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Pandora papers: merciless corporate greed unmasked

LEFT JAB by John Bell

October 22, 2021
The media is working overtime to put a happy face on the monstrous disparity between the uber-wealthy few and the great underpaid, overworked masses.
Exploiters like billionaires Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos have raked in so much by busting union drives and denying their workers toilet breaks that they are locked in a vanity space race. Bezos even gave Canadian hambone William Shatnera free trip to almost outer space as a publicity stunt. 
(What got far less publicity was Shatner’s actual reaction to the flight: overwhelming sadness. “We’re at the tipping point, we haven’t got time to wait 30 years and argue about a few billion dollars. Burying your head in the sand another instant about global warming and the destruction of the planet is suicide for all of us.” Turns out being a bad actor doesn’t mean you are a fool.)
US billionaires have increased their collective wealth by about $1.8 TRILLION during the COVID emergency. Space cadet Elon Musk alone raked in $150 BILLION, a 600% raise.
Amazon boss Bezos came a poor second – getting only a 66% raise over the last 18 months, Bezos remains the king of the billionaires, “worth” $188 BILLION as of mid-August.  
Obscenely rich Americans are obscenely richer thanks in part to the obscene President Donald Trump who cut corporate taxes rates from 35% (2017) to 21%. Not that billionaires and corporations anywhere in the world ever paid their “fair share” of taxes.
This is not a uniquely American phenomenon. In Canada, on paper, corporate taxes are pegged at 26.5% (down from 39.5% in 2010). The number of Canadian billionaires as of 2020 was 53, with 7 new individualsjoining the club that year alone. 
Coming on fast, by the start of this year China boasted 388 billionaires controlling $1.19 TRILLION. The corporate tax rate in China is officially 25%.
As of 2020, before the pandemic profiteering, there were 3,204 billionaires worldwide, controlling combined wealth of about US$10 TRILLION. The people who rule the world could all fit into NYC’s Radio City Music Hall, with almost half the seats empty.
And you still aren’t getting in.
Pandering and Pandora
All the corporate tax rates cited above are fictitious. 
Take Amazon and Bezos. In 2020, following record profits, Amazon paid a tax rate of about 9% – less than half the official rate. That year alone they avoided paying $2.3 BILLIONof their “fair share”. And that was a “bad” year for Amazon. During the Trump years Amazon paid about an average 4% tax rate. 
They performed this magic with aid of their lovely assistants, governments just waiting to be sawed in half. Big corporations and the uber-rich class that controls them use a variety of tax loopholes. One of the most popular is simply transferring your fabulous wealth to a dummy corporation set up in a one of many “tax havens” around the world. 
A tax haven is a country that offers foreign businesses and individuals minimal or no tax liability for their bank deposits in a politically and economically stable environment. They are nothing new. But they offer clients a valuable legal service – laws that protect the secrecy of who, where and how much.
Tax havens no longer need to be off-shore, although technically everyplace is off-shore to someplace else. Such is “The South Dakota Advantage”. The oft overlooked state has recently passed laws creating capital and banking services for clients from around the world, no questions asked, and more laws to guarantee them secrecy. Money launderers and human rights abusers came-a-knocking, and now Sioux Falls is home of a BILLION dollar financial industry.
Other cash-strapped states are rushing to catch up – Alaska, New Hampshire, Nevada and Joe Biden’s home state of Delaware are all in the running to offer brutal dictators, environmental despoilers and top-tier criminals a safe place to park their cash. 
Now, thanks to hackers dumping stacks of previously secret information into our laps, and to organizations like the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) that are mining that mountain of data for stories, we know details. In 2015 it was the Panama Papers (11.5 million leaked documents); now the even bigger Pandora Papers (12 million documents).
The documents expose lots of individual ruling class gangsters: the Czech prime minister who used his offshore account to illegally purchase 2 villas in the south of France; the leading financial supporter of the British Conservative Party  tied to corruption and fraud; the King of Jordan funneling about $100 million into secret real-estate deals in the UK and across North America…the list goes on and on.
From tax haven to housing bubble 
But rather than focus on the individual crimes, I want to make a few general points.
When the story broke it was everywhere – for a few days. Now, just a few weeks after the revelations, the media has all but buried it. Instead we get hours of “news” coverage of Shatner in space, the newest iPhone and all things pumpkin spice.
This shouldn’t surprise. Media is concentrated in few hands, in boardrooms controlled by international trusts – the very corporate entities that create, control and benefit from tax loopholes and offshore havens. Six years after the Panama Papers, a few individuals have been busted but, overall, nations like Canada have done next to nothing about closing those loopholes. Never before has the criminal disparity between those 3,200 or so people who hide their TRILLIONS in off-shore vaults like so many Scrooge McDucks, and (for instance) the 47% of Canadian workerswho live from paycheck to paycheck been so obvious.
This isn’t just a symbolic thing. There is a direct connection between a tax haven in the Virgin Islands and the fact that there is no affordable housing in Toronto, or Vancouver or Montreal. These shadowy, unaccountable trusts are the forces gobbling up housing stock in cities around the world, driving people to live in tents under our bridges. They are why your healthcare is in danger of being privatized. They are why our public education system is being dismantled. They are why it is impossible to bring environmental criminals to court.
Canada is up to its nostrils in this Pandora shit pile. Successive governments have aided and abetted corporations by creating laws making it easy to move money off-shore and avoid criminal liability for economic activity in other countries. Canada has the weakest “white collar crime” laws in the OECD. No wonder about 80% of the world’s mining industries have headquarters in Canada.
So the uber-rich can shrug and say: “Sure what we do is vile, sleazy and morally bankrupt. But it isn’t illegal. Now excuse me while I buy a yacht for my yacht.” 
A final word: in the Greek myth of Pandora’s Box, the gods put all the ills of the world in one box, as revenge because Prometheus stole fire and gave it to humanity. But when the rest weren’t looking Zeus put hope in the box as well. I have no direct proof, but I like to think – I hope – that the Pandora Papers revelations and the rise of #Striketober happening at the same time are connected.
For too long capitalism has hidden its crimes and horrors behind a mask of benevolence. The Pandora Papers rips away the last remnants of that disguise.
Watch the video below to learn more about the Pandora papers. 
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