Tag: Tax

We’re #3!

Well, friends, I think we can finally give our government some credit. After decades of effort, we are finally one of the top nations in the world in something. In fact, we’re the third best. Only France and Portugal are better. With a huge bipartisan effort and some fantastic leadership from President Obama, the United States is now third in tax shittiness:

If American businesses have begun looking for opportunities to relocate their corporate offices overseas, it’s not necessarily from a lack of patriotism. The Tax Foundation calculated the tax competitiveness of the 34 countries within the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), nations at least nominally committed to free-market economics, as part of their annual ranking system. The US comes in 32nd out of 34, just above France and Portugal, but below such economic powerhouses as Mexico — and Greece

The United States places 32nd out of the 34 OECD countries on the ITCI. There are three main drivers behind the U.S.’s low score. First, it has the highest corporate income tax rate in the OECD at 39.1 percent. Second, it is one of the only countries in the OECD that does not have a territorial tax system, which would exempt foreign profits earned by domestic corporations from domestic taxation. Finally, the United States loses points for having a relatively high, progressive individual income tax (combined top rate of 46.3 percent) that taxes both dividends and capital gains, albeit at a reduced rate.

This isn’t just a matter of taxes being high; many of the countries ranked below us have much higher overall tax rates and much larger governments. To get our #3 ranking, we had to put together a corporate tax system with both a high rate and ridiculous complications. We had to resist the global trend to not double-tax foreign earnings. We had to make our income tax ridiculously complicated and unfair. We had to create a tax system that is openly hostile to the idea of people working, investing and exporting goods.

So, congratulations to the Congress and President Obama! Between this and our rapid decline in the Economic Freedom Index, you’re making this country worse than the European socialist states!

At Least He’s Honest About It

Building on Alex’s post on income inequality, I note that Mathew Yglesias published this over at Vox. Yglesis advocates for raising the top marginal rate on salaries above $10 million to 90% and the inheritance tax of estates over $10 million to 90%. His argument is that the Laffer Curve is largely bunk and there is no evidence that raising incomes that high would seriously hurt the economy, at least if it were confined to the upper strata of income.

Let’s put aside a few things. Let’s put aside that France tried to raise the top tax rate to 75% and it was a disaster. Let’s ignore that even when that marginal tax rate was 97%, it didn’t stop rich people from being rich*. Let’s ignore that while many economists dispute where the peak of the Laffer Curve is, no one thinks its near 90% or doesn’t exist. Let’s ignore that when you add in state, local and Medicare taxes, this would mean a marginal rate of over 100%. Let’s ignore that previous efforts to tax the evil stinking rich have often resulted in a game of rich person whack-a-mole where they just get income from different sources. In the 90’s, the Democrats put a cap on the amount of CEO pay that could be categorized as a business expense. The result was that CEO’s started getting paid in stock options, which contributed directly to the tech bubble.

No, we’ll put Yglesias’ economic illiteracy aside. Instead I want to applaud him. Because he admits that a 90% marginal rate will bring in little if any revenue. What he argues is that this would stop corporations from paying such huge salaries and therefore pay more to lower level employees. Or something. And high taxes on estates would stop people from inheriting massive wealth. Or something. His argument is that this would address growing income inequality. No word on whether he also thinks cutting the legs off of tall people would help short people dunk basketballs.

I’ve said before that raising taxes on the wealthy isn’t really about revenue. Increases in the marginal rate would increase revenues, although not as much as tax reform would. But that’s a side effect. A huge amount of the motivation for raising taxes on the rich is redistribution. As Barack Obama himself said, it’s about spreading the wealth around. So at least Yglesias is admitting what we all know.

Of course, this won’t go anywhere. Despite the best efforts of the wealth redistributors, the American people don’t want a 90% marginal rate. There is broad support for the rich to pay more, but not at this level. So, in the end, Vox is running an article that is just about as grounded in reality as the most fantastic libertarian fantasy.

(*It’s a funny thing. Jjust as wealth and income inequality are coming back into vogue thanks to Picketty’s new book, I am growing more and more suspicious of it. I am beginning to suspect that the “equality” of the mid-20th-century was a product of how we measure it, not a real phenomenon. Rich people don’t get rich by letting the government take their money; they find ways to shelter it. The 97% marginal tax rate we enjoyed until the 1960’s came with a lot of shelters so that very few people actually paid it — and often it was someone who’d made a new fortune and was trying to raise themselves up into the ranks of the rich. The 97% rate was mainly a way of beating down rising stars so that the rich would remain pure and blue-blooded.

