The horizon is not so far as we can see, but as far as we can imagine

The Panama Papers Leak

You’ve probably read about it already. A Panamian law firm had its files leaked, and they reveal how rich people store money offshore to avoid taxes. In some cases legally, in some cases illegally, and, in pretty much all cases, unethically.

This is why we can’t have nice stuff: The rich simply don’t want to pay for a decent society. They just want to be filthy rich.

There are all sorts of additions to that, but that is the essence.

There is no such thing as a good society in which to live that is not relatively egalitarian. Of course, you can all be equal in poverty, but strangely enough, unless it’s desperate poverty, those people tend to be happy. Moving to the cities to get involved with China’s “economic miracle” meant an actual decrease in happiness. When the Chinese government tries to close traditional villages, the villagers often fight, and by that I don’t mean “protest,” I mean crack skulls and even, on occasion, actually fight the army and win.

Rich people caused the financial crisis, got bailed out, then insisted that poor people had to be punished for it.

If you want a good society, you keep the rich poor.

The other rule is that no one gets to opt out of anything which matters. The rich and powerful must use the same schools, airplanes, security, health care, roads, and military service as everyone else.

An absolutely fair draft, a medical system where better care cannot be bought by money or forced by power, where the children of the rich go to the same universities and schools as the poor will be a good society. A society where everyone uses public defenders chosen by lottery is a society with a fair justice system

Why? Because this forces the rich ensure that those schools, hospitals, and so on, work.  And no, your average billionaire is not subjecting his wife to a TSA porno scan and pat down. TSA agents only get to pull aside and molest hotties who aren’t part of the .1 percent.

One of the ways we will know that governments are finally serious about inequality is when they brutally crack down on tax evasion. It isn’t that hard to do, despite what everyone says. I’ve worked in a major financial institution; money going in and out of the country is examined, data is sent to authorities, etc. This stuff can be tracked easily, structuring is easy to detect, and a few criminal sentences (not fines) in high security prisons would make the point nicely.

If you make your money in country X, you pay taxes there. Money is a public utility. If you want to take it out of the country, the government acting for the people has the right to make that difficult, and indeed, tax it again or limit it.

Cyrptocurrencies like blockchain are, in part, a way for ordinary people to move money out of countries just like rich people do. This is a corrupt solution to a real problem: Our elites are corrupt, so we want to have the same right to be as corrupt as them–instead of insisting the corruption end.

There is no war but class war. The rich understand this, they have always understood it.

You keep the rich poor and weak, or they will eat you alive. Then they’ll kill you. The death toll from the 2008 financial collapse is in the millions, by any reasonable modeling of its consequences.

This is about your life, your death, and how well you live.

You should probably make it about the rich’s life, death, and how well they live.

Reasonable accommodations (a la Corbyn or Sanders) will be made. If they are not, unreasonable accommodations will be made. The rich will die or suffer in the same numbers as the poor.

But as a percentage, there just aren’t that many rich.

Too bad.

Update: Clinton supported the Panama free trade deal.

Here’s what Sanders said at the time:

Then, why would we be considering a stand-alone free trade agreement with this country?

Well, it turns out that Panama is a world leader when it comes to allowing wealthy Americans and large corporations to evade U.S. taxes by stashing their cash in off-shore tax havens.  And, the Panama Free Trade Agreement would make this bad situation much worse.

Each and every year, the wealthy and large corporations evade $100 billion in U.S. taxes through abusive and illegal offshore tax havens in Panama and other countries.

According to Citizens for Tax Justice, “A tax haven . . . has one of three characteristics: It has no income tax or a very low-rate income tax; it has bank secrecy laws; and it has a history of non-cooperation with other countries on exchanging information about tax matters.  Panama has all three of those. … They’re probably the worst.”

Mr. President, the trade agreement with Panama would effectively bar the U.S. from cracking down on illegal and abusive offshore tax havens in Panama.  In fact, combating tax haven abuse in Panama would be a violation of this free trade agreement, exposing the U.S. to fines from international authorities.

In 2008, the Government Accountability Office said that 17 of the 100 largest American companies were operating a total of 42 subsidiaries in Panama.  This free trade agreement would make it easier for the wealthy and large corporations to avoid paying U.S. taxes and it must be defeated.  At a time when we have a record-breaking $14.7 trillion national debt and an unsustainable federal deficit, the last thing that we should be doing is making it easier for the wealthiest people and most profitable corporations in this country to avoid paying their fair share in taxes by setting-up offshore tax havens in Panama.

Vote Clinton! She’ll make sure your job gets sent overseas and that the rich don’t pay tax.

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Will Capitalism Be Replaced By Something Better?


Slow Posting


  1. markfromireland

    A Panamian bank had its files leaked,

    Umm no.

    The Panama Papers are leak of 11.5m files from the database of Mossack Fonseca who are a Panamian law firm that until the leak (actually a theft) of those records was (in)famous as being one of the of the world’s biggest offshore law firms.

