Panama Papers reveal tip of an iceberg of shady dealings

The Norwich Bulletin
By Scott Deshefy
April 15, 2016

Thomas Jefferson stressed, “I know of no safe depository of the ultimate powers of the republic than the people themselves,” and education their key to discretion. The majority, however, has lost its right to decision-making to a privileged few, a black hole of affluence concentrating wealth and capital within its pull.

By placing price tags on Democrat and Republican lapels, a new American aristocracy adds to our tax burden by sidestepping theirs. And they’re not alone. A recent anonymous release of 11.5 million documents belonging to Mossack Fonseca, a Panamanian law firm specializing in shell companies, offshore accounts and other murky dealings, is a tip of an iceberg. According to German journalists who broke the story, an estimated 800 or more international firms are likely providing similar tax shelters to rich and famous throughout the world.

That magnitude of tax evasion highlights policy missteps like the North American Free Trade Agreement, Trans-Pacific Partnership and other corporate coups d’état supported by Hillary Clinton and the GOP but opposed by Sen. Bernie Sanders, Jill Stein (Green Party) and Donald Trump.

Consistent with sociologist C. Wright Mills’ seminal 1950s definition, “elitists” still include small groups of entitled people controlling major corporations, the military and politics. Their rigging the system for disproportionate access to education and resources, security and, more recently, pandemic tax havens rightfully elicits outrage.

Thousands of Icelanders demanded resignation of Prime Minister Sigmundur Gunnlaugsson after the Panama Papers linked him to offshore companies. But here, where U.S. restaurant workers haven’t had a raise in 25 years, association with overseas shell companies is business as usual, especially for big party campaign contributors.

Corporate inversions and “profits stripping” — that is, bogus transformations of taxable profits into offshore subsidiary “expenses” — are routine tax dodges which hurt government revenues, us as taxpayers and domestic businesses.

And folks too parochial to set up anonymous companies as tax shelters overseas always have Delaware. Delaware has more companies than human residents, over a million, 65 percent of which are Fortune 500s. The New York Times reported that a building in Wilmington was legal address for more than 285,000 separate businesses in 2012.

As in Delaware, company owners in New Mexico, Wyoming and Nevada are protected from public disclosure. That means Hillary Clinton’s and Ted Cruz’s LLC super PAC donors aren’t traceable there.

The first of 800 shoes to drop, the Mossack Fonseca leak proves every political system on Earth is as rigged as the roulette table in Rick’s Café. Less Casablanca perhaps and more an exotic port of call in a James A. Michener novel, the world is awash in a thieves’ paradise of global capitalism.

Instead of free movement of people, goods and capital from isle to isle, only the assets of the 1 percent, large corporations and other pirates find the trade winds favorable.

Scott Deshefy is a two-time Green Party congressional candidate. Email him at