Liberals understand this to some extent. When conservatives point out that capital gains revenue boomed after the tax rate cut, they correctly reply that the taxes reaped from ordinary income fell by a greater amount. The rich just changed how they were getting paid. I suspect the supposed happy valley of income equality was similar but don’t have the resources to do the research.

I am also growing dubious of using income and wealth as pure measures of inequality. It makes things convenient for economists, but doesn’t necessarily tie to reality. Housing and food, relative to income, are much cheaper now for poor and middle class people than they used to be. Most of the working class can now afford homes; they used to almost all rent. Measures of leisure time show that the poor and middle class have more of it than they used to. Just to take examples from my own family: one set of grandparents were middle class. They had a maid, as almost everyone in their social stratum did. No one has maids anymore because they are paid too much (and, it should be noted, other opportunities have opened up to the working class). On the flip side, my other grandfather worked two jobs and had a working farm just to stay functionally poor.

I suspect we are focusing too much on money measures and not enough one thing in life that really matters: time. This is one of the big reasons that I suspect Picketty’s trendy book — like Das Kapital before it — will eventually be unravelled by better minds.)

The Tax Man Cometh Again

Remember, as you read through these stories, the cardinal rule of government: everything you have is theirs. If you have such a thing as “take-home pay” it’s only because of their generosity in allowing you to take it home. Sort of the way a highwayman might let you keep enough bread to feed your family while stealing everything else.

First, Chicago. The city of Chicago has figured out what every economist knows: when you tax something, you get less of it. This is why, for example, paying for healthcare reform with cigarette taxes never works. People smoke less in response and revenues fall below expectations. Taxes and fees on cars and gasoline are driving some people to ride bicycles. This is a good thing, right? Less fossil fuel use, more people getting exercise. The only losers are people like me who wear out their brake pads trying not to run over these hippie fruitcakes when they cut across a road all of a sudden with NO consideration for anyone else and NO concept of how much momentum a car has and there’s a Goddamn bike lane right there and we paid taxes to build that thing so why don’t you use it, you self-important piece of …

Sorry, lost my train of thought there.

Anyway, Chicago is floating the idea of taxing bikes.

A city councilwoman’s recent proposal to institute a $25 annual cycling tax set off a lively debate that eventually sputtered out after the city responded with a collective “Say what?” A number of gruff voices spoke in favor, feeding off motorists’ antagonism toward what they deride as stop sign-running freeloaders. Bike-friendly bloggers retorted that maybe pedestrians ought to be charged a shoe tax to use the sidewalks.

Chicago is by no means the only place across the U.S. tempted to see bicyclists as a possible new source of revenue, only to run into questions of fairness and enforceability. That is testing the vision of city leaders who are transforming urban expanses with bike lanes and other amenities in a quest for relevance, vitality and livability – with never enough funds.

Two or three states consider legislation each year for some type of cycling registration and tax – complete with decals or mini-license plates, National Conference of State Legislatures policy specialist Douglas Shinkle said. This year, it was Georgia, Oregon, Washington and Vermont. The Oregon legislation, which failed, would even have applied to children.

Don’t mention the shoe tax, guys. They’ll take it seriously.

Second story: you remember how our budget deficit problems result from not being able to raise taxes? Well, welcome to 2014 when a slew of new taxes will be heading your way.

The new taxes and fees include a 2 percent levy on every health plan, which is expected to net about $8 billion for the government in 2014 and increase to $14.3 billion in 2018.

There’s also a $2 fee per policy that goes into a new medical-research trust fund called the Patient Centered Outcomes Research Institute.

Insurers pay a 3.5 percent user fee to sell medical plans on the HealthCare.gov Web site.

Americans also will pay hidden taxes, such as the 2.3 percent medical-device tax that will inflate the cost of items such as pacemakers, stents and prosthetic limbs.

Those with high out-of-pocket medical expenses also will get smaller income-tax deductions. Americans are currently allowed to deduct expenses that exceed 7.5 percent of their annual income. The threshold jumps to 10 percent under ObamaCare, costing taxpayers about $15 billion over 10 years.

Then there’s the new Medicare tax.