    The German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung acquired these records from an anonymous sourcce and shared them with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ).

    The ICIJ in turn shared a group of their partner organisations including the Guardian, the BBC, Le Monde.

  2. markfromireland

    The Guardian have a good FAQ here: What are the Panama Papers? A guide to history’s biggest data leak

  3. Cyrptocurrencies like blockchain are in part, a way for ordinary people to move money out of countries just like rich people do. This is a corrupt solution to a real problem: our elites are corrupt so we want to have the same right to be corrupt as them instead of insisting the corruption end.

    That’s the best explanation for the overall attraction of an abstruse, auto-deflating currency-as-ideology I’ve seen so far, outside of actual Randroids.

  4. Ian Welsh

    Sloppy, thanks, corrected.

    It’s a very rare leak that isn’t a theft. The question is whether it was justified. I think this one was.

  5. James A

    In a country where the American flag is ubiquitous, every politician sports a flag lapel pin, and chants of USA! USA! USA! could be confused for our national anthem, why isn’t this tax avoidance behavior–by citizens or corporations (e.g., inversion)–uniformly denounced by all freedom-loving, flag-waving Americans for the despicable, even traitorous act it is?

    Perhaps because most Americans hate their government and consider their own taxes oppressive? I know. There’s plenty of evidence to support the case that the government can be incompetent, but it’s interesting to note that when some corporation has fouled a stream or polluted a landfill the cry goes up for the government to come to the citizens’ defense, for it to punish the wrongdoers. If only the government were competent and vigilant, eh? But within limits, of course. Can’t have the government hamstringing job creators and slowing progress with their stupid rules, regulations, and requirements.

    Paying taxes that’ll be wasted? No thanks, they say. Good on ya if you can hide your assets from these bureaucratic boobs.

  6. V. Arnold

    I’m not a “gold bug”, however, with all the obfuscation across the globe involving currency bullshit; isn’t gold a good shelter for the common human? Gold can be bought in very small denominations as bar, coin, or ornament (jewelry). Jewelry is probably the least desirable of choices. I am speaking to physical possession; not paper crap!
    There is also silver; very cheap by comparison, but another historical store of value.
    There is so much crap, both pro and con, on this subject that one must look long and hard at today’s realities; only then can one make a considered judgement about the right course of action…

  7. anonymous coward

    @James A
    Indeed, bad government corrupts the people and makes a bad people. Bad people wish for more bad government – and so it goes. The vices of both parties breed more of the same in the people who vote for them.

  8. S Brennan

    “Vote Clinton, she’ll make sure your job gets sent overseas the rich don’t pay tax.”

    Agree, if the plutocrats masters of the RNC can rid themselves of Trump, they will gladly support Hillary, if not, they will gladly support Hillary. If the plutocrats masters of the DNC can rid themselves of Sanders they will be thanked greatly by the RNC’s masters. But if it’s Trump vs Sanders, the plutocrats have no where to go, the very same situation they put us in EVERY election.

    The elitists Democrats getting rank & file Democrats to fret endlessly about Trump, has been a boon in two ways, it takes away air time from any allegations thrown Hillary’s way, helping her defeat Sanders and it obscures her monstrous policies which led to serial disasters across the globe…making her appear to be the lessor of two evils…when, in fact, she the greatest evil we have faced.

    To those Hillary supporters that will now pop-up and declare that “you’ll see, Trump will make nice with the oligarchs and [insert some type of death camp or other Nazi reference here]. I’d point out that Trump has a history of not making nice with people who have eff’d him over, indeed, he bleeds them white, if he can. Now Hillary, she’s always found a way to make nice with the people who have eff’d her over…take Bill for example.

  9. S Brennan

    Oh, BTW, isn’t convenient we only get to see what corporate media allows, not the original files, the “trail” to Putin is pretty obscure, but the CIA wants us to push that, let’s put it front & center, the trail to Bill Gates…uhm…let’s leave that out.

  10. AlanSmithee

    I\’ll just leave this here:

    Remember, there\’s still time to vote for Bernie Sanders and Believe in the Change of Hope for Hope and Change you can Believe In!

  11. Shh

    On the whole I wouldn’t give a pre-tax farthing for anything out of this “leak” a.k.a. ruse. It is not news, and shouldn’t surprise anyone past 5th grade.

    markfromireland should note who funds the ICIJ – a laughable moniker if ever there were one. This whole spiel is a false flag operation. Cui bono?

    As to your remarks on civil society, participation and egalitarian links to happiness – absolutely. Should be self evident to anyone with the mental acuity of a Bonobo.

    Capitalism is, and always has been, a lie based on shitty assumptions that manifestly creates far greater harm than good. It is intrinsically antithetical to Democracy, which is why you don’t see any. In exactly the same way as there has never been a communist society.

