Last week journalists released “The Panama Papers,” the largest leak in history, containing millions of documents exposing the secret financial practices of thousands of top government officials, corporations, and the ruling elite from around the world. For over a year, about one hundred journalists from around the world, part of the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, combed through millions of documents tied to a law firm in Panama called Mossack Fonseca, which operates as a tax shelter and money launderer, hiding trillions of dollars in secret accounts, fake companies, fake identities, and more.
The Panama Papers show the international scope of these corrupt practices of concealing trillions of dollars, and expose the so-called leaders from all over the world, from Russia, Canada, France, Mexico, the U.S., Argentina, China, Switzerland, Brazil, Saudi Arabia and more. Less than 24 hours after reports revealed the Iceland Prime Minister’s connection to the Panamanian law firm, he was forced to resign from protests. Protests have erupted in Britain against Prime Minister Cameron for his connection to the Panama Papers. There have been protests in several other countries as well. Which politician will be brought down next?
The Panama Papers have so far exposed over 200 U.S. banks, law firms, accountants and others. But all of this is barely the tip of the iceberg. Fonseca is just one company among hundreds around the world providing services to hide wealth. Most U.S. companies and the super-rich don’t have to rely on Panama to help hide their assets – they use companies in the U.S. to do that for them, in Delaware and Nevada and South Dakota. The U.S. and Switzerland are the world’s main destinations for hiding trillions of dollars in tax havens.
The amount of financial wealth estimated to be tucked away in these sorts of secret accounts is as high as 36 trillion dollars, that is about half of the GDP of the entire planet. This is wealth that could pay for food, housing, education, health care, transportation and more for people all around the world. In the U.S. alone, the amount of money hiding in tax havens is estimated at over two trillion dollars. Just think about what that could pay for.
And all of these corrupt financial practices are perfectly legal. And why wouldn’t they be? These are the practices of the same banks and corporations that have made their fortunes from the robbery of working people, from wars, from destroying the environment, from poisoning communities, from scamming millions of working families in corrupt housing polices, and much, much more. The Panama Papers don’t reveal the corrupt practices of a few rogue individuals around the world. They expose a tiny glimpse into the true functioning of their system, which is corrupt from top to bottom, serving the interests of the super rich at all costs.
The Panama Papers allow us to peek into the vast amounts of wealth the ruling class doesn’t want us to know they have. The wealth of society should not belong to these corrupt millionaires and billionaires and their corporations to spend as they please. They don’t create this wealth. It is not their labor and their lives that are spent generating this wealth around the world. This wealth has been created by the working class all over the world – and it should be ours to decide what to do with it.