Blog de André Lopez-Turner
Tax havens … legal… like Apartheid, like slavery
I remember Mr. Baker, a legendary school teacher of mine thirty years ago, give a lesson to “you boys about Apartheid.”Do you know what Apartheid’s about he asked? Some of us knew about South Africa, so we said so. He asked us again.“Fine young men,” he began, “It’s about separate development, separate development, judging people by their colour and looks and slavery, and slavery’s a horrible story about selling people, condemning them for their different skin colour and its abhorrent and wrong,” he bellowed. “Wrong.” Mr. Baker was a tall and muscular man, rumoured to be an enforcer on the Rugby field, and we certainly saw and heard evidence of it that day. Someone asked what abhorrent meant and he explained more calmly before saying, “guess what?”“What we asked?” “Apartheid’s still legal,” he said, “but that doesn’t make it right, morally and ethically. He explained those two words too. “Make no mistake boys, just because something’s legal doesn’t mean its right, understand.” I recall Lemmy from Motorhead raising his middle finger to an audience in Hyde park years ago and saying the same thing. He extrapolated further and said, “just because they think, and they don’t, have the power, doesn’t mean they have the right.” In light of the recent leaks about Panama’s tax haven the phrase, “just because its legal doesn’t mean its right,” seems more than apt. The 45 tax havens in our world, again there “by design”, are legal, thus acceptable, is the argument given by those who justify their existence. The amount of money in these havens is astronomical. The figures, depending on who you read and what sources you seek, are variable because many of the official studies examine companies, corporations and individuals who have legal and official status. In other words – they can be traced. The amount of criminal, and drug cartel money is unknown, therefore whatever source you read the money laundered away is likely to be smaller than what is really hidden in the islands and localities “offshore”. Simon Jenkins, writing in Tuesday’s (5/05/2016) Evening Standard quotes the American economist Gabriel Zucman’s figure of $240 billion as a world wide estimation of money sent offshore; Jenkins states Britain loses £16 billion a year and the EU 78 billion euros. The experts on tax evasion, thetaxjustice network, state as much as $660 billion per year is drained out of the world economy. And I repeat these figures are derived from the official economy. The numbers could be staggering if we get dirtier! The Observers Ed Vulliamy discovered that Mexico’s narco trafficking cartels had deposited $373.6 billion dollars into New York’s Wachovia bank, now merged into Wells Fargo. He told me “Its the tip of the iceberg.” No one affiliated to the bank went to jail. The banksters paid small fines, whereas in an adjacent courtroom a black man and a white man were given fifteen year minimum mandatory sentences for a gram of cocaine and a few bags of marijuana. I’m not going to bore your eyes with statistics for the simple fact we know what’s going on, we just don’t know the extent of it as there are more narco traffickers, gun runners, prostitution and gambling rackets out there than we can surely imagine. What I think most of us find abhorrent is we pay our income taxes, value added taxes, council taxes and parking meters (indirect taxes) whilst a certain sector of society gets to legally avoid theirs. The reason we pay so many indirect taxes, and the reason why so much gambling is encouraged (read lottery) is because we are making up for the shortfall that successive governments allow a certain class of people to avoid, legally of course. When some of the same type of people, read the banksters, become reckless and gamble it all away we the taxpayers then re-compensate them (a bailout) or, our same political class who allow such legal evasion to exist just print money for them instead and call it quantitative easing. I frequently read, from the pens of the business community, mainly the big banks, and the muliti-nationals, that conditions just aren’t competitive enough for them. Hence they lobby (bribe) and threaten elected governments into giving them the concessions and access denied to most other citizens. Still the same Governments and societies aren’t doing enough to make them thrive, not providing them with the right amount of tax breaks, being overly regulatory and not providing them with skilled workers. It goes on and on. Margaret Thatcher’s reign started with the top rate of tax being a staggering 83%, nowadays David Cameron’s Govt has set corporation tax at either 17% or close to it. The reality is, thanks to various loopholes, concessions and clever accounting, that many of the biggest, most popular and most profitable corporations pay as little as 1%. Again, most of us know this. And we need to thank the people of UKuncut who brought this issue to our consciousness a few years ago. We also need to thank the taxjusticenetwork, Nicholas Shaxson, the author of “Treasure Islands: Tax Havens and the men who stole the World,” and those who have leaked the Panama papers of the law firm Mossack Fonseca. Note, they are