    There are some pretty good reasons to blame the development of agrarian lifestyles for the debauchery of what may, or may not, have been more egalitarian models predating the rise of farming 14 or so thousand years ago. But ever since then, inequality has always been the norm, simply with varying degrees of authoritarianism favoring the elites.

  12. markfromireland

    @ Ian,

    Even Homer nods frm time to to time :-). Agree that the theft of the documents was justified in this case. BUT be aware that in most European jurisdictions the source of the evidence and how it was acquired may make criminal prosecuctions more difficult – think “fruit of the poison tree” and you’ll be close as most European jurisdictions have some version of that.

    That being said the information in the files should make it easier to acquire other evidence which does not fall foul of that doctrine.

    It depends of course on whether the political will exists to take this information and run with it. There’s a gathering sense of outrage in many countries at the pass to which neo-liberalism has brought them. But I don’t see that translating into the establishment taking action. Whether it’s the Blair’s property empire or Cameron’s father the corruption of the poliitical class is deeply rooted. (Plenty of examples in non-anglophone Europe – Marine Le Pen for one).

    I suspect that there’ll be some prominent sacrificial goats and that that will temporarily alleviate political pressure from below but that little will change until the consent of the ruled is withdrawn. I don’t see that withdrawal happening for quite a while.


  13. markfromireland

    @ Shh April 5, 2016

    Unlike you I am capable both of evaluating information and the source of that information. It’s an easily acquired and more than merely useful skill that gets inculcated very early on in any halfway decent secondary school debating society.

    One of the many intellectual weaknesses consistently exhibited by North American “liberals” or “progressives” (or whatever the label du jour happens to be) is that they’re incapable of doing that. This isn’t surprising to anyone whose ever had any dealings with them and the lack is merely one aspect of the ethical and intellectual flacidity of the breed that ensures their continuing political impotence.


  14. Hugh

    I agree. To the rich, the rest of us are a different species. Like cattle, for their use. The disconnect is near total. And it isn’t like it’s hidden. It’s celebrated. Absurd parasites like the Kardashians or the people who populate Entertainment Tonight or the columns of Barrons and the Financial Times, discussed in hushed, reverential tones by their hired sycophants. It is all pretty revolting.

    The rich are people with no skin in our game, and act accordingly. It isn’t healthy for us, and if you think about it, with all their high profile trainwrecks, it isn’t healthy for them either. And let us not forget the criminality that gave rise to most of that wealth, wealth which they did not create, but stole from the rest of us.

    I have no problem with recognizing and rewarding those with good ideas, who improve our lives, and help maintain our society. But the question is how much reward and recognition is enough. At what point do they start taking away from the rest of us? At what point do they start to warp and distort both the receiver and our society?

    What we have now are rich people who live in their own little countries within our country. They play by their own rules, are immune from our laws, and could care less about our needs. What we need to do, as Ian says, is to re-incorporate them into our society, reduce their wealth so that their choices have real consequences –to them, and force them to have skin in our game, because it is now also their game.

    To the end of reducing their wealth to socially useful levels, I append a list of taxing ideas I have developed over the years:

    1. A 40% tax rate for incomes above $300,000 going to 65% at $1 million.

    2. A marginal 95% tax rate for income above $1 million. All earnings here and abroad from whatever source to be declared and taxed as income. Any income undeclared to be confiscated and subject to additional financial and criminal penalties. (Taken with 1, this effectively caps annual income within the $180,000-$350,000 range.)

    3. A yearly 10% asset tax on household wealth above $20 million. Any wealth undeclared to be confiscated and subject to additional financial and criminal penalties.

    4. Current charitable foundations set up by families (think Gates, Buffet, etc.) to also be taxed at this same rate. Ban family foundations in the future.

    5. A 50% tax on gross corporate profits. No stock options for executives. All profits and assets here and abroad to be declared or subject to confiscation with additional financial and criminal penalties for both the corporations and their chief officers.
    6. 100% estate tax on all estates over $2.5 million per individual, $4 million for couples. Eliminate most trusts.

    7. No renunciation of citizenship accepted, past or future, until all tax assessments are paid and any assets in excess of $2.5 million returned to the American people.

    8. Any bank which hides or abets in hiding assets from taxes shall lose its charter to do business in the US.

    The other side of this is what this wealth could be used for: meaningful jobs that pay a living wage, affordable housing, and fully funded Medicare for All, schools, and retirements, as well as a sustainable industrial base and energy and transportation infrastructure.

  15. Tom

    Funny that when this leaked and Putin’s two billion dollar slush fund was revealed, the Russian Ministry of Defense caught fire and collapsed as its sprinkler system failed.

    Don’t know if its related, but something tells me Putin realized he needed some files conveniently destroyed and whoever helped him thought the same thing.

    But damn a lot of serving PMs of countries and even presidents had their dirty dealings exposed.

    Too bad no dirt on the Clintons was found.

