Wednesday, December 05, 2012

Wednesday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material for your mid-week reading.

- Martin Kirk discusses the role governments play in allowing and facilitating the extraction of a substantial portion of the world's wealth to tax havens (h/t to thwap):
Tax theft is endemic all over the world. It is organised through an intricate system of tax havens; the PR around it is astonishingly good, as evidenced by the fact that most people have no idea of its scale and can get distracted by the misdeeds of a few bad apples rather than seeing the barrel they came in; and one of the most vibrant and important hubs – the City of London - is sitting right under the noses of the British politicians who are today decrying the corporations who use it.

Tax havens exist solely to help the rich avoid national taxes. They give them a way to opt out of the social contract. Multinationals happily extract profits from countries and then team up with tax havens to avoid paying their share of taxes that make the countries profitable for them in the first place. Without things like the rule of law, and economic and political stability, the market for most products would flounder. All these things cost, and when people steal taxes they are essentially saying, everyone but us should pay.

The scale of the theft is staggering. Somewhere between $21 and $32 trillion is hidden behind the vast walls of tax haven secrecy. That’s the equivalent of one third of all global annual income. Somewhere between 60 and 70% of all international trade flows through them so that profits can be siphoned off untaxed.

The scale alone means tax havens have a material impact on levels of global inequality and poverty. But more insidious is what they actively facilitate. Tax havens are in the background of practically every instance of large-scale corruption and economic crime of the last thirty years. Every corrupt leader, every major arms dealer and drug cartel, as well as most multinational corporations rely on their ‘discretion’ to do business. It’s a morality-blind service industry for the ultra-rich. Forget the 1% - this industry exists largely for the pleasure and benefit of the 0.02%; the 10 million people who ‘own’ the bulk of the $21trillion hidden.
- Michael Harris talks to Allan Cutler about secrecy and corruption in the federal government - and the one-time Con candidate has some sharp words for the party which recruited him:
Years after a nondescript public servant wouldn’t play ball with institutional sleaze (and became a national hero in the process), Allan Cutler still has Canada on his mind. He is as troubled now as ever he was when Jean Chretien had his name embossed on golf balls to keep Quebec in Canada.

“I had hoped after Gomery that things would change. If anything, it has gotten worse. We have an epidemic of corruption at the federal level. Whistleblowers are even more unwelcome now than they were then.”
“In the end, it didn’t matter. Even if I had won the election, I would have been an independent in a few months. And I would have lost the next election.”

After his defeat, Cutler eventually was offered a “six figure” salary to work for John Baird as a policy advisor. There was, however, a condition: Allan Cutler, a man of the people behind the scenes, had to agree not to advocate for anyone in public. He turned the job down.
“I think things are actually worse now than they were back then. I have seen evidence of decisions on billion dollar contracts that were decided at meetings where no minutes were kept. I have seen evidence of helicopter maintenance contracts that were moved all around North America to increase the costs.

“In any organization there will always be corrupt people. But the system still protects them and that is wrong. Deputy ministers have a legal obligation to report to the Privy Council when a minister interferes in their departments. They never do. And even if they did, there is no penalty for such interference.”

- Meanwhile, the Cons are doing their best to prove Cutler right in considering them the most corrupt and ineffective government yet. The latest hits include their cover-up of internal communications as to how to respond to concerns about muzzling scientists, the revelation that the Cons are pushing a bill to sweep torture and its consequences under the rug, and the news that Canada's minister responsible for foreign aid has absolutely no clue what foreign aid is supposed to accomplish.

- Finally, Bill Tieleman makes the case as to why we shouldn't lump the NDP, Libs and Greens together under a single anti-Conservative banner. And Jamey Heath's counterargument for a pre-electoral pact doesn't go far beyond "we must do something, this is something, ergo we must do this!".


  1. Anonymous1:16 p.m.

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  2. Anonymous5:00 a.m.


    In relation to this merger debate, I have already commented on the parties themselves:

    It was serendipity that I recently glanced at your re-tweet of Paul Wells. Like a good "Media Party" apparatchik, he scolded "some NDP dork" (his exact words) for welcoming the Liberal shut-outs in recent by-elections.

    This NDP supporter's apparent "thought-crime" was to not sufficiently tremble at the prospect of "inevitable" Conservative rule. After all, when progressives fight...Conservatives win, correct?

    It is fitting that Wells' Twitter avatar depicts him staring down at his own tripe. If he ever looked up (or outside), he would have noticed a province which repudiates his half-baked electoral theories.

    Ontario has recently seen the NDP, Conservatives, & Liberals each successively take power. It has also seen each demoted under the weight of time & circumstance. Such is the bane of a fluid & disinterested electorate.

    The Conservative leadership themselves know just how tenuous a grasp they have on the electorate. This is why they spare no expense or exaggeration in their never-ending propaganda efforts.

    Such effort would not be required if Conservatives were the implacable cultural forces that merger-advocates declare them to be.

  3. Anonymous6:01 a.m.

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