18 April 2011

We don't need no stinkin' taxes or Big deal it's only revenue; and our very 1st visit to the new #1 ranked city

So it's spread around the web faster than Tim Pawlenty's premature announcement that he's running for president.  Faster than Sarah Palin can embarrass herself, which is extremely fast.  Take for instance her recent: "We're flat broke, but he [Pres. Obama] thinks these solar shingles and really fast trains will magically save us. So now he's shouting 'all aboard' his bullet train to bankruptcy." If you haven't memorized this quote, you will soon since she has only said it at every stump speech over the past week.   She is very fond of this sentiment and she has been announcing it over and over and ... right - (1) driving home by endless repetition, a few simple points, and using catchy slogans or war-cries - (See propaganda.)

A brief aside that apologetically can not be passed up.  While the conservative neo-cons and tea partyers are blabbering on and on about the costs of alternative energy and the abundant expenditure of high speed rail, China has opened the Beijing to Shanghai train line.  The ride takes about 4 hours.  That's about the same as traveling the distance from Chicago to New York in time for an early lunch meeting.  Imagine getting up in the morning, boarding a train, doing business on Wall Street or the Mercantile Exchange, and returning home to the North Side or Manhattan in time for a late dinner out.  That same business trip today is at minimum three days.  If that isn't putting the Chinese ahead of us ...

So, what's spreading faster than smallpox in a 16th century Taino encampment?  Bernie Sanders' list of 10 companies that paid no taxes in 2010.  While this may constitute important news in a time of "fiscal crisis", is it really that unique or surprising?  And, what's going to happen now?

The fact is that the companies on the list don't mind being listed on that list.  There is very little that can or will be done to them because they have not done anything illegal and the contributions they've made to political campaigns give them added protection.

We can argue about mending the tax code and that's a good start, but the real problem is that there is no methodology in place to address the new global market.  At one time, tax havens were secretive accounts hidden in humidity controlled cellars of Swiss banks.  Today, tax havens are no secret.  The Cayman Islands, a small three island nation in the Caribbean, is the fifth largest banking center with assets of well over $500 billion dollars as reported in William Brittain-Catlin's well written exposé, Offshore : the dark side of the global economy.  According to Brittain-Catlin, a third of the world's wealth is held offshore.  Half the capital in the world's stock exchanges is "parked" offshore at some point in its life.

Tax havens are no longer the places for secretive spy-like transactions from a 007 novel.  They are utterly commonplace.  When Mr. Obama was elected to office, he blatantly addressed the off-shore banking industry, "You've got a building in the Cayman Islands that supposedly houses 12,000 corporations," he said during a Jan. 5, 2008, debate in Manchester, N.H. "That's either the biggest building or the biggest tax scam on record." The United States Government Accountability Office (GAO) published a report detailing the business proceedings of the Ugland House, a five story quiet looking building, that houses over 18,000 registered business headquarters.  The report made no recommendations but concluded, "The Internal Revenue Service has several initiatives that target offshore tax evasion, including cases involving Cayman entities, but tax evasion and crimes involving offshore entities are difficult to detect and to prosecute."

At the time, some financial analysts were initially concerned over the attention so-called "tax havens" were receiving by Obama and then British Prime Minister, Gordon Brown (cf. The Offshore Myth, Simon Brown).  Since then, Gordon Brown has been replaced, and Pres. Obama has his hands full with budget cuts, three wars, and a constant barrage of accusations from the far right wing.

Since 2008, how much more money has been collected from global transactions?  It's hard to know for certain but one reasonable guess could be nothing, $0.  The US is having a hard enough time regulating internet transactions.  Big business has nothing to worry about.  So ten companies with no taxes, big deal.  How many Senators pay no taxes, Issa, Kohl, Kerry, etc.

So while it is appreciated that Senator Sanders has compiled this fascinating list, it is purely didactic.  Until the people stand as a united front, the economy will be run be the few.  While US congressmen and women are some of the wealthiest people in the country, expect very little to change.  In the interim, those of us bottom feeders ought to try to find a way to gather the scraps of the wealthy and save and invest.  Money will always be able to find a home in the global plutocracy.  The question is can you provide a roof and four walls for some of it?
AS promised we're off to Milwaukee, the newly crowned most segregated city in the United States today.   That's right Milwaukee is finally number one at something again.  For many years this was Brew town America.  Today, the big breweries have gone but culture is the city's new allure.  Over the next few weeks, Agora Metaphora will be busy seeking out answers to our very ordinary questions about this so-called #1 most segregated city in the country.  This week we travel to the north side of Milwaukee to scrupulously ascertain the answer to this question: "How many white folks you seen today?"

Otis Wilson is an independent salesman who lives on 15th Street just north of Center Street on Milwaukee's north side.  We caught up with him while he worked the street corner selling bottles of ice cold water for a buck apiece to cars waiting for the light to change.

"How many I seen today?  The real question is: Have I seen a white dude here at all?  Shit the only white folks I ever seen around here are cops, them election day dudes or them dudes in suits and ties preaching about Jesus or some shit like that."  He laughed a real snarly gurgled laugh.  "I suppose white folks ain't got a real reason to come into this neighborhood."

A.M. "So you don't see very many white people in this neighborhood?"

O.W. "What the hell any white folks want coming here.  What's you?  You a cop?  What you pushing?

A.M.  "No, no, I'm a pretend reporter."

O.W. "You lookin' thirsty, how about a water, a little H 2 O?"

So there it is.  Next time we'll venture into the near south side and find out how Latinos answer "How many white folks you seen today?"

By the way, anybody out there need any bottles of water?  Agora Metaphora has recently acquired a cooler full of 16 oz bottles of pure artesian ... partially sealed ... tap water.
Read more about the Cayman Islands: http://www.gao.gov/new.items/d08778.pdf
Read more about the Cayman Islands:
Read about avoiding taxes (thanks to Slim Macho): http://readersupportednews.org/opinion2/279-82/5637-how-to-pay-no-taxes

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