Operation Caymans: How the 1% Hides their Money
Early last year, as I was sharing a beer with a fellow 99 percenter and talking about tax policy, an idea came to me. It was one of those eureka! moments as an action organizer when form fits function, action and meaning unite to create an irresistible meme that echoes across our collective psyche. Let’s invade the Cayman Islands!
Each tax day, activists on each side of our phony political divide find themselves shoulder to shoulder at local post offices. Tea Partiers and Occupiers, conservatives and liberals, all gather to, respectively, protest the imposition of higher and higher taxes on working people or congratulate the 1% for once again reducing their effective tax rates to nearly nothing. (In the case of General Electric, which went a step further, teams of taxamaticians formerly employed by the IRS were actually able to move enough numbers around to force the government to pay them!) On both “sides” of the protest lines, regular working folk are sick of paying higher taxes while they watch the uber-rich buying more yachts.
So how is the 1% staging a national tax revolt? And why can’t the 99% join in the fun? The answer is simple: offshore tax havens.* The Tax Justice Network estimates that corporations and high-wealth schmucks have stashed about $32 trillion worldwide below palm trees and tacky colonial buildings built in the ‘80s. That’s an entire shadow world economy that lies at the interface of the banking industry, multinational corporations, and the military-industrial complex. That’s an entire shadow economy that you and I, with our measly mortal checking accounts and ceramic piggy banks couldn’t dream of breaking into.
We called it Operation Caymans (#OpCaymans on twitter): the 99% knows where you hid all the money. And we’re coming for it. That’s right. We want a piece of the key lime pie. We want to revolt, too!
We arrived to a golden sunset and some of the friendliest people on Earth. Life on the island is like a dreamworld of perfect employment, no taxes, and healthcare for all who work. Caymanians have arguably the most progressive taxation system on Earth: Tax the bankers. Massively. In Caymans, they have no problem charging high-level executives $40,000 in work permit fees alone to cook books on their island. (On the other hand, primary school teachers pay no fees.) There’s no sales tax, no income tax, no “sin” taxes. Just taxes on imports. And tourists.
We came in search of Romney’s money, but we’d settle for any millionaire’s money. We just wanted to know how we could get in on the excitement. Open an offshore account. Become a tropical corporate person and then sit back with a turtle burger and a margarita and smoke a cuban.
What we found shocked, surprised, and just plain bemused us. And we made a little video to share it with you…
*To be clear, corporations also use many other convoluted tricks to avoid any potential risks of actually supporting public schools or hospitals or daycare centers or roads or fire departments. These include: writing off losses like the cost of cleaning up their oil spills, shifting patents to other countries, bribing politicians, etc.