‘Paradise Papers’ Show How Wealthy Stash Riches, Dodge Taxes

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By Emily Wells for Truth Dig – A trove of recently leaked files pertaining to offshore finance, dubbed “the Paradise Papers,” offers insight into how the wealthiest corporations and individuals protect their riches. The documents also show financial ties to Russia of a member of President Trump’s Cabinet. The 13.4 million files were obtained by the German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung and subsequently shared with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ), which has been investigating offshore finance for several years. According to a New York Times report, Appleby, an offshore firm at the center of the documents, said it has “thoroughly and vigorously investigated the allegations and we are satisfied that there is no evidence of any wrongdoing, either on the part of ourselves or our clients.” The ICIJ said Sunday in a post announcing the release of the papers that they “reveal offshore interests and activities of more than 120 politicians and world leaders.” The papers include data on U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, chief economic adviser Gary Cohn, major donors to the Trump campaign and a business associate of the president’s son-in law, Jared Kushner. The papers also reveal financial activity and investments by Queen Elizabeth II, Bono, Apple, Nike and Facebook.

Trouble In The Offshore Paradise

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By Chuck Collins for Inequality – Just as Congress begins debate on the Republicans’ “Tax Cut and Jobs Act,” new revelations have emerged about how wealthy elites around the world hide their wealth. The “Paradise Papers” — the result of a leak from the Bermuda-based law firm Appleby — shines additional light onto the shadowy world of hidden wealth and tax dodging. Efforts to reform the U.S. tax system are fundamentally undermined by a global tax-avoidance system that allows individuals and corporations to shift trillions to offshore havens to escape taxation, accountability, and publicity. The Paradise Papers, alongside the “Panama Papers” released in April 2016, provide another set of disclosures into a system full of titillating details about how high-ranking global officials have created their own system of rules. The Bermuda leaks disclose the role of high-ranking Trump administration members, including Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and White House economic advisor Gary Cohn, in using offshore tax havens. National groups and political leaders, including Democratic House Leader Nancy Pelosi, are calling for a slowdown of Republican efforts to push through their tax bill to address these abuses. Oxfam America and the Financial Accountability and Corporate Transparency (FACT) Coalition have called on Congress to hold hearings on the findings and a debate over how to best remedy them. Tax Justice Network international has called on the United Nations to convene a global summit to address tax haven abuse.

This Year’s Real Halloween Horror

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By Bob Lord for Inequality – The family that has made billions off trick-or-treat candy has gone generations without paying any appreciable tax on its enormous fortune. And the Trump tax plan, if adopted, would ax a huge chunk of the tax on the family’s income! The Mars family has made billions selling us M&Ms, Snickers, and countless other Halloween treats for a century now. But when it comes to paying tax, the Mars family seems to be all tricks and no treats. In fact, the family’s latest tax trick may have cost the U.S. Treasury a whopping $10 billion. What could $10 billion do? That’s the cost of delivering prenatal care to hundreds of thousands of expectant moms under Medicaid, an essential program that President Trump and the GOP Congress plan to cut by up to $1 trillion. According to the current U.S. tax code, any American worth $25 billion can expect 40 percent of that, or $10 billion, to go to Uncle Sam in estate tax, the federal levy on the personal fortunes of deep pockets who kick the bucket. Forrest Mars Jr. had a $25-billion fortune when he died in July 2016. But the Mars family has apparently been able to avoid estate tax on that entire $25 billion. How do we know? Researchers at Forbes and Bloomberg, the two business publications that track America’s billionaire wealth, have some fascinating numbers for us.

World's Billionaires Own A Staggering $6 Trillion

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By Jake Johnson for Common Dreams – In an analysis (pdf) published Thursday that throws into stark relief the “unjust and unsustainable” nature of what economists have termed the New Gilded Age, the Swiss financial firm UBS found that the wealth of the world’s billionaires grew by 17 percent in 2016, bringing their combined fortune to a record $6 trillion — more than double the gross domestic product of the United Kingdom. The report also found that there are 1,542 billionaires in the world and more than 563 in the United States alone, more than any other country. Josef Stadler, lead author of the UBS analysis, told the Guardian that the firm’s findings demonstrate that the world is “now two years into the peak of the second Gilded Age.” The extent of the world’s wealth concentration — just eight men now own as much wealth as half of the global population — raises a number of questions, one of which is whether the world’s population will continue to tolerate such vast inequities, Stadler said. “We’re at an inflection point,” Stadler argued. “Wealth concentration is as high as in 1905, this is something billionaires are concerned about. The problem is the power of interest on interest — that makes big money bigger and, the question is to what extent is that sustainable and at what point will society intervene and strike back?”

