Tax Secrets Of The Wealthy.

Most Americans fear being audited by the IRS based on the knowledge that, if it is deemed that they have not paid their fair share, they could face penalties, garnishment of wages and/or possible imprisonment. Yet some of the wealthiest Americans and multinational corporations apparently have no such fear. It’s not enough that these people and organizations have used their wealth to lobby Congress to create a myriad of tax write-offs and corporate welfare schemes. Many find tax shelters to avoid paying taxes altogether.

According to the Financial Secrecy Index created by the Tax Justice Network, “An estimated $21 to $32 trillion of private financial wealth is located, untaxed or lightly taxed, in secrecy jurisdictions around the world.” The organization uses the term “secrecy jurisdictions” rather than the more common “tax havens” because the secrecy provided by these jurisdictions does more than aid tax avoidance. The secrecy is key to such illicit activities as fraud, money laundering, insider trading, and avoidance of regulations. Moreover, it allows the wealthy to hide their assets while forcing those less fortunate to subsidize their needs and to shoulder their nations’ resulting debt.

In other words, most of us are making up for the taxes that the wealthy refuse to pay.

Even some of those at the highest levels of the US government have taken advantage of secrecy jurisdictions. For example, in the Panama Papers (a list of the wealthy who used the services of a Panamanian law firm to set up tax shelters) Donald Trump’s name shows up 3,450 times. And, recently, The Intercept published a story revealing the use of one of the world’s most secret tax havens by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and his wife, Elaine Chao, both of whom have avoided taxes while cashing US government paychecks! Former Massachusetts governor, GOP presidential candidate and current Utah senate candidate Mitt Romney also has reportedly taken advantage of multiple tax havens.

Many of the wealthy don’t even have to send their money offshore to evade taxes. Some of the most active tax shelters are right here in the United States! As reported by The Washington Post, “Contrary to popular belief, notorious tax havens such as the Cayman Islands, Jersey and the Bahamas were far less permissive in offering the researchers shell companies than states such as Nevada, Delaware, Montana, South Dakota, Wyoming and New York…” Indeed, The Washington Post found that US regulations for setting up shell companies are more lax than any country in the world, except Kenya!

Ironically, all of this is aided by a financial industry taxpayers saved from bankruptcy after the financial crash of 2008. According to the Tax Justice Network, “A global industry has developed involving the world’s biggest banks, law practices, accounting firms and specialist providers who design and market secretive offshore structures for their tax- and law-dodging clients.”

It’s not unlikely that such tax evasion will eventually have disastrous economic consequences for the US. But, when it does, the wealthy will simply pull up roots and relocate to another country where they can resume their form of legalized larceny leaving the rest of us to clean up their mess.

Nevada Rancher Is Just Another Ungrateful “Taker.”

The Tea Party and those who believe states’ rights trump the federal government have hailed Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy as a “freedom fighter” and an “American hero” for standing against the Bureau of Land Management and the National Park Service. But the fact is, by the definition of Mitt Romney, he’s just another one of the 47 percent – a “taker” who relies on federal government largess.

As a cattle rancher, Bundy benefits from numerous federal subsidies to support his cattle business. He and other ranchers who graze their cattle on public lands receive $100 million annually in direct subsidies. Such ranchers receive federal subsidies for losses from drought. They are eligible for low-cost federal loans. Their private properties are taxed at a lower, agricultural rate. There are government subsidies to provide emergency feed for cattle stranded by blizzard. Even the fences needed to contain the cattle are built with public money.

Worse, like most ranchers who graze their cattle on public lands, Bundy is greatly contributing to the destruction of our ecosystem. According to Mike Hudak, author of Western Turf Wars: The Politics of Public Lands Ranching, “Among 1,207 plant and animal species that are endangered, threatened or proposed for listing, 22 percent are affected by cattle grazing…” This is especially true on arid lands such as those used by Bundy. Such grazing damages the area’s water supply. Cattle pollute streams, destroy riparian and forest habitats for wildlife, and cause erosion.

