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Adieu, Suckers

From–if you’ll forgive the expression–the Huffington Post:

PARIS — Gerard Depardieu, one of France’s best-known actors, has chastised his country’s Socialist prime minister for insulting remarks over his decision to move to tax-friendly Belgium and said in an open letter published Sunday that he’s turning in his passport….

Depardieu, who turns 64 this month, said he has worked since the age of 14, first as a printer, and that in last 45 years he has paid (EURO)145 million ($190 million) in taxes.

“I hand over my passport to you and my social security card, which I have never used,” the letter said, referring to Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault.

Last week, Ayrault called Depardieu “pathetic” and “unpatriotic” for the actor’s decision to move to Nechin, a Belgian village barely a mile (1.6 kilometers) across the border from Lille in northern France. Nechin has drawn other high-earning French residents.

The letter drew quick reaction but little sympathy.

Culture Minister Aurelie Filippetti said she was “scandalized” by Depardieu’s decision to turn in his passport. “French citizenship, it’s an honor,” she said on BFM-TV. “It is rights and duties, too, among them to be able to pay taxes.”

President Francois Hollande plans to levy a 75 percent tax on revenue over (EURO)1 million to reduce France’s budget deficit and debt, and Filippetti said, “Gerard Depardieu is deserting the battle in the war against the crisis.”

For all his adult life, Depardieu has been forking over a huge share of his earnings to sustain the French welfare state–an amount that now totals almost two hundred million dollars. What have Hollande, Ayrault, and Filipetti paid in taxes? Is anyone in France even asking that question? Is there a single French newspaper or television channel that has raised the point? Is there no French version of Fox News or the New York Post?

Well, if French politicians wish to engage in an effusion of ingratitude, let me offer a couple of counterbalancing words of gratitude:

As American governments in locations from Washington to Sacramento to Springfield to Albany grow ever more openly and crassly rapacious, I am grateful to France–yes, grateful. Le beau pays has now proven that tax rates matter–and that even the very rich can finally have had enough.

I am also grateful to the likes of Fox News, the Wall Street Journal, and the New York Post. Even now, they provide something that as far as I can tell has vanished from French journalism altogether: the willingness to talk back.

As for M. Depardieu, the next time a reporter asks why he left France for Belgium, he might simply quote Noel Coward’s remark when the great playwright and actor left the United Kingdom for Switzerland:

“My boy, I’ve grown devoted to chocolates.”