Elites “Have No Credibility Left:” An Interview With Journalist Chris Hedges

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By David North for WSWS – On Monday, WSWS International Editorial Board Chairman David North interviewed Chris Hedges, the Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, author, lecturer and former New York Times correspondent. Among Hedges’ best-known books are War is a Force That Gives Us Meaning, The Death of the Liberal Class, Empire of Illusion: the End of Literacy and the Triumph of Spectacle, Days of Destruction, Days of Revolt, which he co-wrote with the cartoonist Joe Sacco, and Wages of Rebellion: the Moral Imperative of Revolt. In an article published in TruthdigSeptember 17, titled “The Silencing of Dissent,” Hedges referenced the WSWS coverage of Google’s censorship of left-wing sites and warned about the growth of “blacklisting, censorship and slandering dissidents as foreign agents for Russia and purveyors of ‘fake news.’” Hedges wrote that “the Department of Justice called on RT America and its ‘associates’—which may mean people like me—to register under the Foreign Agent Registration Act. No doubt, the corporate state knows that most of us will not register as foreign agents, meaning we will be banished from the airwaves. This, I expect, is the intent.” North’s interview with Hedges began with a discussion of the significance of the anti-Russia campaign in the media.

The Trump-Goldman Sachs Tax Cut For The Rich

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By Jack Rasmus for Jack Rasmus – “This past week Trump introduced his long awaited Tax Cut, estimated between $2.0 to $2.4 trillion. Like so many other distortions of the truth, Trump claimed his plan would benefit the middle class, not the rich—the latest in a long litany of lies by this president. Contradicting Trump, the independent Tax Policy Center has estimated in just the first year half of the $2 trillion plus Trump cuts will go to the wealthiest 1% households that annually earn more than $730,000. That’s an immediate income windfall to the wealthiest 1% households of 8.5%, according to the Tax Policy Center. But that’s only in the first of ten years the cuts will be in effect. It gets worse over time. According to the Tax Policy Center, “Taxpayers in the top one percent (incomes above $730,000), would receive about 50 percent of the total tax benefit [in 2018]”. However, “By 2027, the top one percent would get 80 percent of the plan’s tax cuts while the share for middle-income households would drop to about five percent.” By the last year of the cuts, 2027, on average the wealthiest 1% household would realize $207,000, and the even wealthier 0.1% would realize an income gain of $1,022,000.

Trump’s Tax Plan: A Billion Or Three For Guys Like Him

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By Bob Lord for Inequality – What’s the largest personal stake a U.S. president has ever had in legislation he signed into law? Whatever it was, it’ll be dwarfed by what Donald Trump’s signature will be worth — to himself — if Congress passes his proposed tax plan and puts it on his desk. If that happens, Trump will be effectively cutting himself a check from the U.S. Treasury for several billion dollars. Call me cynical, but it seems that’s exactly what Trump has in mind. His plan just fits his tax situation — or what we know of it, without access to his tax returns — too perfectly. The president’s tax proposal eliminates two taxes that mostly benefit the wealthy, and cuts a third tax roughly in half. That would bestow a windfall worth billions on the Trump family. First, there’s the elimination of the alternative minimum tax, or AMT. The AMT applies to taxpayers whose income tax liability otherwise would be reduced excessively by certain deductions, including deductions commonly claimed by real estate owners like Trump. It’s like an alternative tax system in which the rates are lower but fewer deductions are allowed.

Why Some Western Intellectuals Are Trying To Debrutalise Colonialism

The ugliness of colonial power in India emerged at its end with the Bengal Famine and the Partition | Wikimedia Commons

By Vijay Prashad for Scroll.In – Césaire was adamant: colonialism had produced nothing that would earn it respect in the scales of history. This was in 1950, when a few nations has just emerged out of the scar of colonialism and when many societies fought pitched battles to extricate themselves from colonial power. The ugliness of colonial power in India emerged at its end, with callous policy by the British engendering the millions dead in the Bengal Famine of 1943, and the million dead and millions displaced in the Partition of 1947-’48. It was harsh too when one considers that after centuries of rule, the British left behind a region with a literacy rate of merely 12%. Indian historians had looked back at the record of British rule in India to find economic and political policies designed to impoverish the country at the expense of Britain, with massive surpluses from India sucked into Britain to underwrite the industrial revolution and to build a British military force capable of ruling the sprawling British Empire. “India is to be bled,” said the Marquees of Salisbury in the 1870s. So it was. The Indian subcontinent did not submit to this “drain of wealth” with submissiveness. Revolts came hard and fast, from the early days of British colonial rule in the 18th century (such as the Fakir-Sanyasi rebellion in the 1770s) to the final days of its rule in the 20th century (such as the Patri Sarkar in the 1940s).