  16. fds

    Cui bono?

    Indeed. Hell, The Guardian crucified WikiLeaks and I don’t see any reason to think they’ve had some sort of Damascene conversion in the interim.

    Too bad no dirt on the Clintons was found.

    Someone posted a map flagging the locations implicated. The US was completely blank.

  17. fds

    One of the many intellectual weaknesses consistently exhibited by North American “liberals” or “progressives” (or whatever the label du jour happens to be) is that they’re incapable of doing that. This isn’t surprising to anyone whose ever had any dealings with them and the lack is merely one aspect of the ethical and intellectual flacidity of the breed that ensures their continuing political impotence.

    I doubt Shh falls into that category though. He may have jerked his knee a bit too hard but he’s right to think this is probably a calculated move by one group of a***hole oligarchs against their rivals.

    Sure, you can try to play it to your advantage, but you may well find yourself playing into their hands instead.

  18. Thanks Ian. Very useful. What I find so interesting is the instant political response from Iceland, arguably the only place in the world that actually dealt with the last (2007-8) crisis by jailing bankers and kicking the rest of them out of the country. By my understanding the economy recovered within a couple of years and they (in the process) learned how right their (♀ feminist) PM was at the time.

    The rest of us should have been so lucky – to have such an enlightened PM and to truly understand what is going on as we work our way into the next one all over again – just in time for the US elections and for Obama to have one more kick at that can. Will he save the banks again? Or will he do what’s right and save the people this time? Could he even get HC elected by doing the right thing, i.e. giving $$ to real peeps, this time around?!

    Many thanks,


  19. Shh


    you took that completely wrong but outed yourself in doing so, so I feel no remorse

  20. fds

    Pfft. Can’t we all just get along?

  21. sumiDreamer

    Vulnerabilies in wordpress and drupal made these documents available. We have no indication that these were “planted”.

    Tax havens/money laudering operations facilitated by bent lawyers who never check to see who the owners are or the real activities is decades old. Although a global effort has been made to stop the practice and the secrecy globally, the United States has refused to cooperate in drawing up guidelines. The corporate takeover ideas known as free trade agreements has been attacked because they would make the problem. Obama and Hillary are well aware of this position by refuse to back down. Bernie fought it on those grounds. I am not a Berniebot by any means, but I noted his objections …

    Forget the MSM “spin” on “#” panamapapers” . Forget Soros, USAID, the NYT and the entire establisment – – – Their distortions, character assassinations, demonisations and other dirty tricks were inevitable.

    Get on with learning what really ROTTEN things these money launderers and tax evaders get up to – and who enables it … Money laundering of drug deals, nuclear materials procurement, sex tafficking!, organ harvesting .. theft and corruption runs riot through these documents. The victims are many.

    There are many facets to this – don’t let mouthpieces tell you to ignore this cuz it’s crap – it’s not. THIS IS A HUGE OPPORTUNITY for real progressives. Forget the characters being revealed! Learn the methods of hanging onto wealth and hiding ill-gotten gains while fighting the damned US government inaction!

    DEMAND FULL DISCLOSURE OF ALL DOCUMENTS and take a long-term approach. Remember that this only ONE FIRM’S transactions. and money laundering is the 3rd largest industry in the world .. there is much to fight here. This is endgame capitalism — and the revolution is being livestreamed. It’s in our power to use this information to our advantage.

    Great job, Ian. Thank you. I am reading so much crap about this – by people who I don’t see in the streets fighting the banks, the bent lawyers, the intermediaries … the greed$o$ …

  22. wendy davis

    Me, I think the hilarious psy-op quotient of the #PanamaPapers b at MoA got right.

    Sorry, Tom, but I think you’re a Putin-a-phobe.

  23. Tom W Harris


    Doncha know mfi’s speshhhhhul? Confucius say, cyberspace wizard equal meatspace washroom attendant.

  24. wendy davis

    I’d meant to add that it’s okay, Tom; it’s just The Company™ line that’s all too prevalent.

    I’m glad to see that this comment made it in, Ian; I’d made one on your ‘Will something replace capitalism?’ post many hours ago, and it’s apparently stuck in moderation. I’d thought to add a few things. IIRC, I’d only included one hyperlink, and often folks don’t tweak their WordPress/Comments/links numbers past the default settings.

  25. To be fair, Clinton’s views have changed since she voted for the Panama free trade bill. And will change again ten minutes from now, but that’s another issue.

    What I’m trying to figure out is the problem of governmental capture. Every single one of the assholes in Congress got elected by the majority in his or her district (or state, in the case of Senators). Which makes no sense, because the majority of them are, by any objective measure, sociopaths with no empathy for others and no sense that human beings have any value or worth. It’s as if the majority of Americans decided to vote for cold-blooded lizard people from Planet Sociopath rather than actual living breathing human beings, and then expected to be viewed as something other than prey.