Under ObamaCare, individual tax filers earning more than $200,000 and families earning more than $250,000 will pay an added 0.9 percent Medicare surtax on top of the existing 1.45 percent Medicare payroll tax. They’ll also pay an extra 3.8 percent Medicare tax on unearned income, such as investment dividends, rental income and capital gains.

Oh, and this morning, I found out about this little gem:

The new year is time for change, even in the service industry. Starting January 1, the IRS will classify automatic gratuities as service charges that are taxable as regular wages and subject to payroll tax withholding. That might sound like a bunch of arcane tax law mumbo jumbo, but what it means is that restaurants have to treat those tips like regular wages.

Typically, the IRS left it up to the waiter or tipped employees to declare that money. But with this new change the waiter won’t see those “tips” until payday—instead of the end of the shift. And restaurants will have to withhold federal income, Social Security and Medicare taxes on that money, too.

What it means for the diner is that those automatic 18% gratuity charges on tables of 6 or more may well be a thing of the past. The addition has been added onto large parties to ensure that servers are paid for catering to a large group.

That doesn’t mean you should use this an excuse to start stiffing people. Remember, the minimum wage laws here in the states for tipped workers is still at a shocking $2.13 an hour. And, as evidenced by this video, a few extra bucks means a lot to the service workers of America.

What surprises me — actually it doesn’t surprise me — is how much this stuff is going to hit the middle and working classes. Cycling taxes, insurance taxes, tip taxes — these will hit hardest on young people, the working poor and the middle class. This is a running theme in Obama’s America: the plebs get screwed; the elites pat themselves on the back for caring so much. Even when the elites do bad things, they are never punished for their misdeeds, not to the extent the rest of us would be for smoking a joint or chewing a pop-tart into the shape of a gun. It’s enough to make you think the system is broken beyond repair.

Enjoy your new taxes.

Here Comes the Rain Again

Uhhh, wut?

On the heels of Maryland’s decision to enact tough new gun laws, the ironically nicknamed state (the “Free State”) will now impose a so-called “rain tax” on its residents.

The “storm management fee,” passed by the state legislature in 2012, will go into effect following a decree from Democrat Gov. Martin O’Malley.

“Fees will be calculated on the surface area of properties as the theory is that roofs, driveways and carparks create more potential for drainage problems and water contamination,” Metro explains. “Councils are supposed to determine how much to charge per square foot, but the fee depends on the size of the building and surrounding paved surfaces.”

So here’s the deal. The EPA gave Maryland an unfunded mandate to reduce runoff into the Chesapeake. The state then passed that on to the counties. The counties are now using this an excuse to raise taxes. Only…

And how does the state plan to spend these new tax dollars? It’s unclear:

The state law is kind of squishy. It can be spent to build and maintain stream and wetland restoration projects. And, of course, a lot of it will go to “monitoring, inspection, enforcement, review of stormwater management plans and permit applications and mapping of impervious surfaces.” In other words, hiring more bureaucrats to administer the rain tax program.

It can also be spent on “public education and outreach” (whatever that means) and on “grants to nonprofit organizations” (i.e. to the greenies who pushed the tax through the various levels of government).

In other words, it’s just going to be another tax. It will fund some cleanup, yes. And the Chesapeake does actually need the help (I know crab fisherman on the basin who’ve been having problems). But it will also fund anything else the state or county thinks is worth it.

Money if fungible. Taxes are fungible. In the end, all taxes go into a big pile. And after our leader are finished rolling around naked in it, they are free to spend it on whatever they like.

(About that Maryland gun law. In addition to banning 10-round magazines and “assault weapons”, it requires a license to buy a handgun, complete with a fingerprint requirement. The NRA is going to court and I think it’s unlikely that the Court will uphold this.)

O’Malley, incidentally, is being touted as a 2016 Presidential Candidate. His qualification, according to the pundits, is his unabashed liberalism. He has raised taxes and spending, restricted guns, banned the death penalty and supports same-sex marriage. He is doing what liberals wish the President would: just ignoring the small Republican minority (made easier by recent gerrymandering). Here’s a quote from him that will put a tingle up every liberal leg out there:

“I think we’ve been on a 30-year detour since Reagan’s time. And frankly, sometimes the Democratic Party’s been complicit in slinging this crack, that somehow the answer to every problem is to do less; that somehow, if the wealthiest among us pay less and less in taxes, that somehow jobs are going to sprout up all over the prairie,” O’Malley told POLITICO.

