“A week is a long time in politics” – said Harold Wilson, allegedly.
It’s also a very long time in the otherworldly mainstream media, as the past seven days since the “Panama Papers” were first revealed have shown.
We started with the “shocking” revelations that corrupt, power-hungry Putin, surrounded by oligarchs, may have dubious links to people, profiting through tax havens – and we’ve ended with the “shocking” revelations that snivelling, greed-fuelled David Cameron, surrounded by Etonianophiles, may have made himself even richer, through the use of tax havens.
Hold. The. Front. Page.
These revelations in themselves are not “shocking”, unless you’ve been sitting on a Panamanian beach, smoking cigars and sipping cocktails your entire life. But what the leaks do shine a blinding light into is the incestuous relationship between politicians, law-making and corporations, and the fact that the urban legend of the “One Percent” is even more pertinent than ever.
Not that you’d have noticed if you’d been following the bastions of the free press who’d been reporting this story on loop – namely the tax-avoiding Guardian (whose Chair works for Sage, with its 43 offshore subsidiaries), or the Establishment-entrenched BBC (whose Trust’s Chair works for PepsiCo, with its offshore base in Bermuda).
There is a dangerous narrative emerging, which if we’re not careful will ensure this story goes the way of every other huge leak in history (i.e. a Wikipedia entry created by someone in Whitehall) – that is, we seem to becoming preoccupied with the personalities in this debacle, and not their collusion with a system which is essentially shafting us in every possible way.
As Abi Wilkinson (who organised Saturday’s excellent demonstration outside Downing Street) succinctly wrote in Vice: “The problem doesn’t lie with one particular individual, it’s systemic. The politicians in charge of our country seem to believe that there’s one rule for ordinary people, who pay their fair share of tax, and one rule for the wealthy who can employ clever accountants to come up with all sorts of get-out tricks.”
“Systemic” is the key word, there. This is not some issue which is confined to the UK; neither is it one which affects merely the OECD. This is a global problem, where the ramifications are far worse in African and South American countries – and we must view it as such.
The Democratic Republic of Congo is one example. In just five mining deals with multinational corporations they lost an estimated $1.3bn through money being ferreted offshore, which amounts to nearly 4% of their annual GDP.
In the UK the equivalent would be around three quarters of the NHS budget for this year. Gone. £75bn – just lost.
Or take a company like Chevron. The 16th biggest corporation worldwide, operating in 180 different countries, with assets of $266bn operate a staggering 264 (yes – two hundred and sixty-four) different subsidiaries out of Bermuda alone.
Then look at Oxfam. Unshakeable campaigners against global inequality – but who accept money (to the tune of $4m) from The Hewlett Foundation, who raise their own capital from HP’s shares, which have subsidiaries working out of Bermuda; furthermore the Foundation employ the Bank of New York Mellon to manage their investments and provide them with credit – with this bank operating out of tax havens and also being repeatedly fined for dubious practices.
The offshore “game” infests every area of our lives, like a globalised, corporate, financial plague-induced putrid rot, setting into the very fabric of society – and it’s one that needs gouging out. Quickly.
Implementing regulations like the blacklisting of tax havens, country by country reporting and Base Erosion Profit Shifting (BEPS) counter-measures may appear like there is the political will and way to try and address this pandemic-like problem – but in reality? These measures don’t go far enough.
When you have America itself now becoming a major “player” in this offshore game (with states like Nevada and Delaware fast becoming the “onshore” equivalents of the Cayman Islands or Bermuda), it being ranked third in the “Financial Secrecy Index” and it refusing to sign-up for previous international agreements relating to tax havens, there should be a great deal of cynicism as to whether any international agreements will actually be effective when the world’s largest economy wishes to play no part.
Also, we need to view the “system” for what it really is: a mythological, financial Hydra – as soon as you chop off one head, another one sprouts up again to take its place.
The greedy will always find ways to fuel their deadly sin, within a system that is intentionally weighted towards their gain, and our loss.
It is this point that we need to take from the Panama Papers’ revelations and work with, to come to a collective resolution about what “we” (as in, the “Ninety-Nine Percent” of us), are going to do about it.
Targeting individuals and their activities are basic components of solving this problem, as they highlight in an easy-to-digest manner just how entrenched, and how far-reaching, all of this is.
But they are cogs in an offshore wheel; and it is our global financial system which is the vehicle, driven by corporatists in all countries at breakneck speed towards their destination of choice – self-interest.
Until we change who’s in the driving seat of our economies, our financial system and ultimately our lives – then we will remain passengers.
Impoverished, unequal and always in second class.