In addition, such ranchers are often given permission to kill predators the ranchers believe are preying on their cattle. (The Arizona legislature is currently considering a bill that would allow ranchers to kill one or more of the 90 Mexican wolves that remain in the wild.) Yet, although ranchers like Bundy have a large impact on sensitive lands, they have little impact on our food supply or our economy. They represent only 2% of America’s cattle producers and only 2.8% of the nation’s beef supply.

Despite the consequences, the BLM continues to make public lands available to ranchers for a modest annual grazing fee…a fee that Bundy has refused to pay for more than 20 years. As a result, Bundy now owes more than $1 million for unpaid grazing rights. Bundy’s only defense for his refusal to pay is that the government changed the grazing rules in order to protect an endangered tortoise. He refuses to accept the government’s authority to make changes, saying his family has grazed cattle on those lands since the 1800s. So what? Native Americans hunted on those lands for many thousands of years. Should that give them the right to hunt Bundy’s cattle? My ancestors farmed in Iowa, Missouri, Kentucky and Maryland for generations. Does that give me the right to take produce from those lands without compensating the current owners?

Even after the BLM was awarded judgments by the federal courts, Bundy still refused to pay. As a last resort, BLM officials finally decided to seize Bundy’s cattle by removing them from federal lands and holding them until Bundy made restitution. Not surprisingly, Bundy and his government-hating friends went nuts. (Well, that’s not entirely true. They likely were already nuts.) Militias and Tea Party parasites swarmed to the area to make a stand against such “injustice.” They came armed with semi-automatic pistols and assault weapons. They waved their American flags and their “Don’t Tread On Me” flags. They screamed and shouted. They blocked roads. They threatened and assaulted BLM officials.

Never wanting to miss a good photo op and the opportunity to denounce our government, Tea Party congressional and legislative officials from several Western states, such as Arizona Rep. Paul Gosar, flocked to the area to rally the resistance. Afraid that the incident might lead to more violence, the BLM eventually released Bundy’s cattle, packed up and left. The question is: Why? Not only did Bundy act in contempt of court, his gun-wielding militia friends are guilty of transporting weapons across state lines in support of civil disorder. Should other American citizens be allowed to defy the law by threatening violence? What message does this send to the more than 18,000 other cattle owners who pay for permits to graze their cattle on public lands?

Imagine what would have happened had the Occupy Wall Street crowds armed themselves with assault weapons and refused to obey orders. Do you think the local, state and federal agents would have shown such restraint? Would government officials show such restraint when confronted by a group of armed individuals who refuse to allow the arrest of an individual guilty of other crimes, such as drug sales, especially in a minority neighborhood? Would Fox News, Americans For Prosperity and the Tea Party support them?

You know the answer.

Tricky Dicky Lives On!

In the 1972 presidential campaign, President Nixon was overwhelmingly re-elected thanks to his “Plumbers,” Nixon’s infamous dirty tricks team that was exposed at Watergate. The team, which was tied directly to the White House, consisted of E. Howard Hunt, G. Gordon Liddy, CIA liason John Paisley, James McCord, Donald Segretti, and who one knows how many others. It broke into Daniel Ellsburg’s office. It broke into the Democratic Headquarters offices in Watergate to search for strategy documents and anything that might give Nixon’s campaign an advantage. It even engaged in a program of disinformation to confuse and mislead supporters of Democratic rivals. As one example, it stole letterhead from the Edmund Muskie campaign and used it to create a letter falsely maligning other leading Democrats. It announced Muskie campaign rallies unknown to the Democratic candidate in order to anger the supporters who showed up. It sent out phony press releases announcing changes in the start times of campaign events and more.

All of this gave credence to Nixon’s long-standing moniker “Tricky Dick.” The dirty tricks and their cover-up are what eventually forced Nixon from office under threat of impeachment.