That 30 year detour, incidentally, included one of the biggest and most sustained economic booms in history until Bush and Obama messed it up. But yes, let’s go back to the “good old days” of double digit inflation and double digit unemployment and … oh, wait, we’re already there, aren’t we?

Of course, O’Malley’s actual achievements aren’t very good. He was a lousy mayor of Baltimore. That is, unless you consider expanding government an achievement in and of itself, which most Democrats do. When I lived in Baltimore, it was clear he was running for governor the whole time and taking credit for Baltimore getting better because it simply couldn’t get any worse. Under him, Maryland has become one of the least free states in the union and one of worst business environments. And while unemployment has fallen in Maryland, it has not fallen nearly as fast as the rest of the country, basically remaining unchanged for the last two years. The proximity of Washington has generally kept unemployment rates low in Maryland (mid 3’s before the recession). So today’s 6.6% isn’t as hot as it sounds.

But, hey! He passed the gun law Obama wants and hates small government. So … O’Malley 2016!

The $40 Million Albatross

I tweeted about this a couple of days ago, but the more I think about it, the more I see it as the perfect confluence of government stupidity:

Heirs to important art collections are often subject to large tax bills. In this case, the beneficiaries, Nina Sundell and Antonio Homem, have paid $471 million in federal and state estate taxes related to Mrs. Sonnabend’s roughly $1 billion art collection, which included works by Modern masters from Jasper Johns to Andy Warhol. The children have already sold off a large part of it, approximately $600 million worth, to pay the taxes they owed, according to their lawyer, Ralph E. Lerner.

I want you to stop for a moment and think about that. An art collection was busted up because of our wonderful glorious inheritance tax. Keep in mind, there are many countries — Australia, Switzerland, Canada, Sweden (!!) — that either don’t have an inheritance tax or have abolished it. As I noted in the Sunday Six-Pack thread, my Australian bankers were surprised that the US still had one.

Now that alone would make for an annoying story. But it gets better. One work is literally impossible to sell.

The object under discussion is “Canyon,” a masterwork of 20th-century art created by Robert Rauschenberg that Mrs. Sonnabend’s children inherited when she died in 2007.

Because the work, a sculptural combine, includes a stuffed bald eagle, a bird under federal protection, the heirs would be committing a felony if they ever tried to sell it. So their appraisers have valued the work at zero.

But the Internal Revenue Service takes a different view. It has appraised “Canyon” at $65 million and is demanding that the owners pay $29.2 million in taxes.

Plus $11 million in fines for trying rip the IRS off.

Look, this is not rocket science. If you literally can not sell something, the value of it is, by definition, $0. I may think my Dale Murphy baseball card is worth a million dollars. But the real value is whatever people are willing (and legally able) to pay for it. This is not a situation like, say, drug dealers, where the IRS wants a cut of an illegal activity that has already taken place. They want a cut of an activity that can never occur.

Even though they can’t legally do it, I’m hoping that the family will turn around and try to pay the tax bill by letting the IRS seize the sculpture. The resulting bureaucratic entanglement might tear a hole in the space-time continuum. But it would fun to watch the EPA and the IRS fight it out.

You Didn’t Build That

What is there to say about Obama’s factually challenged “you didn’t build that” diatribe this weekend that I didn’t say when Elizabeth Warren spewed the same gibberish, only more eloquently? What I said then is still true now:

When you count all income, including capital gains, which are Warren Buffet is on about, you find that the richest quintile are paying about 25.5% of their income in taxes and the richest 0.1% about 30%. That includes the corporate tax that applies before capital gains and stock income. That can be contrasted against the lower three quintiles who, including the payroll tax that funds their Social Security and Medicare, pay effective tax rates of 1.6-14.1%. That’s not including state and local taxes, which tend to be progressive.

So no, the goods were moved on roads that the rich paid for. The factories used workers whose educations the rich paid for. The rich didn’t have to worry about marauding bands because of the police and military that the rich paid for. And the real problem is that all this happened with no one paying for it, so we had to borrow and borrow and borrow.

More here.

Earlier this year, I said Obama was in reruns. Now he’s in Elizabeth Warren re-enactments. Wake me at debate time.

