PARIS -- The left revels in sex scandals involving preachy conservative moralists, but when members of the left get caught up in seedy financial scandals, so perverted and twisted is their relationship with money that the effect can be equally jaw-dropping and salacious.
Former French Budget Minister Jerome Cahuzac, who left his Socialist government post earlier this year amid allegations of a secret Swiss bank account, now faces a formal investigation for allegedly laundering the proceeds of tax evasion.
This would be less of a big deal if Cahuzac himself hadn't been one of the loudest supporters of French President Francois Hollande's plan to tax income above 1 million euros at a 75 percent rate. After the French Constitutional Council rejected the proposed measure in December as being unconstitutional, Cahuzac proclaimed to the media that it would be reworked and back on the table by fall. "That measure had the objective of encouraging a bit of prudence and decency in a certain, very rare, number of leaders," Cahuzac said.
Speaking of fall, could there have been a better setup for one? Cahuzac's biggest problem is that he tried to shoehorn himself into a socialist ideology with which his own life path was destined to come into conflict. His talents -- he was previously a cardiologist, then a plastic surgeon and hair-transplant specialist -- made him well-off. Why shouldn't he have been entitled to keep his earnings? Instead, Cahuzac decided to adopt the Socialist label that inherently stands for the notion that your own talent-driven wealth isn't yours to keep, but rather everyone else's to share regardless of merit. At some point, Cahuzac must have felt that he was getting a raw deal.
It's not difficult to understand the appeal of sending your hard-earned cash on a vacation to a place where it won't be put upon by oppressive taxation -- particularly when you're in France. You just have to look around to see all the ways in which the state can fritter away your earnings -- from propping up a bloated government bureaucracy and political class to paying universal health care for far too many chain smokers and unproductive beneficiaries of state generosity.
But rather than announce that he'd had an epiphany and had decided to leave the Socialist Party for the more free-market-friendly alternative, Cahuzac apparently decided to lead a fiscal double life. Worse, as budget minister, he spoke out in favor of increased wealth confiscation of productive citizens like himself.