Hollande's troubles: The French president has a hypocrisy problem

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The French have turned on President Francois Hollande not even a year after having elected him to office for a five-year term with a majority in parliament for his Socialist Party.

His popularity rating stands in the 27 to 29 percent range with French media and others saying they don't know what he can do to regain the people's confidence.

One issue he can't seem to shake is characterized as his government's hypocrisy. France, like the rest of Europe, is suffering from recession. Mr. Hollande's prescription is government spending cuts and tax increases. One idea he had, which the French courts struck down, was raising taxes to 75 percent on people earning over $1.3 million a year. He has also pledged to crack down on tax cheats.

While Mr. Hollande advanced those ideas, his former budget minister, Jerome Cahuzac, was found to have had secret bank accounts in Switzerland and Singapore. Mr. Cahuzac had also lied about them to Mr. Hollande -- he says -- and the parliament. Next, the co-treasurer of Mr. Hollande's 2012 presidential campaign, Jean-Jacques Augier, was discovered to have money in two Cayman Island funds, not illegal per se but clearly a form of tax evasion. Mr. Hollande says he doesn't know anything about that either. Mr. Cahuzac has already had a preliminary indictment for tax fraud returned against him.

The bottom line is that France, like most of Europe, is in a serious economic slump, with no obvious way out -- or at least none put forward by Mr. Hollande that are acceptable to the French. Two of the country's major banks, BNP Paribas and Credit Agricole, have been helping rich individuals move their money into offshore "fiscal heavens," their term for offshore tax havens. Meanwhile, overall eurozone unemployment stands at 12 percent with France's only a little under that.

Against that background, Mr. Hollande's promise to "moralize political and economic life" in France enrages the French against him.



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