I doubt Donald Trump’s wealth managers used Mossack Fonseca. Mossak Fonseca is just one of hundreds of law firms around the world that setup offshore companies and manage wealth. A gold spooner like Trump will have the best wealth managers money can buy. (Oh, but wouldn’t it be fun if we could follow Trumps money?)
There is a lot of old money behind the well organize and well-planned dissemination of the Panama Papers. I can’t wait to see the conspiracy theories that are going to flow from this particular leak.
Recent ICIJ funders include: Adessium Foundation, Open Society Foundations, The Sigrid Rausing Trust, the Fritt Ord Foundation, the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting, The Ford Foundation, The David and Lucile Packard Foundation, Pew Charitable Trusts and Waterloo Foundation.
For now, no Americans.
The United States has trade agreements with offshore banking jurisdictions. International trade agreements are unique and complex. If you are a billionaire who’s been around a while you’ll have lawyers who will make sure that you’re working with law firms and banks that are friendly to your purposes in jurisdictions friendly to your purposes.
The Panama US Tax Information Exchange Agreement includes a clause, Article 5, that specifies the terms of information sharing between the two countries on tax related matters:
The competent authority of the requested Party shall provide upon request by the competent authority of the requesting Party information for the purposes referred to in Article 1 of this Agreement. Such information shall be exchanged without regard to whether the requested Party needs such information for its own tax purposes or the conduct being investigated would constitute a crime under the laws of the requested Party if it had occurred in the territory of the requested Party.
The Article goes on to make clear that Mossack Fonseca’s type of services would certainly be included in the information request.
At present, there are no Americans or American firms named but that will change. Have a look at shotgun data created by Brian Kilmartin at CARTODB, a BIG DATA MAPPING PLATFORM
Now take a look at data activity nodes gathered by FUSION INTERACTIVE UNIVERSE.
We will know soon enough who’s been doing business down in Panama. Porn stars, pro-wrestlers and other unfortunates who thought that all they were doing was protecting their wealth from the tax man. The Uber Rich with their sophisticated wealth managers, law firms, and banks will skate free.
You see, there are just no incentives to stop them. The theory goes that huge multi-national corporations and individual billionaires have the resources to know how to spend their money in better ways than government bureaucracies. You see, they’re creating added value and jobs, or robots, or labor saving machines, or labor saving algorithms or some such thing. They understand labor arbitrage, an integral component to the availability of cheap stuff at Walmart. And let’s not forget the luxury goods industry that needs the fraction of one percent to keep going. In other words, where would the world be without the Uber Rich? In fact, could there be anything of beauty in our world without corruption and oligarchs? The paleo world isn’t that attractive to me anyway. And I must admit that I got uber excited by the spectacle of St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome this year.
When you look at hardline Trump supporters with their wide hopeful eyes and their firm belief that an entitled billionaire idiot savant can fix everything, you understand the power of elites and the mysterious force of money. When you remember the wide eyed enthusiasm for the first African American president and his simple slogan, “Yes we can”, along with his performance over the past seven and a half years, it’s not hard to comprehend the power of our current system and the passion with which oligarchs will fight to protect it.
When you create the game you make sure the rules are in your favor.
It may seem ironic but it’s probably time to show some compassion towards the Nouveau Riche in America who are petrified right now. They can’t help it that they are not Uber Rich. They never had the pedigree to be Uber Rich.
The lucky few who dropped out of college and became Uber Rich, and then started philanthropic empires are outliers. They came out of the system and truly innovated. They really did create added value, jobs, cool products and labor saving algorithms. We need these people, but do you think their most important incentive was to become Uber Rich? Perhaps for some of them. But I think the motivating factors in their lives were much more complex and of much higher value. They paid their taxes according to what their lawyers and wealth managers stipulated that they could get away with under the law, and sheltered their wealth. Now they are giving their money away and doing it smartly I might add.
We need to strike the right balance between all the great socio-economic theories and the law. We have to struggle forever trying to maintain that balance, for there are many forces that can erode it.
It’s not hard to imagine why poor and middle class people might feel that it’s unfair that they can’t shelter the little they have from irresponsible and venal politicians, greedy business people, poorly run institutions and badly managed bureaucracies that cause harm. When it’s the poor and the middle class who die in wars to make the system friendly for wealthy tax dodgers; when it’s the poor and the middle class who bail out the banks; when it’s the poor and the middle class who are losing their jobs to machines, robots, and labor saving algorithms it’s not hard to understand why people would feel angry, and frustrated. When life is this absurd it’s not hard to understand why simple people would vote for an entitled, idiot savant billionaire.
According to Christopher Freeman (2009), a scholar who devoted much time researching Schumpeter's work: "the central point of his whole life work [is]: that capitalism can only be understood as an evolutionary process of continuous innovation and 'creative destruction'". Wikipedia
Perhaps it’s time to let the destruction begin. Either that or strike a better balance.