Obama Goes From White House to Wall Street In Less Than One Year

Former U.S. President Barack Obama speaks during the Seeds&Chips Global Food Innovation Summit on May 9, 2017 in Milan, Italy. (Photo: Pier Marco Tacca/Getty Images)

By Max Abelson for Bloomberg – Last month, just before her book “What Happened” was published, Barack Obama spoke in New York to clients of Northern Trust Corp. for about $400,000, a person familiar with his appearance said. Last week, he reminisced about the White House for Carlyle Group LP, one of the world’s biggest private equity firms, according to two people who were there. Next week, he’ll give a keynote speech at investment bank Cantor Fitzgerald LP’s health-care conference. Obama is coming to Wall Street less than a year after leaving the White House, following a path that’s well trod and well paid. While he can’t run for president, he continues to be an influential voice in a party torn between celebrating and vilifying corporate power. His new work with banks might suggest which side of the debate he’ll be on and disappoint anyone expecting him to avoid a trap that snared Clinton. Or, as some of his executive friends see it, he’s just a private citizen giving a few paid speeches to other successful people while writing his next book. “He was the president of the entire United States — financial services are under that umbrella,” said former UBS Group AG executive Robert Wolf, an early supporter who joined the Obama Foundation board this year. “He doesn’t look at Wall Street like, ‘Oh, these are individuals who don’t want the best for the country.’ He doesn’t stereotype.”

Destructive Stock Buybacks—That You Pay For

'Conventional monetary policy has failed,' writes Brown. An economy in service of the people, not industry and the banks, is what's needed now. (Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg)

By Ralph Nader for The Nader Page – The monster of economic waste—over $7 trillion of dictated stock buybacks since 2003 by the self-enriching CEOs of large corporations—started with a little noticed change in 1982 by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) under President Ronald Reagan. That was when SEC Chairman John Shad, a former Wall Street CEO, redefined unlawful ‘stock manipulation’ to exclude stock buybacks. Then after Clinton pushed through congress a $1 million cap on CEO pay that could be deductible, CEO compensation consultants wanted much of CEO pay to reflect the price of the company’s stock. The stock buyback mania was unleashed. Its core was not to benefit shareholders (other than perhaps hedge fund speculators) by improving the earnings per share ratio. Its real motivation was to increase CEO pay no matter how badly such burning out of shareholder dollars hurt the company, its workers and the overall pace of economic growth. In a massive conflict of interest between greedy top corporate executives and their own company, CEO-driven stock buybacks extract capital from corporations instead of contributing capital for corporate needs, as the capitalist theory would dictate. Yes, due to the malicious, toady SEC “business judgement” rule, CEOs can take trillions of dollars away from productive pursuits without even having to ask the companies’ owners—the shareholders—for approval.

After The Financial Crisis: How The Ultra-Wealthy Have Prospered

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By Nick Beams for WSWS – It is said that a picture is worth a thousand words. The same might apply to a graph. One such case is a striking graphic, published in the Financial Times this week, showing a downturn in the wealth of the world’s top-ten billionaires in the financial crisis of 2008, and then roaring back, at an even greater rate than in the past, to reach new heights. As the brief article noted, the net worth of the world’s “very wealthiest people took a hit during the financial crisis as the stock market tumbled—but that pause would be short lived.” The crisis proved to be but a “temporary setback.” The graphic serves to underscore the real meaning of the word “recovery,” which is so frequently bandied about by the heads of the world’s major economic institutions to describe the state of the world economy. In fact, it has nothing to do with economic reality. On the contrary, it reveals the state of the world’s ultra-wealthy, in contrast to the situation confronting hundreds of millions of working people in the major economies, where real incomes remain below their level before the 2008 crisis, and wealth has contracted.

