Macron Denies He's President of the Rich in First TV Interview

Updated on
  • Says watering down wealth tax will keep successful in France
  • President plans initiative on more profit sharing in 2018

President Emmanuel Macron rejected the idea that he’s ruling for the rich during his first domestic television interview since taking office late Sunday.

In a broad-ranging, 74-minute television appearance with three journalists, the 39-year-old president defended his decision to water down France’s wealth tax, saying he wanted successful people to stay in the country.

“I don’t like this French jealousy of saying, ‘These people are rich, let’s tax them,’” he said in an interview on TF1. “For our society to succeed, we need people to succeed.” Previous attempts to tax the rich raised little money because people either left the country or used financial games to avoid them, he said.

Macron sits ahead of his first interview from the Elysee Palace on Oct. 15.

Photographer: Philippe Wojazer/AFP via Getty Images

Macron, whose party has a commanding majority in parliament, has been accused by unions and opposition parties of overly favoring the rich by cutting the wealth tax, levies on capital gains and corporate income taxes, while at the same time reducing subsidies for housing and some jobs. During his first five months in office, the president has also drawn fire for remarks that opponents have deemed insensitive, ranging from mentions of “the lazy” to people who were “nobodies.”

The president said he had been misunderstood. “I do not want any citizen to think that I don’t have the fullest respect for them,” he said. “I will continue to breathe the air, to exchange with our citizens, to say what I think.”

Of those who watched the full interview, 54 percent were “convinced,” according to a Harris poll for RMC Radio released Monday morning, but only 39 percent of those who watched only parts of the interview were convinced.

Discussion of his communications and style took up roughly the first 15 minutes of the interview, followed by questions about his economic policies.

Having issued a series of executive orders that will change French labor law by the end of the year, the government is now holding talks with unions and business groups to reform French unemployment insurance to push the jobless more toward job training. Once that’s accomplished, Macron said he wants talks in 2018 to consider ways to boost the sharing of corporate profits with employees.

Asked if his decision to water down the wealth tax meant he believes in “trickle down” theory, he said prefers to talk of a “cord” where the successful pull along the others.

“If we start by throwing stones by those pulling at the front of the cord, the whole line will fall apart,” Macron said.

Macron said it will take between 18 and 24 months to see the effects of his policies on job creation. Macron was elected in May and French presidents serve a five-year term. Asked if he intends to seek a second mandate in 2022, he avoided answering, leaving the possibility open.

“Yesterday I saw a president who fixes his course and doesn’t deviate,” Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire said on France Info radio Monday morning. “That’s a change.”

“It was just an exercise in style, because that’s what he’s good at, but not substance,” Roger Karoutchi, a Senator from the center-right Republicans opposition party said on LCI. “I thought that in over an hour we’d get more of his vision of France, because that’s what we need to know.”

Before Sunday’s broadcast, Macron had only given television interviews to foreign stations. Sunday’s interview was held at the Elysee presidential palace, but in a small room with modern art instead of the president’s grandiose office.

— With assistance by Vidya N Root

(Updates with poll in 6th paragraph; comments from Le Maire.)
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