In the land of déjà vu members of Congress are once again fulminating over issues that have shaped budgeting and tax policies for the lifetime of most voters. The machinations that keep the wealthiest segment of the population controlling massive amounts of capital, and increase the power of huge corporate interests are discussed in ways that confuse many ordinary Americans into thinking tax cuts have something to do with them and that the government serves their interests.
Voters are assailed by deceptive fragments of policy decisions that bear only tangentially on the basic facts that impact the daily lives of most people. Democrats are accused of taxing and spending as if the current administration’s habit of borrowing and spending were somehow more efficacious. Your taxes will rise if you elect Democrats, voters are told, because they will want to enhance huge social spending projects like children’s and veteran’s health care, those crazy socialists.
On the other hand Republicans promise to support massive new weapons programs even though our current military engagements are being conducted on the ground in pretty much the old-fashioned way. Wars on foreign soil are funded as if by magic with off-budget supplementals that range well beyond spending increase limits set by the president for other programs and are often hidden away in borrowing practices that grow the national debt and tie the economy to the defense industry.
But who is actually footing the bill and who is protected from assuming an appropriate tax burden – – a subject clouded by a lot of happy talk about the economy from the Bush White House. Following his lead, Republican candidates suggest that tax cuts, religious credentials and militarism are musts for all presidential hopefuls. Meanwhile the alternative minimum tax, established to capture recalcitrant millionaires who avoided taxation by using numerous deductions, threatens to engulf ever more middle-range taxpayers while large caches of wealth go un-remarked in off-shore tax havens.
If one googles “off-shore tax havens” the first few entries direct readers to advice on how to avoid taxes by hiding revenue abroad. But other articles indicate the extent to which vehicles for tax avoidance are used not only by individuals but by large corporations, notably big oil. Nevertheless, the energy bill, debated in Congress and overseen by lobbyists and the Bush administration, contains tax incentives for oil and gas companies to encourage them to make business decisions that are, after all, in their own best interests.
In a 2004 article, “Gimme Shelter, (from taxes) Bob Williams and Jonathan Werve of The Center for Public Integrity state that “U.S. oil and gas companies have at least 882 subsidiaries…in oil-free tax havens such as the Cayman Islands and Bermuda”. And it isn’t only big oil that takes advantage of off-shore opportunities. In a 2007 article by Jeffrey Powers presented at the Global Policy Forum, other corporate interests and individuals are able hide income with the assistance of what has come to be known as “banking without borders.” And Powers notes, “With globally integrated financial markets and modern communication techniques, the creation of offshore financial accounts, shell companies and the like are just a click of a mouse away.”
Meanwhile beleaguered average taxpayers are told that social programs are endangered, but that a continued stream of dollars must be poured into
Why it will be you and all the other ordinary Americans who live by rules that apply just to them while the very rich and corporations with a post office box in the Caymans that enables them to avoid taxation in-country are content to let you carry the load. Beware tax-code fixes that promise a level playing field. It will still be you.