Barbara Lee And Tulsi Gabbard Side With War Party On Sanctions

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By Danny Haiphong for Black Agenda Report – The House recently voted to enforce sanctions against Russia, Iran, and the DPRK. Congress included an unprecedented provision in the bill to restrict the President from amending the sanctions without approval from Congress. Despite vocal opposition, the Trump Administration was forced to sign the bill in the face of near unanimous support. All three in Congress who voted against the sanctions were Republicans. Bernie Sanders and Rand Paul were the only Senators to vote down the bill. Also missing from the opposition’s short list was Democratic Party representatives Barbara Lee and Tulsi Gabbard. Lee and Gabbard’s absence from Washington’s minuscule opposition to sanctions is significant because both representatives have a record of using their vote to curtail US war designs. Lee was the only elected official to vote against the invasion of Afghanistan in 2001. She opposed the invasion of Iraq two years later. One of the few Black Congressional Caucus members with a consistent track record against foreign intervention, Lee also opposed President Barack Obama’s violation of the War Powers Act when he led the NATO invasion of Libya in 2011.

The Dance Of Death

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By Chris Hedges for Truth Dig – The ruling corporate elites no longer seek to build. They seek to destroy. They are agents of death. They crave the unimpeded power to cannibalize the country and pollute and degrade the ecosystem to feed an insatiable lust for wealth, power and hedonism. Wars and military “virtues” are celebrated. Intelligence, empathy and the common good are banished. Culture is degraded to patriotic kitsch. Education is designed only to instill technical proficiency to serve the poisonous engine of corporate capitalism. Historical amnesia shuts us off from the past, the present and the future. Those branded as unproductive or redundant are discarded and left to struggle in poverty or locked away in cages. State repression is indiscriminate and brutal. And, presiding over the tawdry Grand Guignol is a deranged ringmaster tweeting absurdities from the White House. The graveyard of world empires—Sumerian, Egyptian, Greek, Roman, Mayan, Khmer, Ottoman and Austro-Hungarian—followed the same trajectory of moral and physical collapse. Those who rule at the end of empire are psychopaths, imbeciles, narcissists and deviants, the equivalents of the depraved Roman emperors Caligula, Nero, Tiberius and Commodus.

‘Obscene’: 70 Top Healthcare CEOs Raked In $9.8 Billion Since 2010

"Stock-heavy pay drives CEOs to do the exact opposite of their buzzword-laden goals of creating a 'patient-centered' health system that focuses on 'value,'" writes Axios's Bob Herman. (Photo: Elvert Barnes/Flickr/cc)

By Jake Johnson for Common Dreams – While the Senate GOP’s plan to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA) has been denounced as potentially devastating to the poor, the sick, women, people of color, children, and those with pre-existing conditions, a new analysis published Monday finds that no matter what happens, the CEOs of large healthcare companies are likely to continue living lavishly. “The median household income in 2015 was $56,515, which the average healthcare CEO made in less than a day.” Bob Herman, Axios Since the Affordable Care Act (ACA) passed in 2010, the “CEOs of 70 of the largest U.S. healthcare companies cumulatively have earned $9.8 billion,” according to a report by Axios’s Bob Herman. Herman goes on to add that the CEOs’ earnings “far outstrip[ped] the wage growth of nearly all Americans.” “The richest year [for healthcare CEOs] was 2015, when 70 healthcare CEOs collectively made $2 billion,” Herman notes. “That was an average of about $28.5 million per CEO and a median of about $17.3 million per CEO. The median household income in 2015 was $56,515, which the average healthcare CEO made in less than a day.”

There’s No ‘Free Market’ Solution To Health Care

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By Geoff Coventry for Other Words – The Republicans have big plans for health care in this country: to eliminate coverage for millions of Americans while delivering a big tax cut to the rich. As someone who stands to benefit from that tax cut, let me just say: I don’t need it, and I don’t want it. No tax cut is worth excluding millions of Americans from the health services they need. Any new health care legislation should be focused on providing the best available health services for all Americans, not deliberately putting them out of reach. And yet, this is exactly what the twin monstrosities that came out of the House and Senate would have done. According to the Congressional Budget Office, the House bill would’ve left 23 million Americans uncovered by 2026. The Senate version was only a shade better, leaving 22 million people out. Those bills were nonstarters with the public — the party was forced to pull them, along with any immediate plans to repeal the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare). This Republican-majority Congress has shown their cards: They favor less coverage for workers and the elderly and lower taxes for the wealthy. Republicans in both chambers claim they’re doing this to support “freedom” and “choice” for the American people. They say the “free market” is the only way to provide Americans with access to affordable health care.