French 'Buffett Rule' Declared Unconstitutional

The French Supreme Court has rejected that country's version of the "Buffett Rule," a 75 percent tax on millionaires, calling it unfair and saying its design was unconstitutional.

French President François Hollande is the Barack Obama of Europe. He's a moderate socialist who came to power promising to balance France's budget while simultaneously restoring the generous social benefits the French demand. His plan was to soak the rich.

But it hasn't been working out too well for Hollande. Gerard Depardieu, one of the country's top actors, has decided to move to Belgium to avoid the new tax rate. The Prime Minister called Depardieu "pathetic" and suggested that paying high taxes was "an act of patriotism." U.S. Vice President Joe Biden made a similar comment about the wealthy in 2008. 

Depardieu responded to the attack on his patriotism with an open letter which read in part: "I'm leaving because you think success, creation, talent and anything different should be punished. I am sending you back my passport and social security, which I have never used."

Saturday, Depardieu got aid from an unexpected quarter. In a surprise move, the French high court overturned the 75 tax rate, saying that its design was capricious and unfair. The Prime Minister has vowed to adjust the design and resubmit it to the court.

The more significant fact is that the tax is entirely symbolic. It is estimated to raise $100-$300 million Euros a year, while the current French deficit is $85 billion. Again, the similarity to Obama's Buffett Rule is striking. Never has so much presidential effort—more than a year spent harping on it—been expended to raise so little money from so few people. But when you're leading a socialist government, even a moderate one, certain things are expected. Targeting the rich, while capricious and ineffective, is one of them.


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