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Audit the Rich!

by DAVE LINDORFF

Hold everything!

I mean it. Stop talking about cutting school budgets, Social Security benefits, Medicare, Veteran’s pensions. Stop cutting subsidies to transit systems, to foreign aid. Stop cutting unemployment benefits. Stop it all.

There can not be any justification for budget cutting while wealthy criminals, corrupt politicians and business executives are hiding what reportedly totals between $29 trillion and $32 trillion in offshore tax havens.

A massive data dump by the Washington-based International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ), working in conjunction with dozens of news organizations around the globe, has exposed the secret files of over 120,000 dummy offshore companies that have been used for years to hide the wealth — much of it ill-gotten, all of it tax-dodged — of the world’s rich and mega-rich.

Before we go further, let’s think about those numbers, which are really mind-boggling.

The US annual federal budget for 2012 was $3.7 trillion. The total US economy, largest in the world by far, was $15.8 trillion in 2012. That federal budget deficit that we hear so much about, which is growing by $1 trillion a year, totals about $16 trillion.

Now by comparison, the Philadelphia school system — fifth-largest in the country —  is in crisis, with 27 schools being closed down because of a budget shortfall of $304 million. That shortfall (the direct result of tax breaks given to wealthy corporations in the city), is approximately one ten-millionth of a percent of the amount of money criminal politicians and business leaders — many and probably the vast majority of them, Americans —  are reportedly squirreling away abroad in hidden accounts each year!

The total shortfall in the US Social Security system, that is leading a huge number of politicians in Washington, Republican and Democrat, to claim that the sky is falling and that the system will go “bankrupt” in 2036, is $8.6 trillion. Even that huge deficit, caused by the large number of Baby Boomers born between 1946 and 1964 reaching retirement age over the next two decades, could be totally erased by simply taking back a quarter of the money illegally shipped abroad by our and other countries’ ruling elites.

Given that the US economy is roughly one quarter of the global economy, we can assume that at least a quarter of the hidden offshore money, or about $8 trillion, belongs to Americans, but in truth, the US legal system is so skewed in favor of the super rich, and the US ruling elite is so incredibly greedy and corrupt, that I’d guess that it’s more likely that half of that dirty money, or about $15-16 trillion, comes from this country.

Are you pissed off yet?

I am.

Even if, as the articles being written about this grand heist of our national wealth and the national wealth of other nations, is technically legal, the only reason it is legal is because these same politicians and greedy executives have used a minuscule portion of their ill-gotten gains to bribe politicians to jerry-rig the tax laws and make hiding money from taxation legal.  Anyhow, the main reason for hiding most of that money abroad is almost certainly because it has been obtained corruptly. That is, it’s not just that the money should be getting taxed, meaning that fully a third of it, at a minimum, should be going into national treasuries, including the US treasury, but that most of it should be recovered in full and returned to its rightful owners. (By the way, in cases of fraud, there is no statute of limitations for tax liability. I’m just sayin’.)

That would be in a decent world.

If this country were an honest and genuine democracy, Congress would be up in arms today about the news of all this hidden money, and would be setting up hearings even as you’re reading this article to investigate how it happened and how to recover it. There would be loud, impassioned calls for the Justice Department, the SEC and the IRS to launch massive legal probes to arrest and convict the crooks and to bring back the money.

Have you seen any of this happening? Have you heard any such calls for action from Congress? No. The New York Times, the nation’s supposed leading newspaper, relegated its news report on the ICIJ documents exposing this crime of the millennium to an inside page and a few columns on Friday and focused on how scared and embarrassed it was making some rich people. Most Americans probably don’t even know what has been discovered, or even understand what a trillion dollars is. Just to give you a sense of things, in case you are (perhaps courtesy of an underfunded school) one of America’s many number-challenged: the entire US military budget for a year, not counting interest on the military-caused debt, is less than $1 trillion! That is also about the size of the annual US budget deficit, about which we hear so much blather in Congress.

We need a massive outcry demanding: “No cuts! Bring back the stolen money!”  As for the IRS, we should be demanding: “No more audits of ordinary taxpayers! Audit the rich!”

This isn’t a right/left political issue. This is flat out criminality by the richest people  and corporations the world has ever seen.

People of all political persuasions need to join together and demand: “Enough! We want justice, not budget cuts and tax hikes!”

No child should go hungry, no classroom should have more than 20 students, no teacher should be working for $30,000 a year, no veteran should be homeless, no road should be potholed, no transit system should be raising fares, no EPA air quality monitoring station should be shut down, no Social Security check should be cut, and no one should be denied medical care while the rich are being allowed to stash trillions of dollars a year in dummy companies in the Cayman Islands, British Virgin Islands, Singapore or some other tropical hideaway!

Dave Lindorff is a  founder of This Can’t Be Happening and a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion, published by AK Press. Hopeless is also available in a Kindle edition. He lives in Philadelphia.

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Dave Lindorff is a founding member of ThisCantBeHappening!, an online newspaper collective, and is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion (AK Press).

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