Bush’s Victory

A couple of days ago, George W. Bush pointed out — correctly at it happens — that if the Bush tax cuts were not called “the Bush tax cuts”, they wouldn’t be so controversial. Ezra Klein affirms, pointing out that the Democrats have basically conceded at least part of the issue.

Most of his tax cuts are, at this point, an almost foregone conclusion. No one is talking about taking the 10% bracket and raising it back to 15%. No one is talking about raising the 25% bracket back to 28%, or the 28% bracket back to 31%, or the 33% bracket back to 36%. And not only do both parties support the expanded child tax credit, but Democrats have expanded it further. The bulk of the Bush tax cuts are now a bipartisan affair.

To put it differently, Democrats have, for the most part, admitted that Bush was right, and the Clinton-era tax rates were too high on most Americans. For all that Democrats talk about returning to the Clinton-era tax rates, they only ever mean for the top two percent of taxpayers — the folks who are now in the 35% bracket, but whom they would like to see in a 39.6% bracket.

Ezra has a higher opinion of the Democrats than I do. Klein, bless him, is serious about fiscal matters and believes that the Democrats are equally serious. I don’t. If the Democrats were really worried about debt, they would be talking about raising taxes for everyone else. They would certainly be up for ending or tapering the payroll tax holiday. Their support for tax hikes on the rich — whether wise or stupid — is motivated by politics, not budget math. They want to portray the Republicans as the party of the rich. That’s about as far as their thinking goes.

Look, I’ve said taxes are probably going to have to go up. We have an aging population, a mountain of debt and many obligations. But anyone who thinks about revenue seriously knows that you simply can’t close the deficit on the backs of the rich. Returning to Clinton-era taxation levels for only the rich would net a trillion or a little less: not nothing, but not enough. Hell, you could take all their money and you still wouldn’t get there. Even the so-called Buffet Rule would only bring in a few billion a year.

This is not about revenue or debt. Reagan, who raised taxes in combination with reform, was serious about debt. Bush and Clinton, who raised taxes on everyone and cut spending (eventually) were serious about debt. Simpson-Bowles, which contemplates tax increases in combination with reform, is serious about debt. The modern day Democratic proposals are showmanship. They are partisanship. They are, and I hate to resort to cliche, class warfare.

The Democrats are simply showing how unserious they are about our deficit. Let’s not pretend there’s any thought behind it.

The Laffer Curve Strike Britain

Who knew?

The Treasury received £10.35 billion in income tax payments from those paying by self-assessment last month, a drop of £509 million compared with January 2011. Most other taxes produced higher revenues over the same period.

Senior sources said that the first official figures indicated that there had been “manoeuvring” by well-off Britons to avoid the new higher rate. The figures will add to pressure on the Coalition to drop the levy amid fears it is forcing entrepreneurs to relocate abroad.

The self-assessment returns from January, when most income tax is paid by the better-off, have been eagerly awaited by the Treasury and government ministers as they provide the first evidence of the success, or failure, of the 50p rate. It is the first year following the introduction of the 50p rate which had been expected to boost tax revenues from self-assessment by more than £1billion.

It’s called the Laffer Curve, gentlemen. You can raise taxes on the rich only up to a certain point, at which point tax avoidance begins to eat into revenues. Where that point is a subject of debate (no economist worth his salt would claim the turnover in revenue does not exist). It’s difficult to compare American and British rates since the effective rate is different, owing to differences in loopholes, deductions, etc. But clearly, Cameron has gone too far.

(Note the poll, which shows overwhelming opposition to the 50% rate. Granted, it’s the Telegraph — the paper of the people who think Britain is run by another country. And every right wing blog has been linking the story. Still … damn.)

You can’t balance budgets entirely off the rich, not even in Britain. Revenues are part of the equation. But in the end, you need a broad tax base and spending restraint.

A Tale of Two Taxes

I just tweeted this thought but wanted to elaborate here. I’ve noticed a dichotomy in how the Left talks about tax cuts.

With the Bush tax cuts, allowing them to end is simply “ending tax cuts for the wealthy”. It’s portrayed as the government ceasing to give something away. However, with the Obama payroll tax cut, allowing it to expire constitutes “raising taxes on the middle class” — i.e., taking something away. The policy is identical — a temporary tax cut is allowed to end. However, the rhetoric changes dramatically. Raising taxes on the wealthy is taking back what’s ours; raising them on the middle class is stealing what’s theirs.

