Monday, August 8, 2011

Enemies Lists

The "enemies list" is the last refuge of a scoundrel. Richard Nixon had one. Thierry Mariani has two, and they are symmetrical: one for "the cheats at the bottom," the other for "the cheats at the top." The former, as befits a leader of the so-called "droite populaire," consists of people Mariani calls "welfare chiselers," people whom he claims are "illegally collecting the RSA in more than one département." Are there many such people? Is this a major problem in today's France? Well, of course, the answer is, "We don't know, because we don't have a list." But we will have one. Because Xavier Bertrand agrees with Mariani that such an instrument is needed. Why, it's almost as if "la droite populaire"--the UMP's own internal national front--and "la droite classique" (or perhaps we should call it "la droite impopulaire") were in cahoots to raise the specter of "the welfare cheat" as a presidential election approaches.

Of course it would be unkind to suggest any sort of desire on the part of the UMP to stigmatize welfare recipients by associating them with the idea of fraud. Mariani's initiative and Bertrand's positive response thus have nothing to do, of course, with Laurent Wauquiez's more abstract and philosophical attack on the very concept of what he so delicately called l'assistanat. And lest you suspect that there's any sort of racial bias underlying Mariani's crusade against the chiseling but resourceful poor--resourceful enough to collect the RSA in more than one département, which, given the hassles of dealing with the French bureaucracy, must require a fair amount of patience--he goes after the cheats at the top as well, those who are earning "very high financial incomes." Make no mistake, however: these greedy financiers are not to be confused with "entrepreneurs, who help the country to progress." The former must have the tax collector's screws applied, while the latter deserve every possible break to alleviate the burden of creating jobs.

Governing is so simple when you know how to choose your enemies with such unerring precision.

1 comment:

Kirk said...

Regarding fraud, this is merely anecdotal, but I think it says a lot.

I had to see a specialist at a hospital in Lyon last week. I had never been to that hospital before, and to sign in, I was required to provide photo ID, as well as the usual health care card and papers. I asked why, saying I had never seen such a request at the hospitals in my rural department, and the person very politely told me that fraud was very common before they asked for IDs. People would "borrow" health care cards (the carte vitale) belonging to others to get medical care.

Now, it's fair to say that such people were obviously the uninsured, whether legal or illegal, but if they instiituted such a policy, there must have been enough cases of fraud that they were aware of to lead them to ask for such papers.