Apparently, the success of Nixon’s Plumbers has had an indelible influence on the party. At very least, the Nixonian mentality lives on through a never-ending stream of lies and political paybacks. Indeed, it seems the motto of the GOP has become WWND (What Would Nixon Do). The Nixonian approach manifested itself in the Southern Strategy masterminded by Lee Atwater…a strategy designed to capitalize on the anger of racist Southerners outraged by the Voting Rights Act of 1964. It was honed in the 1980s by the “Three Amigos” of Grover Norquist, Ralph Reed and Jack Abramoff using Nixon’s “take no prisoners” approach to politics as leaders of the Young Republicans and, later, as leaders of the GOP.

During the George W. Bush administration, Richard “The Dick” Cheney displayed his mastery of Nixon tactics through a campaign of lies and threats in order to justify the invasion of Iraq. In 2008, Sen. McCain and Sarah Palin based their bid for the White House on a substantial portfolio of lies and deception. So, too, did Gov. Romney and Rep. Paul Ryan in 2012.

So when Governor Chris Christie’s political team and top aides closed access to the world’s busiest bridge, they were not only engaging in political payback. They were paying homage to the master…Tricky Dicky.

For the GOP and its Tea Party Parasites, this attack style of politics permeates every level and virtually every action. You could see it on the NRC website during the 2000 election cycle when the party published stupid quotes from Dan Quayle but reattributed them to Al Gore as “Gore Gaffes.” You can see it in the vile bumper stickers and Tea Party signs demeaning President Obama. You can see it in the vicious lies circulated from one conservative numbskull to another through seemingly endless chain emails. You can even see it in relatively innocuous, but demeaning dirty tricks such as the one I received the other day. I was emailed a 1950s-era photo of “Miss Lube Rack,” a pretty young woman in a bathing suit surrounded by gas station servicemen. The caption proclaimed the photo to be one Nancy D’Alesandro (Pelosi) although it wasn’t. The email served no other purpose than to demean the Congresswoman and former Speaker of the House.

You can say that this sort of thing happens both ways. But it doesn’t. Yes, there are isolated incidents of lies and missteps by Democratic candidates. But those don’t remotely compare to the pervasive, concerted efforts to trick and decieve by the GOP. And you can be sure that they will continue as long as the party believes they work.

An Ugly GOP Strategy Gets Even Uglier.

As long ago as the late sixties and early eighties, Republican leaders developed a unique election strategy. They intentionally made politics so messy; so reprehensibly ugly; so divisive that many moderate voters became disgusted with the whole political process and tuned out. The idea was that by diminishing the votes of moderates, the primaries and elections would be decided by the most rabid conservative base.

At the same time, they attacked the mainstream news outlets in order to create distrust of the media and objective reporting. This allowed partisan talk show hosts and conservative pundits to confuse voters and control the political message.

It worked.

This strategy was at the heart of many GOP victories over the past 40 years. It was never more obvious than in the events leading up to the 2010 mid-term elections. And it would have worked again in 2012 if not for an energized  Democratic majority and a bartender who captured Mitt Romney’s comments about the 47 percent.

Not content with demoralizing and repulsing a large number of moderates, the GOP and its Tea Party parasites have set about passing voter ID laws designed to diminish the participation of other segments of the electorate…including the poor, the elderly and minorities. The fewer of these Democratic-leaning voters who participate, the easier it will be for conservatives to win elections.

Combine these strategies with the financial backing of large corporations and wealthy contributors such as the Koch brothers, and we might see a conservative landslide in 2014.

Given the changing demographics of our nation and the coming minority majority, these cynical GOP strategies can’t work for long and Teapublicans know it. But they can create a lot of mischief in the meantime. You need only look at the ultra-conservative bills that have been pushed through states with a Teapublican majority in the legislature and a Teapublican governor.