    I don’t think we’re going to solve the overall inequality problem without solving the capture problem. Yet the inequality problem is part of the capture problem, in that with the proles kept so busy working three or four jobs to prevent starvation and death, they have no time to do the sort of vetting of candidates that would be needed to effectively vote. So they vote for the candidate who has the best ads, regardless of whether that candidate’s record says that he or she is a vile disgusting excuse for a human being.

    No, I’m not holding up much hope for the future. It’s going to look a lot like a boot smashing down onto a face, forever, just as George Orwell predicted… except Orwell never could have predicted it would be corporations, not government secret policemen, doing the smashing.

  26. EverythingsJake


    “One of the many intellectual weaknesses consistently exhibited by North American “liberals” or “progressives” (or whatever the label du jour happens to be) is that they’re incapable of doing that.”

    This is a bit broad and sweeping. Agreed well-paid professionals exhibit this tendency (think Greenpeace, HRC, etc.) In my community, I call them the professional queers and they irritate me no end. Very less well-known organizations, usually fighting locally in their communities have a pretty good read on the reality of things, just hard for them to get any exposure on more than a community level.

  27. markfromireland

    @ Shh April 5, 2016

    Given that I routinely point out that I’m a conservative European Catholic heavily engaged in conservative European Catholic politics there’s no outing involved – you’re either very new here, or very comprehension challenged or both.

    Have a nice day.

  28. markfromireland

    @ EverythingsJake April 6, 2016

    Yes it could be that that is a bit sweeping but then again it probably isn’t. I make it on the basis of a lifetime dealing with them. Granted the American tendency of being utterly incapable of seeing other peoples’ point of view and to degenerating into hysteria when confronted with people who maintain their point of view probably has a lot to do with it.

    I agree with you that there are small enclaves where that it isn’t the case – the type of local campaigning organisations that you mention tend not to be like that. Their size need not necessarily be the disadvantage it’s held to be – a very astute politician once remarked that all politics is local.

    I’ve met professional queers in my time and can only guess how irritating you must find them. I’ve also met quite a few gay rights campaigners who have spent their lives fighting for their principles with courage and persistence. People like Peter Tatchell who care to my mind wholly admirable. Unfortunately they’re also rather rare.


  29. markfromireland

    @ Tom W Harris April 5, 2016

    Why thank you Tom, it’s early in the day here and there’s nothing quite like the schadenfreudelicht glee of seeing how weeks after the event you’re still more than somewhat peeved. Far better than coffee in getting my morning off to a cheerful start.


  30. markfromireland

    @ Hugh
    April 5, 2016

    I have no problem with recognizing and rewarding those with good ideas, who improve our lives, and help maintain our society. But the question is how much reward and recognition is enough. At what point do they start taking away from the rest of us? At what point do they start to warp and distort both the receiver and our society?

    A few years ago I got chatting at a conference with a British Treasury mandarin who’d served in the Treasury’s research department under the last few labour governments headed by Harold Wilson.

    To cut a long story short he told me that the Treasury after a LOT of research determined that once you got over a level of living that for shorthand purposes I’ll call “modest comfort” higher marginal tax rates were by no stretch of the imagination the bar to productivity and job satisfaction that the Thatcher and subsequent British governments claimed they were. He added that the Treasury research also concluded that once people felt that they were getting good value for their taxes that they did not object to relatively high marginal rates.
    Needless to say once Thatcher got in the research programme was scrapped.

  31. markfromireland

    @ Hugh PS: While I think of it Howard Glennester did some very good work on Wealth Taxes including this study [PDF] from 2011 the subject matter is self-evident from the title:

    A Wealth Tax Abandoned: The role of the UK Treasury 1974-6

  32. Peter*

    It seems that the hype of this supposed massive leak/hack may not live up to expectations if these early releases are the most newsworthy.

    Learning how Putin uses his friends and family to do his laundry is not surprising and the source and timing of this exposure certainly makes the release of this information seem political but the facts appear to be verifiable and the revelation that Russian government monies were siphoned into these accounts will certainly be embarrassing. I doubt there will be any lasting negative effects for Putin because much like the people in the US, Russians are conditioned to accept corruption and hypocrisy as the price you pay for stability.

    It’s going to be difficult now for people to use Iceland as a shining example of resistance to neoliberalism and the dirty Banksters when their PM was exposed as just another greedy politician using the system to cover his slime trail.

  33. Anon

    Nothing will come of any of this, and all of you know it deep down. The rich will continue to get richer and the rest of the world will suffer and that’s just the way things will be until forever and forever. The only way to change our current situation is to…well, you all know what needs to be done, how things change, but no one wants to do it. When the rich look at the rest of us and say “Over my dead body” they aren’t kidding. They mean it.

  34. AlanSmithee

    No, I don\’t think you\’re painting with too broad a brush. \’Round Green parts we call them \’fauxgressives.\’ They\’re usually connected to DNC fronts like Organizing for America, Center For American Progress, Policy Network and so on.

