Anchor Lisa Mullins talks to Pierre Haski, co-founder of the French political analysis website, Rue89 (Fr), about one of his reporters who recently tried to make a personal contribution to the French government to help it pay off the public debt.
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Lisa Mullins: You know what they say, “Everybody talks about the debt but nobody does anything about it.” Well suppose you want to do something about it? Suppose you want to pitch in and donate a little bit of money to help your country pay off its debt? Turns out it’s not all that easy, at least, not in France. The French news website Rue89 found that out the hard way. One of the website’s journalists called up tax collectors to ask them if they would accept some money to help pay down the debt. Pierre Haski is co-founder of Rue89. Can you tell us what happened when your reporter tried to make a personal donation to the French Government?
Pierre Haski: Well she found people who didn’t believe her, who thought she was just pulling their leg and making a joke. Actually, our reporter had been told by a former Budget Minister that it was legally possible to make a donation to the French Budget, so she knew it was possible. But she went all the way up to the Finance Ministry to find people who didn’t believe her. She had to give them the reference to the Law and then she had a Tax Inspector calling her back and say, “You’re right, but no one is going to do it.”
Mullins: [Laughs] So keep your check to yourself; thanks anyway. Now, here in the United States, there is a website where you can make a donation to pay off the Public Debt. Why do you think it was that no one was really interested in taking her check there, because you do have more than 2 trillion debt in France?
Haski: I think there are two things. First of all, it’s very complicated if you really want to make a donation. And secondly, there are many other ways to give money in a way and, you know, making donations to museums or to foundations. And that’s what most people who want to lower the taxes, actually, would use to make donations. But, more generally, I think people here would more complain about the level of the tax revenue than be in a mood to give more money to the government. I think that’s why this law which has been in force for more than 30 years has probably never been used and there’s certainly not enough to be known by civil servants at the tax department or even officials at the Finance Ministry.
Mullins: So there’s no big clamor among French citizens to stand in line and donate to the government to reduce its debt. How much was your reporter, Zineb Dryef, trying to donate?
Haski: Well, she never reached that stage actually, where she was asked any figure because people didn’t believe her motivations were genuine. But, one has to point out that this comes at a time when the Government is looking for about US$15 billion of reduction of the budget deficit, and announcements are going to be made next week. There is an echo here to the claim by Warren Buffet that rich people should be taxed more, and some wealthy French people have come out and said they were ready to pay more taxes. So there is hope on that front.
Mullins: So bottom line, was she ever able to make a contribution to the French Government?
Haski: No, and to be frank, I’m not sure her salary allows her to make such a big contribution that our budget deficit would be affected.
Mullins: [Laughs] Pierre Haski, co-founder of the French political analysis website, Rue89, thank you.
Haski: Thank you.
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