Arizona, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Texas and others have acted like States Gone Wild with their anti-woman, anti-abortion, anti-tax, anti-union, anti-minority and pro-gun legislation. Many of their measures are unpopular with a majority of their citizens. But the majority is helpless to do anything to stop the bills or overturn them until there’s a change in state governments. And change is unlikely anytime in the near future because of Teapublican gerrymandering designed to keep them in power for years.

The only chance for change is for moderates to become re-engaged; to tune out the relentless negative campaign ads; to look beyond the headlines; to ignore the sound bites; to approach elections by studying the candidates and their policies with the same attitude as studying for a college final; then vote!

Mitt Romney Lies Again!

I realize that Mitt’s aversion to the truth will come as no surprise to anyone, except his most rabid supporters. Throughout the 2012 election cycle, the former governor had more positions on any given issue than the Kama Sutra. He also continually manipulated data to make President Obama look bad and himself look better.

Indeed, it seems the only time Romney was recorded telling the truth was at a gathering of billionaires in Florida when a bartender famously recorded Mitt’s off-the-cuff remarks. During that speech, Romney stated, “There are 47 percent of the people who will vote for the president no matter what. All right? There are 47 percent who are with him, who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe that government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you name it. That…that’s an entitlement. And the government should give it to them… These are people who pay no income tax. Forty-seven percent of Americans pay no income tax. So our message of low taxes doesn’t connect… And so my job is not to worry about those people—I’ll never convince them that they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives.”

Those words were taken directly from the transcript. But that was then. This is now.

When the 2012 Republican presidential nominee was recently asked about his statement that 47 percent of Americans can’t be persuaded to take personal responsibility, Romney said, “Actually, I didn’t say that …That’s how it began to be perceived, and so I had to ultimately respond to the perception, because perception is reality.

Who are you going to believe? Romney or your lying eyes and ears? The Romney of 2012? Or the Romney of 2013? Or the Romney of 2011? Or the Romney of 2010? Or the Romney of…well, you get the idea.

Growth Of The “Moocher” Class.

During the 2012 presidential election, Mitt Romney was famously caught on camera talking about the 47 percent he claimed pay no taxes. That led to the conservative media referring to the 47 percent as the  “moocher” class; those people whose votes could be bought with promises of free “stuff,” such as food stamps, unemployment insurance and access to healthcare.

According to a new survey exclusive to The Associated Press, Romney had the numbers wrong. The survey shows that 80 percent of adults in the US face near-poverty and unemployment at some point in their lives. You read that correctly…80 percent!

In addition, the latest NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll found that 22 percent of Americans have been significantly affected by the sequester budget cuts. And those who earn less than $30,000 per year have been hardest hit. Moreover, 1 in 6 (50 million) Americans face food insecurity, including 17 million children.

The vast majority of these people work full-time jobs; some work two jobs or more and still can’t make ends meet. Yet conservatives call these people “moochers” and “takers.” Fox News Channel and conservative radio hosts vilify and ridicule the working poor. Instead of placing the blame where it belongs…on greedy corporations and an economy that no longer offers the majority of Americans an opportunity to realize the American Dream…Congressional Teapublicans blame the problem on labor unions, pensions, Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. They have voted to cut food stamps and unemployment insurance benefits. They have voted 39 times to repeal Obamacare, denying access to healthcare for more than 50 million poor Americans. And, instead of voting to fund projects that would rebuild our infrastructure and create good-paying jobs, they vote to cut taxes for the wealthy.

In the two and a half years since regaining control of the House by promising to focus on jobs, Teapublicans continue to push for budget cuts and to place obstacles in the way of our economic recovery.

As a result of their indifference to the plight of ordinary Americans, our economy continues its slow recovery. We continue to see the loss of good-paying jobs to other countries. We continue to see the loss of pensions and income security for the elderly. And we continue to see a widening gap between the rich and the poor.

