GOP forced to choose – Raising Taxes or Cut Defense?

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£13tn: hoard hidden from taxman by global elite

From The Guardian UK:

• Study estimates staggering size of offshore economy
• Private banks help wealthiest to move cash into havens

, business editor
, Saturday 21 July 2012

A global super-rich elite has exploited gaps in cross-border tax rules to hide an extraordinary £13 trillion ($21tn) of wealth offshore – as much as the American and Japanese GDPs put together – according to research commissioned by the campaign group Tax Justice Network.

James Henry, former chief economist at consultancy McKinsey and an expert on tax havens, has compiled the most detailed estimates yet of the size of the offshore economy in a new report, The Price of Offshore Revisited, released exclusively to the Observer.

He shows that at least £13tn – perhaps up to £20tn – has leaked out of scores of countries into secretive jurisdictions such as Switzerland and the Cayman Islands with the help of private banks, which vie to attract the assets of so-called high net-worth individuals. Their wealth is, as Henry puts it, “protected by a highly paid, industrious bevy of professional enablers in the private banking, legal, accounting and investment industries taking advantage of the increasingly borderless, frictionless global economy“. According to Henry’s research, the top 10 private banks, which include UBS and Credit Suisse in Switzerland, as well as the US investment bank Goldman Sachs, managed more than £4tn in 2010, a sharp rise from £1.5tn five years earlier.

The detailed analysis in the report, compiled using data from a range of sources, including the Bank of International Settlements and the International Monetary Fund, suggests that for many developing countries the cumulative value of the capital that has flowed out of their economies since the 1970s would be more than enough to pay off their debts to the rest of the world.

Oil-rich states with an internationally mobile elite have been especially prone to watching their wealth disappear into offshore bank accounts instead of being invested at home, the research suggests. Once the returns on investing the hidden assets is included, almost £500bn has left Russia since the early 1990s when its economy was opened up. Saudi Arabia has seen £197bn flood out since the mid-1970s, and Nigeria £196bn.

“The problem here is that the assets of these countries are held by a small number of wealthy individuals while the debts are shouldered by the ordinary people of these countries through their governments,” the report says.

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How Less Work for Everybody Could Solve a Lot of Our Economic Turbulence and Make Life More Pleasant

From Alternet:

“Job creation” isn’t the only answer.

By Sarah Seltzer
July 20, 2012

 “Get a job!” This jeer was perhaps the most frequent directed at Occupy protesters last year, and it was usually either met by “I can’t! That’s why I’m here” or “I’m already working two.” Embedded in this ever-common taunt of protesters or other counterculture figures is the belief that if you just work hard enough in America, you will succeed, that any time spent with nose away from grindstone is time wasted. Of course, the truth that Occupy, We Are the 99% Tumblr and the recession opened many (but not enough) eyes to is that it’s not enough to work hard, get a degree, sacrifice and slave anymore because the system in fact is broken.

America has a broad cultural emphasis on working hard as a goal in and of itself, and not on what working hard means. Earlier this week I wrote about five common-sense policy changes that would improve work-life balance for Americans. Mandating vacation time and family leave, embracing unions and improving childcare and workshare options would all make the major difference in our lives.

But what about an attitude adjustment to accompany those policies, or perhaps usher them in? How could workplaces and individuals reconfigure our mindset away from the most hours of work necessarily being the best toward a new paradigm? Can there be a healthy balance between productive, engaged and enthusiastic work for the most number of people, and the all-important leisure that enables and informs that work for all those people, too? I went on a search for the most recent progressive thinking on the issue of balance because I had a feeling there were ideas percolating beyond the basic need for family, medical and vacation time.

American culture is informed by (forgive my ensuing broad generalizations about American religious history) an embrace of strong individuality and the infamous Puritan work ethic the earliest settlers brought over. In traditional Protestant thinking, hard work, frugality and diligence were ways of indicating membership in the “elect,” or the saved. They left England because they found it debauched and corrupt, and established strict standards in the colonies. As a look back at Max Weber reminds us, this ethic is strongly tied to the American strand of capitalism. Ben Franklin, that pioneer of American thinking, wrote that “time is money,” and urged Americans to spend their time earning at the dawn of our nation’s existence. And as other countries have slowed down their hours in recent decades, we have sped up.

Fast-forward a few centuries, and you have the working class juggling jobs and buried in debt, as well as what New York Times guest columnist Tim Kreider calls “The Busy Trap,” describing spot-on a phenomenon that is mostly attached to the modus operandi of the wealthy and socially elite (you know, the people who shape policy, mores and the financial landscape) in places like New York and Washington, DC.

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US: Right-Wing Hawks, Arms Industry Rally Against Pentagon Cuts

From Common Dreams:

by Jim Lobe
Published on Saturday, July 21, 2012 by Inter Press Service

While Iran, Russia, and China are all pretty scary, the ominous word “sequestration” is what is keeping right-wing hawks and their friends in the defence industry up at night.

While they have been rallying their forces for most of the past year, their campaign to avoid the “spectre of sequestration”, as they often refer to it, shifted into high gear on Capitol Hill this week, as top industry executives were summoned to testify to the urgency of the threat.

At stake is could be as much as 600 billion dollars in Pentagon funding – much of which would presumably be spent on lucrative procurement contracts for new weapons systems – over the next 10 years, as well as what the hawks see as the further erosion of U.S. global military dominance.

“It is clear that if the process of sequestration is fully implemented,” warned three of the right’s most hawkish think tanks – the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), the Heritage Foundation, and the Foreign Policy Initiative (FPI) – in a joint statement entitled “Defending Defense” last week, “the U.S. military will lack adequate resources to defend the United States and its global interests.”

“The spectre of sequestration threatens the U.S. defense industrial base at a time when China, Russia, and other military competitors are ramping up their defense industries,” according to the statement, which helped raise the curtain on this week’s mantra from the military-industrial complex: hundreds of thousands of workers could lose their jobs as early as October – one month before the election – unless the sequestration nightmare goes away.

The sequestration spectre arises from a 2011 agreement, codified in the Budget Control Act, between President Barack Obama and Republican Congressional leaders for cutting the yawning U.S. federal deficit over the next decade.

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