“Back to school budget tallies at 11 billion euros,” leads French financial daily La Tribune, following the government’s unveiling of its 2012 austerity plan. Tax hikes account for 10 billion euros and cutbacks for the rest. “The wealthy are targeted but so are businesses, investors and consumers,” sums up the paper. The plan “has two purposes: to reassure the markets in the midst of the financial crisis by showing that the government [...] will seek the receipts necessary to bring down the debt”. The second purpose, La Tribune notes, is to “show that it’s time for solidarity in facing France’s financial difficulties, not really time to encourage the wealthy to become wealthier”.

Quite the reverse, in fact. Sixteen of France’s largest fortunes, including Liliane Bettencourt (L’Oréal) and Christophe de Margerie (Total), published a petition on August 23 in Parisian weekly Le Nouvel Observateur, calling on the government to increase their taxes so they could help to reduce the debt. “It’s amusing to note that the same people who were threatening fiscal exile are today pleading for higher taxes,” points out La Tribune in an editorial. “This tax [3% on revenue above 500,000 euros levied for two years] remains symbolic as it will only account for 200 million euros out of the total 11 billion of the plan”.