Where Angels Prey

Where Angels Prey is a novel by Ramesh S Arunachalam. Please refer to www.whereangelsprey.com for more information

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Panama Papers and The Governance of Corruption: Did Bernie Sanders Have a Premonition?

Ramesh S Arunachalam 
Even as Iceland prime minister resigns over The Panama Papers revelations[i], I saw this video and said Gosh, you must be kidding! This man really has foresight! Look at What Bernie Sanders says in the Video and you will be shocked to note that he had the premonition that something like the Panama Papers were coming...

Here is what Bernie said and I quote...

“Finally, Mr. President, let's talk about the Panama Free Trade Agreement.

Panama's entire annual economic output is only $26.7 billion a year, or about two-tenths of one percent of the U.S. economy.  No-one can legitimately make the claim that approving this free trade agreement will significantly increase American jobs.

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.

Adding insult to injury, Mr. President, the Panama FTA would require the United States to waive Buy America requirements for procurement bids from thousands of foreign firms, including many Chinese firms, incorporated in this major tax haven.  That may make sense to China, it does not make sense to me.

Finally, Panama is also listed by the State Department as a major venue for Mexican and Colombian drug cartel money laundering.  Should we be rewarding this country with a free trade agreement?  I think the answer should be a resounding no.” (You Tube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LrsI0Sw2hq8 and Text: http://www.sanders.senate.gov/newsroom/press-releases/senate-speech-by-sen-bernie-sanders-on-unfettered-free-trade)

And this is what Hillary Clinton is reported to have done when the Panama Free Trade Agreement was pushed through by the Obama Administration. This is what she is reported to have said[ii] and I quote the same:

“Years before more than a hundred media outlets around the world released stories Sunday exposing a massive network of global tax evasion detailed in the so-called Panama Papers, U.S. President Barack Obama and then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton pushed for a Bush administration-negotiated free trade agreement that watchdogs warned would only make the situation worse.

Soon after taking office in 2009, Obama and his secretary of state — who is currently the Democratic presidential front-runner — began pushing for the passage of stalled free trade agreements (FTAs) with Panama, Colombia and South Korea that opponents said would make it more difficult to crack down on Panama’s very low income tax rate, banking secrecy laws and history of noncooperation with foreign partners.

Even while Obama championed his commitment to raise taxes on the wealthy, he pursued and eventually signed the Panama agreement in 2011. Upon Congress ratifying the pact, CLINTON ISSUED A STATEMENT LAUDING THE AGREEMENT, saying it and other deals with Colombia and South Korea "will make it easier for American companies to sell their products." She added: "The Obama administration is constantly working to deepen our economic engagement throughout the world, and these agreements are an example of that commitment."

That said, if there is one characteristic of the US Presidential Primaries, it is the surging anger against the wealthy including the global elite for their misdeeds including tax evasion – whether be it at Wall-street or elsewhere. And this can be observed both in the Democratic as well as Republican primaries. While there have been no American causalities so far from the Panama Papers, it is likely to happen sooner than later, as more revelations are expected shortly.

That notwithstanding, given the current discussions in the US Presidential Primaries on Wall-Street as well as large corporations supposedly evading payment of taxes in the United States (by using tax havens), the Panama Papers expose COULD perhaps hand Bernie Sanders an intrinsic advantage as he is seen as someone who has consistently raised the issue of tax evasion through tax havens, warned people about this hideous practice and also opposed the same vehemently (on a regular basis with no flip flopping what-so-ever). Eventually, it COULD even perhaps hand him the keys to the White House may be! Who knows? Only time will provide the answer...

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