poverty, not just attack the wealthy (unless they aren't paying their taxes). François Hollande based his election campaign on a populist series of attacks on people who have too much money. Nevermind that he wants to close down the nuclear power stations thus putting thousands of working class people out of work. What people focussed on when they elected him was that he was Mr Normal (though richer than most of us) and would go for the rich.
Right in the jugular.
So a top rate tax of 75% which I honestly, in all my naievety never believed would go through. But it appears to be doing so. What incentive is there for rich people to stay in France? Why would anyone want to be taxed at 75% on any part of their earnings? And why should they be?
I'm not going to be affected by it, of course, but if I were, I would be doing everything I could legally do to make my money elsewhere. Of course the rich should pay their fair share of taxes - absolutely - but without them a country's economy can't survive. It's a case of cutting off one's nose to spite one's face. It just doesn't make sense.
One of Hollande's economic policies which will affect me is the attempt to renegotiate tax treaties with certain foreign countries, including Luxembourg. I earn my money and pay my income tax in Luxembourg, as do about 300,000 other French residents. It is actually a win win situation - my local area was suffering from huge unemployment rates. Luxembourg gave us jobs. Luxembourg is richer and so is the area. House prices are up, people have more money to spend and jobs are created in France in construction, childcare, education and retail. We pay income tax in Luxembourg, OK, but we spend our money in France. Without Luxembourg in fact this area would be in serious decline. The population would be aging, unemployment would remain high.
I blogged in the past about the first attack on us cross border workers - this was relating to childcare. But the idea that we pay low taxes and live in some kind of tax haven is a myth which is being exploited by the French government. We pay quite high income taxes, and we pay high social security contributions. There may be some companies which enjoy low tax rates via Luxembourg, and some really wealthy people might stash money there (nothing illegal about that). But in my French tax declaration I declare what I earn in Luxembourg, how much tax I pay and what money I keep there (an overdraft, as it happens). We all do. We have to.
So what is there to renegotiate? For the moment we don't know, but the cross border workers are pretty uneasy. Is it really worth attacking us to the point where we don't have a choice but to move across the border? What good would that do? Would it be worth setting up some kind of system so that the slight difference in taxes between Luxembourg and France is reclaimed by the French treasury? That would be costly to set up and will just destroy spending power. And make those of us who can leave.
The thing is when you vote in a socialist government you expect to be voting in people who care, people who do actually realise what life is like in the real world. But President Hollande has as little a clue as Sarkozy did. I was an au pair girl many years ago for a well known family in the Socialist party. They were about as left wing as David Cameron is. As far removed from us plebs as you could imagine. Of course their ideas were great - Madame was oh so proud of herself for passing on her magazines to me and her designer cast offs to the housekeeper. But Socialist? Ha!
They are politicians. It's their career. They will make speeches to win votes. But there is no way that continual attacks on people who work in another country, or people who earn masses of money will actually help any of the people who are really struggling. It is only working to highlight and exacerbate a divide between the rich and poor.
I abhor the attacks on the poor in the UK. It makes me so angry that benefits and housing rights are being taken from those that need it when corporations are being let off paying taxes and the rich just keep getting richer. But I hate standing by and watching François Hollande do nothing about helping the poor, and everything about attacking the rich in France. It's not economic policy. It's not fair. And it isn't actually socialism. It's populist. That's all. And judging from his latest poll ratings, showing him to be even more unpopular than Sarkozy at a similar time in his presidency, he needs the support of the people right now. And I never, ever actually say this but I told you so