one of many. So what’s this all about? What’s going on? People and mainstream media are shouting its one rule for a certain type of people and another for the rest of us. Once again its “By design,” and its legal…like apartheid and slavery once were. I think its also about corrupt capitalism that, paradoxically destroys capitalism by draining demand from the economy. The outcome of which is less public services, more private business for the shareholders, less economic development around the world, less consumers, thus more unemployment and, eventually less profits as we the people will, and in many cases are, not able to buy the products (oh the irony) that some of the legal tax evaders are peddling. There’s the separate development or what I call economic apartheid right there in front of us. Here’s the idea Marx proposed coming to fruition also, that capitalism will eat itself, and before it happens it will be freedom in the market place (no regulation and rules for the capitalists) and tyranny in the workforce. I wonder if the business leaders, managers and prime ministers of Capitalism really care about the system they oversee? In John Ralston Saul’s marvellous book, “the unconscious civilisation,” he mentions Adam Smith, the father of capitalism, talking about regulating markets because they are not self regulating (what the free marketers say is the hidden hand). Smith also talked about money being a means of exchange only, and how the capitalist system needed all of its participants to benefit from it, in other words it was to have consumers who could buy what producers made so both would succeed. David Cameron, whose father’s livelihood was legal tax havens, is now being outed as having money stored in his father’s previous accounts, like many other heads of state around the world. Still most of them pedal and parrot the benefits of free markets (and those who don’t are condemned, killed, invaded or overthrown), the rule of law and in Cameron and his chancellor George Osborne’s rhetoric; they campaign and stand for “fairness” and mention “we’re all in it together”. Which we are because we are still allowing them to get away with their policies. Nevertheless, Cameron, Osborne and their colleagues in government, and a large percentage of the opposition, have allowed legal tax evasion to exist for numerous years, they have also supported free trade agreements that shift industry offshore to cheap labour zones (paying slightly above slave wages). They currently strip disabled and unemployed people of their meagre benefits, slash money to public services and hand over taxpayer’s money to the arms industries in order to invade countries that a large percentage of the world’s people (in the case of Iraq) democratically protested against. It makes you wonder what’s the motivating force behind the positions these leaders hold and why they hold the positions they do? It reminds me of a story a man once told me about a white colonialist in America talking to a native American Indian about the land they were standing on and how it contained a lot of oil below it. The Native American Indian asked the future oil baron what he thought his fare share would be? “All of it,” the oil baron replied. As I listen to Burning Spears song – “Do you remember the days of slavery” – I’m reminded of hanging out with Rupert Willingston in St Anne Jamaica. Rupert, the co-singer of the song (whose childhood friend and co-singer has since shut him out off his royalties) mentioned slavery and apartheid and said things have gotten better on that front yet many of the wars these days are, “from the overseers of finance and capitalism and they aren’t about colour mon, they’re about the dollar, and their shitstem aint beautiful and peaceful for the beautiful many mon”. His friend mentioned David Cameron was told by the former Jamaican president on his last visit to the island of his families links to slavery on the Island.“Cameron came here months ago and offered to build us a prison, cheek off da man, you overstand,” another Rasta said.“These people are modern slave drivers,” Rupert “spear” Willingston said. Is legal tax evasion a form of separate development? A form of Economic apartheid. A system that is turning people into slaves? The environment into peril. Is it socialism for the rich and capitalism for the middle and the poor. Do we need to slash social and public spending on our services, schools, hospitals, roads, police and fire departments because our countries haven’t got the money to pay for them? Do we not have the money for a renewable energy revolution? I think we know the answer to all of the above. And now we learn Mr. Cameron has just spent a further £9million pounds of the peoples’ tax (those who pay it of course) to publish a pamphlet to publicise his desire to stay in the EU. When questioned by a student who wanted to know if he was being undemocratic and counter productive, Cameron replied: “it is not, in my view, just legal – I think it is necessary and right.” It seems he and many of his ilk feel the same way about legal tax evasion. They also felt the same way about slavery and Apartheid. At least we know how to stop them, something about get up, stand up, stand up for your ….