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Now we know. Patriotism isn’t the last refuge of a scoundrel, Russia is.
Imagine that. Imagine abandoning the country that took you from poverty to wealth and fame — not for a great cause, or the love of a woman with the eyes of Charlotte Rampling and the noble bearing of Aung San Suu Kyi — in a snit over an increase in your marginal tax rate.
And for Russia, no less. It beggars belief.
Depardieu, 64, is incensed by French President François Hollande’s continuing attempt to raise tax rates on the top .01 per cent of taxpayers to 75 per cent during the worst financial crisis Europe has seen since bombs levelled much of it during World War II.
Well, no. Hollande’s assumption is that life in France is astoundingly good — especially for wealthy white male citizens — and you’d be mad to abandon the place, especially for the grubby shooting range plagued by oligarchs that is modern-day Moscow.
What about Russia appeals to Depardieu? It is “a great democracy,” Depardieu said.
“I love your country, Russia,” he wrote in an open letter to a nation preoccupied with a new century of degradation, a nation that might as well rename itself Collapsica. “I love its people, its history, its writers. I love your culture, your intelligence.”
It has a nice line in lung-cramping pollution, Putin-led Stalin cults, overcrowded orphanages of uncuddled underfed infants, distant hideous prisons for Pussy Riot, an economy based on a vanishing oil industry, a century of human torment on which Putin is closing the archives, a media dispersed by assassination and a population of desperate young women who regularly email me at the Star in broken English for “the lovely sexing and friendship in place of Canadas.”
But here’s the key. Russia has a flat 13-per-cent tax rate.
France made Depardieu rich and portly with pleasure. The man who now looks like an enlarged liver has made almost 200 films, the Telegraph reports, only one of which, Green Card, I have seen. It amused me on an airplane in 1990.
Depardieu recently urinated on the carpet on an Air France flight in front of passengers. “Je veux pisser,” he was heard to say during takeoff. He blamed prostate problems. His companion said he gave the actor one of those mini-Evian bottles to pee in, but it was not up to the task.
But is it? If the reward of fame is huge amounts of money that permit you to own chateaux and vineyards, to marry a series of stunningly beautiful and clever women who give birth to a stable of gorgeous children who presumably aren’t signing up for school in Grozny to be with their father, what is its price? A few percentage points in taxation to help the newly unemployed?
The phrase “13-per-cent flat tax” whispers in the ear of France’s arrogant rich. It sounds like an age of consent for money. “Only 13.”
Conrad Black, forever suffering from status anxiety and now a convicted felon, dumped his Canadian citizenship to so he could stick a British “Lord” in front of his name. He traded the land of his birth for an ermine outfit. Rupert Murdoch gave up Australian citizenship to fail at being a New York newspaper mogul.
Now Black yearns for kindly Canada. Murdoch babbles before the Leveson inquiry about being “humble” like some kind of jowly Uriah Heep. Depardieu will soon be longing to pee on French carpets once more.
Is it ever worth it? I can’t think of anything that would make me give up on Canada, this stark cold land o’ mine. Oh, I’d want to if Stephen Harper brought back the death penalty, but better to stay and fight.
Were I offered an underage tax rate by my current favourite country, Denmark, I’d say no.
Taxes make a country liveable, even admirable. I’m dreaming of the day when I make enough money to have most of it deducted at source. It is the price of decency.