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Jewish World Review
May 15, 2012/ 23 Iyar, 5772
Ah, to be French
In the face of high taxes, high unemployment, poor economic growth, massive government spending and powerful public-sector unions that are gobbling up tax dough, the French people just voted against austerity measures to get their finances in order.
President Nicolas Sarkozy, a conservative, was defeated by Socialist Francois Hollande, who promises to hire more government employees and increase the tax rate for "the rich" to 75 percent.
I'm just an English major, but even I know it sounds too good to be true -- and therefore, probably is. The only way France can meet its massive financial obligations is to unleash its private sector to produce growth that will increase tax revenues. But that would require real reform and a bit more austerity, so to heck with that.
Surely many French folks understand that increased spending cannot work, but I have to admire them for their pluck.
The truth be told, I am tired of being a fiscal conservative. I'm tired of having the freedom to rise or fall based on my own decisions and actions.
I'm tired of paying for my own health insurance, tired of worrying about bills and taxes and business insurance policies to protect against lawsuits in the event that somebody slips on a banana peel in front of a piece of ground I own.
The truth be told, a part of me has rooted for President Obama, the closest thing we've ever had to a French president.
I dreamed of free health insurance that somebody else would pay for. I'd be able to quit working so hard -- and worry so much less.
I dreamed of a powerful federal government that hired lots more federal workers. Could I attain such a job and the job security that goes with it? I would gladly give up the stress of having to satisfy communications clients endlessly to ensure they'll keep giving me work.
I dreamed that the president would use more taxpayer funds to support the arts. Might I get a massive financial grant that would allow me to cease working altogether, so I could work on the great American novel?
Or maybe America could provide generous unemployment benefits like France does, allowing me to live off the fruits of others' labors for a good long while.
Sure, I know France's socialist ways will be that country's undoing. I know that if France's new Socialist president actually carries out his plans, the French could face real economic collapse and be in for a world of hurt.
I know that America isn't that far behind France, where our financial situation is concerned. We cannot sustain our current spending unless our economy begins to undergo massive growth -- and that growth will not be possible without massive reforms to our tax system and entitlement spending. But Obama hasn't shown any interest in that.
Still, I dream of a government-mandated, stress-free existence.
I dream of enjoying several weeks of vacation, basking in the waters of some exotic location.
I dream of sitting around quaint cafes, sipping cognac and nodding approvingly as pretty women stroll by.
I dream of finally being able to relax, knowing that if anybody tries to take away my government job or vacation or generous unemployment benefits, millions of people, also on the government dole, will march into the streets in my defense.
Nice as it would be if America could be more French, even for a little while, I know it is just a dream.
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© 2012, Tom Purcell
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