This is a big reason why I think the payroll tax cut should simply be allowed to expire. Otherwise, we will hear this shit every damned year until the taxes are permanently fixed below sustainability. The more people get used to payroll taxes that are too low to support Medicare and Social Security, the harder it will be to put them back at the level they need to be.

Moreover, keeping the payroll tax low will hamstring efforts to cut entitlement spending. I have long argued that the “starve the beast” tactic exploded in our faces. The idea of Starve the Beast was that Congress should cut taxes first. Spending cuts would then magically appear because Congress wouldn’t allow the debt to explode. What we discovered, instead, was that Congress would allow the debt to explode, no problem. And spending cuts don’t just happen. They have to be implemented by … Congress. Starve the Beast was Congress trying to punt the ball to itself.

But the more insidious effect of Starve the Beast is that it has sapped the public’s will to cut spending. Because we are only paying $0.60 or every dollar of government (and most of us are paying far less than that), government seems like a good deal. Huge oceans of spending cause us no pain whatsoever because taxes are never raised to cover them.

If we keep the cut in payroll taxes, the public will feel less pressure to cut the entitlements those taxes supposedly pay for. End them.

Warren, Tax Dodge

A common tenet of finance is that rich people are rich because they don’t spend money frivolously. What I learned from this book was that amassing great gobs of cash involves not just industry, a great deal of thrift is involved, such as applying a strangle hold on that fortune. One way of bulking up your fortunes is to never share it with the government, something Warren Buffett has down to a science:

This one’s truly, uh … rich: Billionaire Warren Buffett says folks like him should have to pay more taxes — but it turns out his firm, Berkshire Hathaway, hasn’t paid what it’s already owed for years.

That’s right: As Americans for Limited Government President Bill Wilson notes, the company openly admits that it owes back taxes since as long ago as 2002.

“We anticipate that we will resolve all adjustments proposed by the US Internal Revenue Service (“IRS”) for the 2002 through 2004 tax years … within the next 12 months,” the firm’s annual report says.

It also cites outstanding tax issues for 2005 through 2009.

Obvious question: If Buffett really thinks he and his “mega-rich friends” should pay higher taxes, why doesn’t his firm fork over what it already owes under current rates?

Good question, is this another example of those sanctimonious progressives wagging their finger at us with a ,”Do as I say, not as I do”? Much like Al Gore calling every AGW skeptic a racist all the while producing his own carbon footprint the size of Montana, Warren runs fast and loose with his tax policy advice to the president, how about the IRS goes after these rich hypocrite tax dodges, that’s got to be good for a few billions.

Tapping the rich/propagating class warfare is such a tired old meme, you would hope that Obama would come up with something new for 2012, but it has paid dividends before, and with even more people less wealthy then when he started his pilgrimage of wealth distribution, it will still play.

Fact is, unlike most other folks, Warren Buffett gets most of his income from dividends and capital gains, which are nominally taxed at 15 percent.

Yep, we have already discussed that here. The only people that can afford to live on dividends and cap gains are those wealthy enough to have amassed stock holdings capable of throwing off large sums of cash, hardly the same thing as earning a salary with a real job.

There’s more. Obama, and co-conspirators like Buffett, claim to want to slap only “millionaires and billionaires.”

But in 2009, for instance, fewer than a quarter-million taxpayers (less than two tenths of 1 percent) reported income over $1 million — and their combined bill was less than $200 billion.

Raise the top tax rate on them by 13 percent, as Obama wants (from 35 percent to 39.6 percent) and you bring in only another $26 billion, tops — and that’s if your tax hike doesn’t stifle the economy and kill jobs (which it surely would). Yet what’s $26 billion in a world of $4 trillion federal budgets with trillion-dollar-plus deficits?

That’s why that whole ,”Make rich people pay their fair share”, is such bullshit, you can’t get there from here, it won’t be nearly enough and is piddling for any real deficit reduction.

But don’t think America is the only place with big mouth well-heeled leaders of industry bent on offering themselves up on the alter of fairness:

The move follows an open letter by 16 executives and wealthy French, including Europe’s richest woman, L’Oreal heiress Liliane Bettencourt, who offered to pay a “special contribution” in a spirit of “solidarity” because they had benefited from the French system.

So, pay up madem, by all means, if you feel so called, write that check, oh, you want other rich people to follow suit? How presumptuous.