  35. Hugh

    Thanks for the link, Mark. It is an interesting take on the issue. The last quote sums it up pretty well:

    “the dominant economic interests in capitalist society can normally count on the active good will and support of those in whose hands state power lies”
    Ralph Milibrand (1969)

    This continues to be true. I think the feasibility questions were overstated. If it is hard to assess wealth on an annual basis, then one approach would be to make it less hard to do so by forcing the rich to be more transparent about their activities. I also think that the “too little bang (i.e. revenues) for the buck” argument is a standard response of people who really don’t want to do something. This argument is false for two reasons. First, a wealth tax is about the fairness and equity in a society, not just the money. Second, a lot of wealth can’t be hidden, so would be taxable. And hiding wealth could be criminalized.

    I got the feeling that as the Milibrand quote says the British political classes were looking for reasons not to institute a wealth tax, and despite evidence to the contrary, found them.

  36. Peter*


    I think Milibrand was exercising the famous dry British humor when he referred to ‘those in whose hands state power lies’ supporting the dominant economic interests because they are one and the same for all practical purposes.

    The idea of taxing the wealthy into submission is a fools errand because once they possess this wealth they have the power to retain it, legal and otherwise so the only way to address this conundrum is to distribute this wealth fairly when and where it is created and before it is accumulated.

  37. Hugh

    If taxing wealth away from the rich is a fool’s errand, then so is taxing it at its source. If wealth inequality is not reversed by constitutional means, then it will be done so at some point by revolutionary ones.

  38. wendy davis


    Sure, Putin’s an oligarch, and likely dodgy, but so many of the Western papers’ coverage has come with photos of Putin, meaning ‘Corrupt Putin. Evil Putin.’ Compared to our oligarchs, perhaps? Is anyone seriously asking why now, given that this huge media consortium has had the docs for over a year? Ha, even PBS stations last night aired ‘Putin’s Plan’, which was originally broadcast in Jan., 2015. Yeah, maybe a coincidence, but in any event some full-court presses against certain national leaders have been on, and I think Robert Parry speaks to it well. It’s along piece, loads of links, and he gets into the Imperium’s fear of the BRICS nations.

    But in one part he notes:

    “We are now seeing what looks like a new preparatory phase for the next round of “regime changes” with corruption allegations aimed at former Brazilian President Luiz Ignacio Lula da Silva and Russian President Vladimir Putin. The new anti-Putin allegations – ballyhooed by the UK Guardian and other outlets – are particularly noteworthy because the so-called “Panama Papers” that supposedly implicate him in offshore financial dealings never mention his name.

    Or as the Guardian writes: “Though the president’s name does not appear in any of the records, the data reveals a pattern – his friends have earned millions from deals that seemingly could not have been secured without his patronage. The documents suggest Putin’s family has benefited from this money – his friends’ fortunes appear his to spend.”

    Note, if you will, the lack of specificity and the reliance on speculation: “a pattern”; “seemingly”; “suggest”; “appear.” Indeed, if Putin were not already a demonized figure in the Western media, such phrasing would never pass an editor’s computer screen. Indeed, the only point made in declarative phrasing is that “the president’s name does not appear in any of the records.”

    A British media-watch publication, the Off-Guardian, which criticizes much of the work done at The Guardian, headlined its article on the Putin piece as “the Panama Papers cause Guardian to collapse into self-parody.”

    But whatever the truth about Putin’s “corruption” or Lula’s, the journalistic point is that the notion of objectivity has long since been cast aside in favor of what’s useful as propaganda for Western interests.”

  39. wendy davis

    Sorry for not closing the bold tag early enough. ‘Bad form’, as the saying goes.

  40. V. Arnold

    The attacks on Putin and Lula should be viewed in the light of the BRICKS countries breaking away from the dollar hegemon.
    Central and South American countries have been destroyed trying to break from the U.S. hegemon.
    And presently M.E. and African countries destroyed to keep them “in line”.

  41. markfromireland

    @ Hugh April 6, 2016

    Miliband had a way with words 🙂 I always enjoyed studying his stuff not least because where I disagreed with him I was forced to think about why I disagreed and to justify it if only to myself.

    Yes I think the feasability issues were overstated but that tends to be the case – civil services are by definition small ‘c’ cconservatives and this applies quite as much to O&M as it does to policy. (Which is why the Swedes separated the two but that’s a discussion for another time as it’s bit large for a short comment).

    No argument from me about your remaining points. There is as I’ve pointed out before nothing more likely to make people (again small ‘c’) conservative as seeing to it that they have something to conserve. Which is why somebody as conservative as myself can feel very comfortable living in Denmark – despite the damage done by Fogh Rasmussen’s Venstre dominated governments the majority of the populace still have a stake in the place, and by and large, agree that they get good value for money from their taxes.

