Glass Warfare

by Patrick Brennan

As Veronique de Rugy has covered in this space, France’s new Socialist government has levied an incredible list of new and higher taxes in order to try to close their budget deficit (for which Moody’s rewarded them with a downgrade). Some are more important than others, but some of the most narrowly circumscribed taxes have come in for the greatest increases: Most famously, the French senate recently approved a fourfold increase in the taxes on palm oil, a key ingredient in the popular hazelnut spread Nutella. Now, the New York Times reports on a new onerous sin tax: a 160 percent increase in the levy on beer:

“The increase is brutal; 160 percent is a lot,” said Mr. Thillou, 36, who prides himself on promoting French microbreweries. On a barrel near the entrance, a pile of fliers that say “+160% taxes on beer: Who is going to pay the price?” shows what he thinks of the government’s latest plan for raising revenue.

It is not just the tax increase — which would raise prices by 25 to 40 cents per bottle — that has him upset. “I am shocked that beer is the only target,” he said. “I am shocked that other alcohol producers aren’t affected.”

The increase in the beer tax is expected to generate an additional $625 million.

The social security budget, which is in the final stages of the legislative process, also includes heavier taxes on tobacco and new ones on energy drinks. . . .

Laurent Lutse, president of the cafe, bar and nightclub branch of France’s main food and hotel union, said that beer represents 25 percent of sales in 80,000 member companies and worried that a tax increase would accelerate the decline of such establishments. “In France in 1960 there were still 200,000 bistros,” Mr. Lutse said. “There are fewer than 35,000 left, which means there are fewer bistros than there are church towers.”

Despite the complaints, the tax increase is expected to pass in the Socialist-dominated National Assembly.

Many opponents of the bill suggested that wine was exempted because the industry has greater political clout, given that it is one of the country’s top three exporters and employs 250,000 people. Wine is currently taxed around the same rate as beer, per hectoliter, but unlike the rates for beer, its rates do not increase with the degrees of alcohol.

Meanwhile, the French government is sending some government funds to . . . Syria’s Islamist-dominated rebels, one faction of which has threatened to bomb bars and restaurants that serve alcohol. This is the kind of behavior you get, of course, from a “secular atheist country dominated by radical Islamists” — don’t let it happen here!

The Corner

The one and only.