Thursday, 5 November 2009

The 'tax dodgers' who produce 'anti-tax-haven' nonsense

I can’t stop giggling at a ridiculous story this week from Isle of Man Newspapers, (see because it proves something I’ve long suspected. A campaign group which touchy feely New Internationalist readers consider a major voice against the evils of international capitalism, the gnomes of Zurich, and all the other cartoon black hat stereotypes is… by right wing capitalist extremists!
It’s what us 1990’s culture jammers used to call ‘astroturf’. In brief, a bogus grassroots organisation set up by a PR agency, feeding fake research to gullible community activists who are encouraged to think they run the group, in order to serve the purposes of large corporations.
How do I know? Because a few months back I discovered the original research (partly, I admit, by accident), know who paid for it, who produced it, for who, and for what purpose. At the time I thought it so dumb that I just laughed and forgot about it, because I thought it had simply failed and that the perpetrators had no further plans for it.
Now according to the carefully created myth, a group which thinks offshore centres should all be shut and people everywhere should just pay way too much tax to governments who waste way too much money has done lots and lots of research to produce a state of the art ‘league table’ of offshore finance jurisdictions.
And according to IOM newspapers:
“the index produced by the Tax Justice Network — a vociferous critic of the Isle of Man — places the US state of Delaware at the top of its league table of tax havens, followed by Luxembourg, Switzerland, the Cayman Islands and the City of London.”
At that point I fell off my chair laughing and rolled around the floor for about 10 minutes. Once I’d wiped the tears from my eyes and got my breath back enough to read some more I erupted again on being solemnly informed that:
“Delaware has an opacity score of 92 and coupled with a high global scale weight ranks it at number one.The City of London has a low opacity score of just 42 but its importance to world financial activity ranks it at number 5.The Isle of Man's opacity score of 83 is lower than 41 of the other jurisdictions listed including Jersey.”
Oh, it’s no good. I’d better explain the joke.
The reason Delaware comes top is that Chicago doesn’t have any tax havens, but Delaware is the home state of Joe Biden, now the US Vice President.
The thing is, a group of Bush’s closest allies had an easy ride from the US tax authorities and feared it would end if the Obama/Biden ticket won the last election. They also extensively used offshore entities to hide their assets and to avoid their substantial donations to political campaigns and policy makers being discovered.
When things got really bad they used a network of ‘educational foundations’ whose assets were ultimately controlled in jurisdictions which (unsuprisingly) come out rather well in the index in order to fund bogus research which, when funnelled back to the conservative US press, ‘proved’ that Biden and Obama, far from being tough on ‘tax havens’, were having their very well funded campaign underwritten by faceless tax dodgers.
It didn’t work, and the only interesting thing now will be to see if they continue to push the ‘research’ in order to undermine changes in US government policy, and if this unholy alliance between ultra right wing US businesses (some, by the way, also underwriting Christian ‘end timer’ enterprises), and supposedly lefty but quasi-religious greens and churchy ‘drop the debt’ types will continue.
I’d take a safe bet on something else though. Jokers like TJN and the Manx ‘Freedom to Fester’ PR spongers will continue to try and claim credit for research and campaigning they didn’t and couldn’t possibly do, and I’ll continue to point out what muppets they are.
That is, if I can stop laughing long enough to keep you updated.

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