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ORIGINAL FRENCH ARTICLE: Taxe Tobin : les convictions à géométrie variable de Sarkozy

by Dominique Bègles

Tobin Tax: Sarkozy’s Shifting Convictions

Translated Saturday 11 February 2012, by Gene Zbikowski and reviewed by Gene Zbikowski

The French president has mounted, as if it were a hobby-horse, an old progressive demand, after having opposed the left-dominated Senate’s tabling it last November.

Why back the Tobin tax? “Because we believe in it.” That’s what Sarkozy – who is running for re-election – now claims, at the end of a five-year term during which he has done his level best to oppose the tax on financial transactions. And did his opposition start in 2007, when he became President? In reality, it started much earlier. But now, 100 days before the first round in the presidential elections, it’s an urgent question – because of the elections, of course.

Sarkozy switched sides last Friday (January 6, 2012) at a conference. His little scheme is not difficult to unravel. The rich man’s president, who did not abolish the raft of new tax measures but did eliminate the wealth tax, has realized that he will have a hard time getting re-elected if he runs on his record. He therefore has to talk a lot of hot air. He shifts to the right, and proposes raising the anti-social value added tax. He shifts to the left, and it’s the Tobin tax. For the latter measure, he has smoothed out his captain-in-a-storm uniform and has begun lecturing the rest of the world. “We shall not wait for everyone to agree before enacting it,” he proclaimed, “France must set an example.” He is setting a trap in French domestic politics – if the left-wing opposition refuses to vote a Tobin tax law and instead condemns an obvious electoral maneuver, it will prove the left’s inconsistency…

And yet, on November 21, 2011, when the left-dominated French Senate proposed adopting the tax, the French president sent in his lancers to oppose it. “France cannot legislate alone,” they muttered, alluding to the economic crisis, “it would harm the position of Paris as a center of finance.”

Proof of Sarkozy’s two-bit electoral maneuvering: On June 7, 1999 the tetchy future president snarled to Robert Hue, the then-national secretary of the French Communist Party who was defending the principle, that “this business about the Tobin tax is absurd. You don’t realize that the world has changed, it has shrunk to a village.” In every village, Sarkozy sounds a different note.

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