Links to my other stuff on “Panama Papers”, this week:
RTUK News, 04.04.16 – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WMU6V7B2wFA&feature=youtu.be&a
Al Jazeera’s “The Stream”, 07.04.16 – http://stream.aljazeera.com/story/201604071600-0025185
RTUK’s “Sputnik”, 09.04.16 – https://www.rt.com/shows/sputnik/339022-panama-papers-offshore-deals/
Al Jazeera’s “The Listening Post”, 09.04.16 – http://www.aljazeera.com/programmes/listeningpost/2016/04/panama-papers-media-censored-story-160409095509553.html
“Panama Papers: this changes nothing” – http://www.consented.co.uk/read/panamapapers-this-changes-nothing/
“Weekly Swipe” – http://www.consented.co.uk/read/weeklyswipe-brexit-again-2-0-panama-papers-putin-and-tax-haven-journalism/
Anon Radio UK, 10.04.16 – https://www.spreaker.com/user/anonukire/anonukradio-t0pg3arliv3-mrtopple-pana
Sputnik Intl, 11.04.16 – https://soundcloud.com/radiosputnik/panamapapers-its-not-about-cameron-its-about-trust-in-financial-system-steve-topple
Talk Radio Europe, 15.04.16 – https://t.co/0UELj5BA6v
Reblogged this on L8in.
Reblogged this on markcatlin3695's Blog.
Reblogged this on colcestrian.
Cameron has the power to close down the tax havens tomorrow, therefore not to do so is a political choice. But for who’s benefit? certainly not the British people’s http://bit.ly/effectsoflegaltaxavoidance those to whom our prostitute politicians were elected to serve
But this is not a new phenomenon. It fact it goes back to 1956/8 just after the http://bit.ly/brettonwoods agreement and the fall of the British empire, when once again “Great” Britain were playing on both sides. However that is all history and it is the here and now we should be focused on, if we are to obtain anything like the progress achievable from the #panamaleaks. We achieved nothing of any substance from #LuxLeaks largely to an apathetic British public and a lack of appetite to do what needs to be done http://bit.ly/britishtaxpayers
As unlikely as it seems, only a rise up by the British people, will bring anything meaningful. Within 48 hours of the news of the leaks becoming public, 50,000 Icelandic people had congregated outside their parliament and their president was gone. #whynotinbritain?
The very roots of all that is wrong in British society, from disability benefit cuts to junior doctors contract, from tax avoidance/evasion to http://bit.ly/NHScorruption1 http://bit.ly/NHScorruption2 http://bit.ly/operationdowngrade http://bit.ly/theplantoprivatiseournhs and everything in between stem from the palace of westminster.
Unless and until the people step up to the mark and do what needs to be done, expect more of the same http://bit.ly/whatcampaignpart1 http://bit.ly/whatcampaignpart2 http://bit.ly/whatcampaignpart3 http://bit.ly/britishsociety
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Of course none of us like paying tax, which is inherently illegal and a contract none of us signed up to, but until a better system for helping the masses comes along we all have to pay our share
and when the so called 1% don’t, as evidenced by the leaks?
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They are wrong and should take responsibility along with their wealth
The policy makers creates the loop holes then builds the law around that.
It’s time folk like you, ordinary people, ran the country. We’d be so much better off. It’s all the fault of the rich and the media and that stuff they are putting in our water. Keep up the good work.
LOL! Thank you – much appreciated.
Excellent and depressing analysis of the offshore situation. As you say, difficult to imagine that anything will get done when the US opt out of any cooperative plans. Very depressing that even charities working for equality and against poverty are likely to be tainted at some level by offshore investments – and even campaigning individuals like ourselves may unwittingly have our occupational pensions invested in such dodgy set ups.
Reblogged this on crackedmirrors and angelpie and commented:
I’ve reblogged this because it articulates my thoughts so closely that it seemed silly to write an article myself!
Great summary Steve and you’ve hit the nail on the head. Current government suggestions are like flicking peas at a charging rhino. We would expect these tiny efforts to misdirect, but the response from the other political parties has been pretty weak too, with few suggestions to go beyond “Transparency” But, again, this is what we expect from political parties still tied to the 1%. This includes Labour and the SNP. What has been more disappointing this week is the lack of a combined response and strategy from opponents of the system. This was, maybe, a once in five or ten year, opportunity to unite and to really thrust home the implications of the actions of the 1%. But alas, I haven’t seen any co-working or planned strategy to work together on this. And this is a real shame. Is it the famous inherent weakness of the left?
If some of civic society got together we could organise a series of mass demonstrations. The one in London was great, but with a few thousand comes a few inches of media coverage and a few seconds of TV. We could also pay for and conduct research that would show that the majority of society is not only against these types of actions by the 1%, but most people do not know that some of them are illegal. I would imagine that a lot of people would be surprised that corporations pay dividends before paying tax! Like George Osborne’s company firm.
I fear that without an amplified and collective response this story will soon become today’s chip wrapper.
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