Wednesday, April 10, 2013

The Transparency Circus

For once I agree with Jean-Luc Mélenchon. On France2 last night, he denounced the current rush by deputies to publish their balance sheets as un attrape-nigaud. Without controls, without investigative authority, without specific sanctions for prevaricating, anyone can declare anything and get away with it. Jérôme Cahuzac could have listed his "patrimony" as consisting of a modest apartment and a tiny bank account, and no one would have been the wiser (except that the address of his apartment might have suggested a different valuation). The absence of a Swiss bank account could not have been verified.

The president has now announced measures to establish some legal parameters for these disclosures, but the whole project leaves me uneasy. As several deputies have alleged (mainly on the right, to be sure), it suggests an animus against wealth itself. This is foolish. As Le Monde points out, a deputy's pay already puts him or her in the top decile of French earners. A minister's salary is even higher, and there are the perks of office. So these poormouthing declarations are scarcely believable. Am I supposed to be reassured that one deputy lists his wealth as consisting of a small apartment and a bank account of 5,000 euros on a salary of 7,000 euros a month? Shouldn't I question his poor money-management skills? Where did it all go? Is he keeping a mistress or drinking his income? Should I trust such a man with the management of the nation's finances when he can't seem to put any money of his own aside? These aren't the questions we ought to be asking of candidates.

Hollande Will Get a Replacement Camel

All is well with the Republic. The Malian authorities have let it be known that they will replace the camel given to François Hollande and left in the custody of a Malian family, which apparently misunderstood the terms of custody and ate the presidential camel.

Austerity: The Battle in France Intensifies

Christian Noyer, the governor of the Banque de France, insists that the government must cut expenditures by 40 billion euros over the next two years. Meanwhile, two other ministers, Hamon and Duflot, have joined Montebourg in challenging the wisdom of Hollande's austerity policy.