Sixteen of France’s wealthiest people have pulled a Warren Buffett and asked to be taxed more in order to help pay for the nation’s growing debt.

Lead by Liliane Bettencourt, France’s richest woman and heiress to the L’Oreal cosmetics empire, the group said in an open letter in Le Nouvel Observateur:

“We are aware of the fact that we have benefited from a French model and a European environment which we are attached to and which we want to help preserve. This tax is not a solution in itself: It must be part of a wider reform of the tax system, encompassing spending as well as tax receipts.”

The group’s offer, however, comes across more like a PR stunt than Buffett’s sincere plea to tax the rich because of the simple fact that it’s not advocating for tax reform, but rather a “reasonable,” one-time levy to get past the current economic slump. –BF

The Wall Street Journal:

At a time when the government is asking everyone to show solidarity, we feel we must contribute,” Ms. Bettencourt and the other wealthy French said in an open letter published on the website of weekly magazine Le Nouvel Observateur. Among the others who signed are oil giant Total SA’s Chief Executive Christophe de Margerie, Société Générale CEO Frédéric Oudéa and Maurice Lévy, chairman of ad agency Publicis SA.

The call comes amid widespread recriminations against France’s wealthy that they benefit from the country’s generous welfare system but give little in return. In June, Prime Minister François Fillon said he was “shocked” by the “exorbitant” remuneration some companies paid to their top executives.

The message issued by the informal club of wealthy French could provide Mr. Sarkozy with an escape route from earlier fiscal promises.

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