Teapublicans are right to talk about the “givers” and “takers” in our society. But they have things backwards. The “givers” are the working people who pay a disproportionate share of their income to taxes, including payroll deductions and sales taxes. And the “takers” are the very wealthy and large corporations who benefit from corporate welfare and record profits.

Playing The Race Card!

On Friday, President Obama held an unannounced press conference during which he spoke personally and sensitively about race in hopes of generating an adult conversation about racism in the US. Of course, his remarks were met with derision and anger by many conservatives and their media mouthpieces. (I’m looking at you, Rush Limbaugh and anyone who has ever worked at Fox News Channel!)

Keep in mind that our nation just watched a white adult who had stalked and murdered an unarmed black teenager be acquitted of all charges. Despite the verdict, Trayvon Martin’s parents have handled themselves with class…much more class than the conservative pundits who have pilloried the young man who was murdered.

Not content with accepting the verdict and hoisting George Zimmerman onto their proverbial shoulders, the right wing nitwits have attacked those who took to the streets to protest the verdict. They have also seemed to delight in attacking Martin’s character. “He shouldn’t have been walking through the neighborhood at night. He shouldn’t have been wearing a hoodie. He was smoking pot earlier in the day. He called Zimmerman a cracker during his phone conversation with a friend. He shouldn’t have defended himself against Zimmerman. Etc., etc., etc.”

These are the very same people who have glorified the Tea Party parasites who carry signs with racist depictions of our president. The same people who have questioned the president’s birthplace and eligibility to be president. The same people who applaud the Supreme Court’s decision to eviscerate the Voting Rights Act that protected minority votes. The same people who applaud legislative bills that would suppress African-American and Latino votes then accuse those who object of “playing the race card.”

Following the Zimmerman verdict, the president was not only justified in raising the subject of race. He was obligated to do so.

Anyone with dark skin, or anyone with a friend or relative who has dark skin, understands the problems. And they absolutely must be addressed! I have personally seen black people unlawfully beaten by police. I have seen a white cop set fire to an apartment building then blame it on his black neighbors. I have seen a cop chain his dog in a black neighborhood, so that it could attack any unsuspecting man, woman or child who walked down the sidewalk. Every one of my black friends has been repeatedly pulled over by police for driving while black. A young, black male co-worker and close friend was stopped by police, guns drawn, just for walking down the street.

I have seen the statistics showing the disproportionate number of black men and women in prison. I’ve seen how differently black people who become addicted to crack cocaine are treated compared to white people who are addicted to powder cocaine. I’ve seen how the War on Drugs is used to harass and imprison minorities. I’ve listened to conservative politicians call Latinos dirty, stupid and disrespectful of our culture. And I’ve seen young white men parade through the streets with Confederate flags following President Obama’s election.

There are thousands of George Zimmermans out there, some in uniforms, who are armed and assume everyone with dark skin is a criminal or a welfare moocher, living off the hard work of others. That image is perpetuated by loudmouths like Sean Hannity, Rush Limbaugh and others. And even though race wasn’t mentioned, it was most certainly implied by Mitt Romney in his off-the-record comments about the 47 percent.

Certainly, not every right winger is going to act on their misguided beliefs. But a few armed racists will undoubtedly be encouraged to act as vigilantes thanks to the insane Stand Your Ground law that the NRA and ALEC have pushed through legislatures throughout the country – especially in the South.

Yes, President Obama needed to talk about race. Race has been an issue in our country for 3 centuries. It’s long past time for us to learn how to live with each other, treating all of our neighbors with dignity and respect.

The issues facing our nation have never improved by refusing to discuss them.

Rx For Economic Depression And World War.

Last week, the Romney-Ryan campaign released its plan for the transition of power from the Obama administration had they won the 2012 election as they expected. Titled the Romney Readiness Project 2012, the 138-page report reads more like a plan to destroy our nation than to lead it forward.

