PARIS -- As the conflict in Syria rages on, refugee migration into Europe continues. Most of the debate around the immigration crisis focuses on security. But there's another related issue receiving far less attention: Who's actually paying for the migrant wave?
No one seems to want to talk about the spiraling cost of mass migration here in Europe. The number of asylum seekers doubled to 1.2 million last year, according to Eurostat figures. Last year, Germany's Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung newspaper estimated that the annual refugee bill for German taxpayers would be 10 billion euros, which includes money for food, health care, language learning and a monthly allowance.
With France seeing itself as the home of human rights, perhaps it's just not cool for the French to ask questions about who's paying the costs of taking in a significant portion of the Middle Eastern population. But it's a critical question.
In an age of globalization where multinational corporations can move operations and assets around the world to minimize fiscal burden and maximize profits, and where many salaried employees have unions to protect them from burdensome impositions, who's left for the government treasury to exploit?
Left defenseless is the independent, self-employed worker. The French government seems to have no remorse about disproportionally milking the self-employed to fund a social welfare system that's increasingly under strain. Independent entrepreneurs are arguably the most fiscally abused segment of the French labor force, with a social security taxation rate that can be as high as 45 percent of net profits. It's among the highest taxation rates for independent workers in the world.
In the United States, the self-employed pay a tax rate of about 15 percent for U.S. Social Security and Medicare. Self-employed workers in the United Kingdom and Canada pay a social security tax rate of less than 10 percent.
Meanwhile, reimbursements for independent French workers who require outpatient medical care are negligible. And just try opting out of the national health care plan in favor of a private health insurance. You'd have a better chance of escaping a North Korean gulag.
France is a country of corporations and salaried employees -- the elites and the unions. The contempt for anyone daring to operate outside of that system is palpable, and it's reflected in their fiscal treatment. Most salaried French employees are only dinged 13 percent for social charges -- and for that price you also get unemployment benefits and an annual five weeks of paid leave. The self-employed get none of that for social taxes that are in some cases more than three times higher.
Despite shouldering a disproportionate share of the social burden, the 2.3 million independent workers in France are treated like a menace by politicians on both the right and left. Even center-right former French President Nicolas Sarkozy, currently waging a presidential primary campaign against other center-right opponents from the French Republican party, has scoffed at the rising tide of the independent labor force.
"Sometimes I hear broadcasts with very pompous people who say that tomorrow there will be no more wage labor, no more traditional trades," Sarkozy said in a speech last month to salaried employees of Groupe Holder in Lille. "There is a new world -- and good for the better new world -- but the old world will not die. ... I'm in favor of this new world, but with fair competition, not unfair (competition)."
Earlier this year, French Minister of Finance Michel Sapin bemoaned the need for job creation.
"For unemployment to drop, we need to create 100,000 jobs," Sapin said. "We're getting there."
Rather than vilifying independents, taxing them to death with "social charges" and generally talking about them like they're a threat to your wonderful socialist system, how about easing up on them and letting them assist you in creating some of those 100,000 jobs?
Because if France can't create new jobs, then some of the jobless will simply move to a country that offers a better chance of employment. And then France will have even greater difficulty paying for its social largesse.