Thursday, February 7, 2013

"The City of Lights"

The Parisian nickname "the City of Light," of Enlightenment, has nothing to do with the electricity from 276 monuments, hotels, churches, fountains, bridges, and canals that illuminate the city every night, it refers to the light of knowledge coming from intellectuals, poets, writers, artists, sculptors, painters, writers, and musicians of the 1920s when Paris became the cultural center of Europe and of the world.

Parisians have never been penny pinchers with the exception perhaps of Etienne de Silhouette, King Louis XV’s finance minister who attempted to balance the nation’s budget by melting down all items made of gold and silver. Thankfully, reasonable minds prevailed. He was so cheap that he became the symbol of frugality gone awry and of “silhouettes,” shadow profile portraits cut from black paper that were cheaper than real portraits.

Parisians are in love with spending and national financial generosity with other people’s money, better known as socialized welfare. They feel so strongly about their generous government benefits that they kicked out President Sarkozy last year and elected the socialist Francois Hollande who promised them even more welfare and a roll back of the retirement age that Sarkozy had set at 62.

President Hollande is not backing down on his promise to tax those who make 1 million euros or more a year at 75 percent even though France’s Constitutional Council declared the tax unconstitutional. The French government announced a revised tax version for 2013. (http://www.nytimes.com/2012/12/30/world/europe/gerard-depardieu-stirs-belgian-border-town.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0)

Gérard Depardieu, actor and producer, has had enough of the outrageous fleecing, so he decided to turn in his French passport and move to a sleepy little village in Néchin, Belgium. Vladimir Putin offered him a Russian passport although it is unclear if Mr. Depardieu accepted. A flat tax of 13 percent in Russia seems more appealing than the 75 percent marginal tax rate for the rich in France. Gérard Depardieu, who owns about a dozen vineyards around the world, a wine label, and a superb movie career, is not a tax dodger; the 64-year old movie producer has paid his lion’s share of taxes in the last 45 years, $192 million to be exact.

The optician chain tycoon, Alain Afflelou, has planned to flee Paris for England to escape President Hollande’s 75 percent marginal tax, joined by thousands other French millionaires. David Cameron was prepared to roll out the red carpet for the expatriates. A Victoria Secret model, restaurateur Alain Ducasse, and singer Johnny Hallyday have already left France. (http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2185231/High-earners-planning-leave-France-75-tax-rate-income-1million-euros-goes-ahead.html#ixzz2K8nAvjP3)

President Francois Hollande and his energy minister, Delphine Batho, would like to turn off lights in and outside public buildings, offices, and stores after 1 a.m. Paris will literally no longer be the city of lights and romantic glow. This is not good for the tourist industry. However, robbers and pick-pockets will thrive. And there are plenty of them in Paris.  

Energy minister Batho touted the energy savings from lights-out and the French “sobriety.” Everyone will be sober figuratively and literally, as few will dare go out in the dark to their favorite cafes and restaurants. A new rule passed in July 2012 required businesses to turn off lights between 1 a.m. and 6 a.m. as part of the plan to reduce energy consumption 20 percent by 2020. (http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2254565/Lights-turned-France-save-money-sobriety.html#ixzz2K8oeGQaV)

The national pastime of drinking wine and dining with friends late at night may suffer. King Louis XVI believed that persons not drinking wine are fanatics. He blamed the French Revolution on the fact that its leader, Robespierre, drank only water. (David Hoffman, Little Known Facts about Paris, 2008)

The draconian measure to turn off lights at night seems extreme since France generates over 75 percent of its electricity needs from nuclear power and 17 percent from recycled nuclear fuel. France is the largest net exporter of electricity because the cost of generating it is very low. The exportation of electricity provides 3 billion euros a year in revenue. (http://www.world-nuclear.org/info/inf40.html)

Who needs illumination in the City of Lights when the French are unwilling to give up their stellar early retirements, lifetime employment, generous pensions, 5 weeks paid vacations, two year paid maternity leave, subsidized elegant housing, two week spa treatments disguised as health care, and shortened work weeks? Socialized welfare lifestyle is grand until the government runs short of money, corners are cut, and the lavish generosity must be scaled back.





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