    No argument, but I will enter some caveats first there’s the cultural aspect and I think Glennester was right to highlight both the Norwegian and French cases and that he drew the correct conclusion when he said that “Administrative obstacles depend, in no small measure, on political traditions and notions of acceptability. ”

    My second caveat is that it’s a bit too sweeping to say that the “British political classes were looking for reasons not to institute a wealth tax, and despite evidence to the contrary, found them”

    Both the British Labour party and the Liberals who were IIRC at the time led by Grimond were far more genuinely “left” than they are today. Even Denis Healy was far more a socialist than anyone who prospered in that party under the loathsome Blair and his even more loathsome sidekick Mandelson. While the Liberals had not yet been captured by the authors of the Orange Book. So the idea of a wealth tax was far from anathemna to a large part of the British political establishment indeed Labour had been interested in the idea since 1959 which is rather a long time in politics. The problem was as Glennester says below that those proposing solutions to the difficulties were still very much newcomers. The IFS is very influential now but back then the name and the names of those associated with it elicited the response “who?”

    You also need to remember that Labour at the time suffered firstly from a complex and schlerotic policy making apparatus and secondly was riven with an increasingly bitter power struggle between leftish Social Democrats such as Wilson and Healey and a range of left-wing socialists such as Foote and Benn. They were also under attack from the militants associated with the eponymous tendency represented by such politicians as Derek Hatton and union leaders such as Scargill.

    In short the very people likely to introduce a wealth tax were hampered first by their own policy making structures and secondly by the fact that during the period discussed they were fighting for their political lives.


    European taxes had been introduced when the main form of wealth was in the form of property. The taxes were very low. The attempt to introduce a much more onerous one ran into difficulty in Norway. But only a few years after the Treasury had concluded such an annual tax was administratively unworkable a rather similar “Solidarity Tax” was introduced in France under President Mitterand. Administrative obstacles depend, in no small measure, on political traditions and notions of acceptability.

    The administrative issues had, however, been discussed and to some extent quantified by Atkinson (1972) and Sandford (1971). Their alternative was to tax recipients and to do so as an extension of the income tax system. Why did this not feature in the Labour Party?s discussion? The most likely answer is that t hese ideas were relatively new and those advancing them were removed from, or new to, the Labour policy fraternity. The Institute for Fiscal Studies to which some of the critics belonged was a recent creation and carried nothing like its later authority. The Labour Party had been discussing a wealth tax for many years, from 1959, in fact. It was part of the party policy intellectual furniture even if not widely discussed in public. Taking on new policy ideas from relative outsiders at all quickly was not something to which the party policy making apparatus was well adapted.

  42. markfromireland

    Well confound it – sorry Ian, something in my reply to Hugh has triggered moderation. Sincere apologies for giving you more work when you’re not feeling the best.


  43. markfromireland

    @ AlanSmithee April 6, 2016

    Thanks Alan, I’ve been saying for a long time that the American “left” consists of a collaborationist wing and a collusionist one. They don’t actually have any principles as such just attitudes, and yes that makes them unprincipled.

    One of the many problems that these fauxgressives cause is that they prop up the status quo by diverting the energies of people who really are interested in a better and fairer way of doing things. (Which is one of many reasons why I make it my business to be unpleasant to them).


    PS: I’d love to see a powerful Green movement in the US but at present they are far too much a fringe movement at anything other than a very local level.

  44. markfromireland

    Found via Johnson’s Russia List a Bloomberg article worth reading, here’s some excerpts:

    Putin’s a Pauper, His Friends Are Rich

    Recent reports by two consortia of investigative journalists purport to have exposed the dealings and offshore accounts of some of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s closest associates. They don’t name him as a beneficiary of any account, suggesting that Putin is as poor as a church mouse — or would be if he ever lost power.

    The investigations were published by the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project and the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, respectively. The first names St. Petersburg businessman Grigory Bayevskiy as someone who provided valuable real estate to, among others, Katerina Tikhonova, reportedly Putin’s daughter. The Kremlin has neither confirmed nor denied that connection when asked about the reports.

    The second, potentially more damaging investigation is based on the Panama Papers, a gigantic leak of data belonging to Mossack Fonseca, a Panama law firm that assists clients in setting up offshore companies — all legally, according to a statement by the law firm. The report names Sergei Roldugin, a St. Petersburg musician and godfather of one of Putin’s daughters, as the beneficiary of shell companies that were involved in complex transactions with entities the journalists linked to a number of businessmen also associated with Putin.

    The ICIJ report talks of a “Putin network” of companies set up by the managers of Bank Rossiya, a financial institution owned by several longtime Putin associates. The U.S. placed the bank under sanctions following the Russian aggression against Ukraine. Putin responded by opening a personal account with the bank. Transactions carried out by the shell companies Bank Rossiya allegedly created feature easy-term loans from the Cyprus subsidiary of the Russian government-owned bank, VTB. Hundreds of millions of dollars were then allegedly re-loaned to other companies in the “Putin network.” According to the ICIJ investigation, the loans were typically unsecured and the paperwork indicated that repayment might not be expected. All of this activity may well have been legal, too.

