Ah France, you gotta love it. I love Paris; it’s one of the world’s great cities to walk around in. I love and have written about The Côte d’azur and the jazz joints of St Germain. And then there is Normandy and her history, the valor and sacrifice of American boys who fell on the beaches with that day in 1944.
French literature, French cinema and Art nouveau have influenced me, and millions of Americans, from birth. Yet here’s a little sour pickle I picked up from the Associated Press. Dateline Paris: France mulls “culture” tax on smart phones.
Ha! Culture Tax? Okay, so the French gouvernement (which thought necessary the designation of Bridget Bardot as a national treasure), is very conscious of France’s artistic contributions and identity to the world. So a culture tax turns out to be a 1 percent sales tax on everything Internet from the phones to tablets to possibly Google and YouTube use. Ostensibly this tax will pay to build a healthy and robust resource of French online content, free of franglais. Put another way, to subsidize the online content and web-related industries of France. The French have done similar things, to a degree, with their movie industry. Many feel it hastened the decline of risqué French cinema because part of the creative process was risk itself, and the government tried to minimize risk to the filmmaker. Smarter people with more time on their hands than me will debate the outcome over coffee and cigarettes, but I feel it hurt more than it helped.
However, enter the Pigeons! Yes, pigeon is a rough French translation which actually means “fall guys.”
You see, France is on the verge of 75% income tax on Frenchmen who make more than 1 million euros per year. Well, the Pigeons are revolting. The Pigeons, as they identify themselves online, are a group of entrepreneurs and business leaders who are threatening to leave France because they find it too… taxing! Some have already done so. And, you guessed it: Many of the Pigeons are the ‘early birds’ into the French online industries. Programmers, content providers, artists and in general people who risked their life savings and ate canned soup for years because they had a dream. They succeeded, built companies, hired thousands and are now, somehow, branded as the Diable! So the Culture tax will do what, exactly? Who’s going to be there to take the subsidies? To build this brave new French online world?
It seems to me that the mother lode of everybody on the Internet in France, chipping in 1% of sales, has to be worth more than whatever confiscatory tax the government could wring from the pockets of those rich misérables. But now, those who can build, populate and create content with those taxes, will not be there to be protected by the government.
Even the film industry (already enjoying subsidies) was shocked when their mega-star, Gérard Depardieu, split France (au revoir) as a way of keeping more than 25 cents on every dollar (or Franc or Euro, whatever) he earned.
Of course, no one in France, Europe or most of the PIGS, (not a demeaning term but an acronym actually used in economics and finance which refers to the economies of Portugal, Italy, Greece and Spain) would ever connect the ‘cradle to grave’ costs associated with many of the government programs that Politicians use to keep the masses voting for them. Spending beyond means is the real reason why governments run out of money… yet the Pigeons are being scapegoated.
The streets of France are filled with French citizens who embrace and even cheer-on the idea of going after the rich to make up the shortfall in the public treasury – as they take their share of benefits that deplete that same treasury. It will be a bittersweet moment when every person en France who has a smartphone tablet, or uses the internet, will be forced to pay, just like the erstwhile roi of cyberspace.
Trying to create the next generation, online French content culture without the Pigeons would be like… I don’t know… like trying to make a French film without Dépardieu?
P.S. For more laughable reading, see:
UK’S RICHEST CONCEALING BILLIONS IN OFFSHORE TAX HAVEN