Among the recommendations were 20 percent across-the-board tax cuts for individuals and 10 percent cuts for corporations. The plan also recommended eliminating labor agreements in federal contracts, eliminating regulations on Big Coal and Big Oil, repealing “Obamacare” while quietly maintaining its cuts to Medicare, cutting Medicaid by offering block grants to states, and “voucherizing” Medicare.

As for foreign relations, the report recommended restoring military funding to pre-sequestration levels, confronting China’s trade policies and designating it as a currency manipulator, sustaining troop levels in Afghanistan beyond 2014, asserting US military might in Syria, and confronting Russia over human rights and its support of Syria and Iran.

In other words, Romney would have dramatically cut revenues while greatly increasing expenses (And you thought Teapublicans were concerned by deficits!).  At the same time, he would have tried to bully other nations, including some of our allies.

By re-electing President Obama, we very likely dodged a bullet…literally!

How The Wealthy Avoid Taxes.

Last fall’s presidential election shed light on the issue of offshore tax havens. Thanks to the fact that, as a presidential candidate, Mitt Romney was forced to reveal his income tax returns, many people now better understand how the world’s wealthiest people avoid taxes by stashing their often ill-gotten fortunes offshore.  According to the Tax Justice Network, up to $32 trillion in assets are stashed in a country where the owner of those assets has no legal or tax residence.

The primary reasons for sending assets offshore? Tax avoidance and money laundering.

Most of the countries housing the assets are chosen for their secrecy, their low tax rates and willingness to help the wealthy get around the laws of their own countries. Of course, Switzerland is the most famous of these tax shelters and, not surprisingly, the largest in terms of offshore assets. Others, in descending order, are Hong Kong/Singapore, Ireland/Channel Islands, Caribbean/Panama, the United Kingdom, the United States (yes, some time in the 1980’s, we changed our tax laws to create tax havens for non-US citizens), Monaco/Dubai/Luxembourg and assorted other playgrounds for the rich.

An investigative series on offshore money by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists exposed the extent of “the global offshore money maze.” And it’s not just shady business tycoons who take advantage of offshore tax havens. Those who stash their money in other countries include royal families, bankers, celebrities, lawyers, politicians, doctors, publishers, mercenaries, hackers, drug lords and more.

The practice may not be illegal. But it is unethical and highly destructive to the countries where the money was obtained. Meanwhile, people like you and me make up for the taxes the wealthy avoid.

GOP Keeps Getting Crazier.

Embittered by their presidential candidate losing the election to President Obama, Teapublicans are having a snit.

They refuse to believe that they lost because of their wacko ideas. Instead, they claim that Obama won only because he promised “to give stuff away” to voters. Adding to the insanity, polls show that 25 percent of Teapublicans now want their states to secede from the Union so they won’t have to be governed by President Obama. Another 19 percent of Teapublicans say that secession would be acceptable to them.

That’s 44 percent of these so-called “patriots” who claim no allegiance to the United States of America!

Another poll shows that 49 percent of Teapublicans believe the election was stolen by ACORN…an organization that no longer exists! (In case you need a refresher, ACORN was blamed for the results of the 2008 election. In 2009, a fraudulent video was played endlessly by Fox News Channel until enough elected officials decided to withdraw funding from the organization causing it to cease operations.)

Here’s my message to these nitwits: Keep blaming everyone else for your failures – the 47 percent, the mainstream media, ACORN, the new Black Panther, minorities, immigrants, women, retirees, imagined voter fraud, misguided GOP campaign strategists, etc., etc., etc.

Keep promoting mental outpatients, such as Michele Bachmann, for president. Keep pushing the ethically challenged, such as Mitt Romney, Paul Ryan and Newt Gingrich. Keep praising intolerant religious zealots such as Rick Santorum and Mike Huckabee. And, by all means, keep prioritizing the goals of the wealthy and large multinational corporations over the needs of working people.

If you continue to do all of these things, your party will soon end up in the dustbin of history alongside the Whigs.

Believe me, America will be better for it.