    VTB Chief Executive Andrey Kostin denied his bank had made unsecured loans in a Bloomberg Television interview on Monday.

    Perhaps the most striking fact about these revelations, though, is that there is no sign of Putin or his family members among the beneficiaries of the businesses involved. Indeed, Kostin dismissed any suggestion of a connection to Putin as “bulls**t.” The ICIJ report said:

    “Audio recordings and witness accounts show that even when Putin’s closest confidants privately discuss his financial dealings, they use pseudonyms for him or simply gesture to the heavens rather than utter his name.”

    I am not aware of any recordings or credible witness accounts of Putin confidants discussing his personal financial dealings. Even if such testimony existed, no man can be indicted on the basis of his friends’ gestures or use of affectionate nicknames.

    Having access to an offshore incorporator’s internal files and emails allows journalists the rarest of opportunities — to track the entire beneficiary chain of some of the most secretive firms in the world, often set up for the very purpose of concealing the beneficiaries’ identities. The Panama document dump also purports to show that in 2014, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko set up a British Virgin Islands company to hold his confectionery assets in his own name. It suggests Icelandic Prime Minister Sigmundur David Gunnlaugsson and his family had a direct interest in the winding down of the big Icelandic banks that went bust during the global financial crisis.

    There is nothing comparable to say about Putin the individual. Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin, born in Leningrad on October 7, 1952, doesn’t appear on any incorporation papers. He doesn’t own or control any of the assets involved.

    Putin the institution, however, is a tangible presence. Bank Rossiya shareholders, big government contract winners such as Putin’s former judo sparring partner Arkady Rotenberg, lesser-known St. Petersburg businessmen who knew Putin when he was a city official in the 1990s or a KGB officer in earlier decades — all of these people made their fortunes under the Putin regime. There’s nothing surprising about their access to cheap state bank funds, or about the “consulting” and “lobbying” contracts they received from less connected businesses. In a dictatorial regime, the dictator’s cronies make money; their network is the fabric of power.

    Read in full: Putin’s a Pauper, His Friends Are Rich – Johnson’s Russia List

  45. V. Arnold

    As to Putin anything; why ever “believe” anything re: Pres. Vladimir Putin?
    Literally, 98% of everything on the I-net is pure bullshit and hyperbolic incontinence regarding Pres. Putin.
    What I see is a Russian leader, outfoxing the U.S.”s best, at every turn; using strategy, logic, and intelligence.
    The U.S., on the other hand, is a hegemonic bull, charging every red flag waved, by any tin pot dictator/terrorist across the planet.
    A complete waste of all resources; and no apparent signs of applied intelligence what-so-ever…

  46. Peter*


    Both of our proposals are pipe dreams in today’s capitalist/corporate control system but the idea of not allowing wealth to be accumulated by an elite has always been a revolutionary position.

    The tax and spend meme has been useful for keeping the rubes thinking that their non-representatives , who claim they are on the Left, are busy working for their interests while they actually vote for every tax break for the rich and powerful. They can’t or won’t even institute a small financial transaction tax on the most dangerous and profitable speculation schemes but they continue to talk about it as if they had any intention of doing something.

    The tax/redistribution scheme has many flaws, even if somehow magically enacted it would still leave the Bosses free to exploit, extract from and abuse those who produce wealth. If wealth was fairly distributed, not redistributed. workers would have the wealth to live better lives and pay the taxes needed for useful government programs.

  47. markfromireland

    @ AlanSmithee April 6, 2016

    PS: You might enjoy this party political broadcast by the Green Party of England & Wales:

  48. Hugh

    Peter, wealth is already unequally distributed, and not just unfairly but criminally and massively so. That wealth, I would guess it to be in the twenty-five to thirty-five trillion dollar range in the US, has thoroughly distorted and corrupted our politics, economics, media, academia, executive, legislature, and judiciary, in short all of our public institutions and processes. For us to reclaim our country and society, that wealth must be redistributed.

    Mark, parenthetically Cyprus is an English law jurisdiction in its banking. This came out in its debt crisis. Russian banks, businesses, and oligarchs used Cyprus precisely for this reason, especially in international transactions, because Russian banking and banking law were so dodgy. If they wanted transactions that were on the up and up, they went through Cyprus. Putin stand-ins could still funnel money through Cyprus, but not for slapdash, shady transactions like those in Panama and Wyoming. BTW did anyone notice that Mossack Fonesca had subsidiary operations in Wyoming and Nevada?

  49. third rate genius

    Washington Post article March 10: “To establish the rule of law, cut off elites’ purses and power: Here’s how.”

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