by Brian T. Lynch, MSW
The rich are not like you and me. I can safely say that knowing they'll never read this.
The massive leak of documents from the Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca shows the extent to which the global elite shield their wealth from us. They have no interest in sharing the cost of governing. We pay for the military, the courts, the police, the roads, the schools and all of our social and physical infrastructure. The wealthy mooch off of us by not paying their taxes. The system is rigged to benefit those who least need the benefits. Some of the tax dodges are written into the law by politicians deep within the pockets of the rich. But as the Panama Papers reveal, most of the unreported wealth is hidden illegal. All of it is underhanded and immoral.
The sheer number of documents leaked is enormous. It covers 40 years of financial transactions and 2.6 terabytes of data. If media coverage of this scandal were proportional to the size of the document cashe, there would be no other news on television for weeks. Here below is a graphic depiction of the scale of the leak compared with other huge scandalous leaks.
As it stands, the owners and share holders of our corporate media are likely involved somewhere in this scandal. If not them directly, then surely their customers who buy advertizing are caught in this vast net of stinking fish. The hard working, front line journalists responsible for turning this data mountain into intelligible information have little control over how their work will be broadcast. For now, at least in the United States, coverage of the scandal is trumped by presidential politics.
If our society were healthy, if so many of us had not already given up on government's lack of responsiveness to public demands, this would be a watershed moment. It would be a tipping point for righteous indignation and hot pursuit of substantial reforms.
The wealthy will tell you their fair share is in the paltry proportion they do pay in taxes, but the proof of the lie is the growing number of children living in poverty whose benefits are cut by the budget knife. The proof of the lie is in our crumbling bridges and crowed roads that we can't fix without killing off other essential services. No matter how big some people say government is, it's too small and corrupted to make these powerful people pay all their taxes.
It is all too depressing. All the more so if you believe, as I do, that a failure to mobilize for real change now puts the world on the path to real revolution, bloodshed and destruction. It is a well documented historical pattern, just as inevitable yet avoidable as global warming. It has happened countless times before, except this is different. This time tearing down our institutions in a murderous fit of rage would likely condemn the Earth to mass extinctions.
As much as we rail against the "system" we need it for the higher level of coordination and cooperation it will take to solve the global catastrophe we face. We can't solve these challenges without reforming our current power structures and eliminating the barriers created by greedy capitalists. Only the collective power of our vast social institutions can bring about the kind of changes we must make to survive. Radical reform is our best option for survival. How do we get a critical mass of people to understand this before it is too late?