L’Humanite interview with Monique Pinçon-Charlot: “the rich have a money addiction that must be treated”
For sociologist Monique Pinçon-Charlot, the campaign against public deficits is an ideological weapon being used by neoliberals to do away with social rights all over the world.
Among the budgetary proposals to be discussed by the French government is a move to tax “extravagant” income. Does such a measure seem plausible coming from the “President for the rich”?
Monique Pinçon-Charlot. It’s a smokescreen. The CEO of Publicis (a French multinational PR company) Maurice Levy proposed a small exceptional contribution from the rich but it was offset by accompanying proposals that would hit ordinary people hard: to remove the remaining vestiges of solidarity (social security, public service), privatise public services, and reduce labour costs as much as possible. He said it very clearly: we, the rich, are conducting a communications drive that could cost us €300 million, and you the people, you will pay the real price! The €300 million roughly corresponds to the sum approved by UMP deputies when they decided to tax damages paid as a result of accidents in the workplace. This shows the hypocrisy of the system.
You say that is not a money problem but rather a lack of political will to take it where it is found. Would you go as far as saying that the reversal of deficits is a false problem?
Monique Pinçon-Charlot. Yes, this is a completely false debate. Deficit and debt are economic and ideological weapons. Neoliberals use it to push their political agenda and to fight against social rights all over the world. Three-quarters of the financial sector’s wealth return to the bankers themselves, yet the taxpayer is asked to foot the bill. With them, it’s “heads I win, tails you lose”. The system is made for the financial oligarchy, it works for them and we’re now at a point where we must deal with the money-addiction of the richest.
What would you recommend to find a more virtuous circle in the sharing of wealth?
Monique Pinçon-Charlot. Firstly, the rich must pay their taxes. We need to review the tax system and substitute the current regressive structure with one that is profoundly progressive. Labour is by far the most taxed source of revenue in France, far more than assets or capital. We think that all types of revenue should be subject to a deduction at source, from the lowest to the highest. In our system, VAT would be removed and the last band would be taxed at 95%.
The debate about tax loopholes is also gathering pace. Removing them would bring money into the coffers…
Monique Pinçon-Charlot. We must put an end to all strategies of fiscal optimization that we sociologists call legal theft. To bring France’s public deficit below 3% by 2013, if that is to be the key question for the country, €95 billion must be found. Of the budgets available, one could look to the 500 tax loopholes which account for €75 billion. This is the familiar part of the debate. Less familiar, and this is one of the small surprises that we include in the updated version of our book (1), is the €80 billion accounted for by the tax calculation methods in force (Modalités de Particularités de Calcul de l’Impôt – MDPCI). A tax cap is a tax loophole that has never been classified as such. Yet it is never categorised as such, but is classified as MDPCI. We can move a lot of money from one column to the other. There is also plenty of money available in tax havens. One financial company estimated in 2007 that undeclared holdings of French citizens in Switzerland amounted to €80 billion (only €2 billion is declared). Moreover, when you take into account the bottomless pit of tax havens … the figures at stake are astronomical.
(1) An updated version of “Le Président des Riches, Enquête sur l’Oligarchie dans la France de Nicolas Sarkozy”, Monique Pinçon-Charlot and Michel Pinçon. Édition Poche La Découverte, €9.50 is in bookshops from September 15th.
Humanité Quotidien (August 24, 2011). Interview by Paule Masson.
Originally published in L’Humanite. English translation by David Lundy.
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