I hope everyone had a nice, relaxing holiday. There wasn’t a whole lot of news breaking yesterday, but I read some good reactions to the Vanity Fair Story on the many overseas tax shelters that Mitt’s Romney uses to hide his money.
Mitt Romney, Casino Capitalist
At the Nation, Ben Adler worked up an excellent summary of the VF article, highlighting the main points. Here’s his summary of a particularly disturbing part–the possibility that Bain was laundering money money for some questionable people.
§ Did Bain serve as a tax haven for foreign criminals? As Shaxson explains, “Private equity is one channel for this secrecy-shrouded foreign money to enter the United States, and a filing for Mitt Romney’s first $37 million Bain Capital Fund, of 1984, provides a rare window into this. One foreign investor, of $2 million, was the newspaper tycoon, tax evader, and fraudster Robert Maxwell, who fell from his yacht, and drowned, off of the Canary Islands in 1991 in strange circumstances, after looting his company’s pension fund. The Bain filing also names Eduardo Poma, a member of one of the ‘14 families’ oligarchy that has controlled most of El Salvador’s wealth for decades; oddly, Poma is listed as sharing a Miami address with two anonymous companies that invested $1.5 million between them. The filings also show a Geneva-based trustee overseeing a trust that invested $2.5 million, a Bahamas corporation that put in $3 million, and three corporations in the tax haven of Panama, historically a favored destination for Latin-American dirty money—’one of the filthiest money-laundering sinks in the world,’ as a US Customs official once put it.”
Politico seemed disapproving of the Obama campaign calling attention to the VF piece. The headline seems to suggest that it is somehow unseemly to refer to an opponent’s tax evasion methods.
From Obama campaign spokseman Ben LaBolt, on a call with Ohio reporters:
“Today we’re learning more about Mitt Romney’s bets against America. Vanity Fair’s raising important questions about Romney’s offshore accounts in foreign tax havens, including his mysterious corporation in Bermuda, his funds in the Cayman Islands, and the Swiss bank account he opened. The question is, why? Was he avoiding paying his fair share of U.S. taxes? Was he hedging against the dollar? Until he releases his tax returns from that period, Americans will never know. This raises serious questions. If he has nothing to hide, why doesn’t he just release his tax returns?”
And from Bill Burton, at Priorities:
“Today’s Vanity Fair article confirms what the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal reported but the Romney campaign falsely denied. Unlike the vast majority of Americans who pay their fair share of taxes, Mitt Romney is avoiding taxes by stashing millions of dollars in the Cayman Islands. This matters in the presidential campaign because it is just these types of loopholes for the wealthy that Romney would protect, forcing more of the tax burden onto the middle class.
For nearly 15 years, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s financial portfolio has included an offshore company that remained invisible to voters as his political star rose.
Based in Bermuda, Sankaty High Yield Asset Investors Ltd. was not listed on any of Romney’s state or federal financial reports. The company is among several Romney holdings that have not been fully disclosed, including one that recently posted a $1.9 million earning — suggesting he could be wealthier than the nearly $250 million estimated by his campaign.
The omissions were permitted by state and federal authorities overseeing Romney’s ethics filings, and he has never been cited for failing to disclose information about his money. But Romney’s limited disclosures deprive the public of an accurate depiction of his wealth and a clear understanding of how his assets are handled and taxed, according to experts in private equity, tax and campaign finance law.
Romney reported this holding on his 2010 tax form, but he did not disclose it when he ran for governor in 2001-02, even though he was required to do so. Pretty sleazy. Unfortunately, the statute of limitations on this ethics violation has expired.
It appears that the Obama campaign has decided to ignore the queasiness of Democrats with Wall Street ties, and go after Mitt Romney’s record at Bain. And rightly so!
After all, what is Romney’s case – that is, why does he want us to think he should be president? It’s not about ideology: Romney offers nothing but warmed-over right-wing platitudes, with an extra helping of fraudulent arithmetic, and it’s fairly obvious that even he himself doesn’t believe anything he’s saying.
