France's Reckoning: Rich, Young Flee Welfare State
PARIS -- France's day of reckoning has arrived: Its wealthy, best and brightest are saying goodbye to a nation they believe doesn't want them to succeed or become affluent.
According to one poll in Le Point, half of all young adults in France would leave the country if they could because the future looks so bleak.
It's pretty tough to be successful in a nation where the president says he doesn't like rich people and where the taxes keep going higher and higher. Consequently, the wealthy have hit the exits, and an increasing number of business people say they've had enough.
French journalist Anne-Elisabeth Moutet drew a lot of fire from the French establishment and media for writing about the problem for the London Telegraph -- so much fire that the attacks on her became a story itself.
"The French have had it," Moutet told CBN News. "You've reached a state which is basically, 'I'm mad as h*** and I'm not going to take it anymore. '"
"It's the rich, the entrepreneurs, and the young who say, 'If I can, I will leave. If I speak a foreign language, I will leave. If I can go and create something somewhere else, I will leave,'" she explained.
France still suffers from a toxic Marxist heritage. The French Left hates what it calls "Anglo-Saxon capitalism."
As a result, France today is trapped by a welfare state that it is both addicted to and can no longer afford, a welfare state where high taxes and stifling regulation are killing economic opportunity.
The most recent statistics available show 26,000 French families left in 2010, and 35,000 in 2011. London is now called the "sixth largest French city."
"The entrepreneurial young people, they're going to London," Paris economist Jacob Arfwedson said. "They're going to Asia; they're going to the United States because they want to achieve something that is not automatically taken away by a state that says, 'You have, therefore I take it.'"
Tax lawyer Jean-Philippe Delsol has heard so many complaints from his business clients over the years about the excessive taxes and regulations from the French state that he decided to compile them all in a book titled, Why I Am Going to Leave France.
"The problem in France is the level of taxes," Delsol said. "The kind of taxes is changing almost every day. It's too difficult to start a company, too difficult to hire people, too difficult to fire people."
Delsol's book claims that more than half of France's workforce is living off the state, either in a government job or on welfare.
Trying to stave off economic disaster, socialist President Francois Hollande, the man who once said he doesn't like rich people, invited the executives of 30 leading companies to Elysee Palace on Feb. 17 in an effort to lure them to invest in France.
But for foreign businesses, warning signs abound.
French union workers have a habit of kidnapping their bosses when their demands aren't met. It happened again last month at the Goodyear tire plant in Amiens, which the automotive giant wants to close.
When France's industrial minister tried to get Goodyear to reconsider closing the plant, American CEO Maurice Taylor, with Titan International, asked in a leaked letter -- and in language that shocked the French -- "How stupid do you think we are?"
"I have visited the factory a couple of times. The French workforce gets paid high wages but works only three hours. They get one hour for breaks and lunch, talk for three, and work for three. They told me, 'That's the French way,'" he charged.
A Nation in Denial
Make no mistake, there are still plenty of talented and hardworking Frenchmen, many of them frustrated with the system.
But Moutet said the political establishment and media would rather live in denial or stigmatize those who are leaving rather than face up to France's problems, which are deep.
Moutet said French news coverage of the exodus has "an overlay of, 'These are bad French people, they're traitors. They're going abroad. We don't want them.'"
When France's richest man, Bernard Arnault, announced he was leaving over France's new 75 percent super tax on the rich, he got the journalistic equivalent of a kick out the door.
"The full headline in [the Leftist newspaper] Liberation was, 'Get lost, you rich b***d,'" Moutet recalled. "In this country the general attitude in the media, on television, etc., is that bosses are wrong, companies are wrong, and creating business is dubious at best and dishonest at worst."
France is being battered by both a brain drain and capital flight and risks becoming one of the poorer nations in Western Europe.
Meanwhile, Delsol has a warning for Americans, saying the United States is following in the steps of France, with Obamacare and an exploding welfare state that will be unsustainable.
The French can teach the Americans a thing or two about the trap of the welfare state and how hard it is to escape.