Instead, his thing is competence: supposedly, his record as a successful businessman should tell us that he knows how to create jobs….[but] even if Romney were a true captain of industry, a latter-day Andrew Carnegie, this wouldn’t be a strong qualification.
In any case, however, Romney wasn’t that kind of businessman. He didn’t build businesses, he bought and sold them – sometimes restructuring them in ways that added jobs, often in ways that preserved profits but destroyed jobs, and fairly often in ways that extracted money for Bain but killed the business in the process….
Or put it a different way: Romney wasn’t so much a captain of industry as a captain of deindustrialization, making big profits for his firm (and himself) by helping to dismantle the implicit social contract that used to make America a middle-class society.
I particularly want to recommend a brilliant essay in The Nation by Robert Reich: Mitt Romney and the New Gilded Age. Reich has really dedicated himself to standing up for the 99% this year, and this piece really brings it all together and holds Romney up as the perfect symbol of “casino capitalism.”
Connect the dots of casino capitalism, and you get Mitt Romney. The fortunes raked in by financial dealmakers depend on special goodies baked into the tax code such as “carried interest,” which allows Romney and other partners in private-equity firms (as well as in many venture-capital and hedge funds) to treat their incomes as capital gains taxed at a maximum of 15 percent. This is how Romney managed to pay an average of 14 percent on more than $42 million of combined income in 2010 and 2011. But the carried-interest loophole makes no economic sense. Conservatives try to justify the tax code’s generous preference for capital gains as a reward to risk-takers—but Romney and other private-equity partners risk little, if any, of their personal wealth. They mostly bet with other investors’ money, including the pension savings of average working people. You can check out easyslots.com.
Another goodie allows private-equity partners to sock away almost any amount of their earnings into a tax-deferred IRA, while the rest of us are limited to a few thousand dollars a year. The partners can merely low-ball the value of whatever portion of their investment partnership they put away—even valuing it at zero—because the tax code considers a partnership interest to have value only in the future. This explains how Romney’s IRA is worth as much as $101 million. The tax code further subsidizes private equity and much of the rest of the financial sector by making interest on debt tax-deductible, while taxing profits and dividends. This creates huge incentives for financiers to find ways of substituting debt for equity and is a major reason America’s biggest banks have leveraged America to the hilt. It’s also why Romney’s Bain and other private-equity partnerships have done the same to the companies they buy.
These maneuvers shift all the economic risk to debtors, who sometimes can’t repay what they owe. That’s rarely a problem for the financiers who engineer the deals; they’re sufficiently diversified to withstand some losses, or they’ve already taken their profits and moved on. But piles of debt play havoc with the lives of real people in the real economy when the companies they work for can’t meet their payments, or the banks they rely on stop lending money, or the contractors they depend on go broke—often with the result that they can’t meet their own debt payments and lose their homes, cars and savings.
Reich notes that if Romney were to win the White House, he would be very different from past wealthy presidents.
We’ve had wealthy presidents before, but they have been traitors to their class—Teddy Roosevelt storming against the “malefactors of great wealth” and busting up the trusts, Franklin Roosevelt railing against the “economic royalists” and raising their taxes, John F. Kennedy appealing to the conscience of the nation to conquer poverty. Romney is the opposite: he wants to do everything he can to make the superwealthy even wealthier and the poor even poorer, and he justifies it all with a thinly veiled social Darwinism.
Obama should be holding Romney up as the personification of all that brought the economy to its knees in 2008. Why aren’t the Democrats screaming from the rooftops about it?
Part of the answer, surely, is that elected Democrats are still almost as beholden to the wealthy for campaign funds as the Republicans, and don’t want to bite the hand that feeds them. Wall Street can give most of its largesse to Romney this year and still have enough left over to tame many influential Democrats (look at the outcry from some of them when the White House took on Bain Capital). But I suspect a deeper reason for their reticence is that if they connect the dots and reveal Romney for what he is—the epitome of what’s fundamentally wrong with our economy—they’ll be admitting how serious our economic problems really are. They would have to acknowledge that the economic catastrophe that continues to cause us so much suffering is, at its root, a product of the gross inequality of income, wealth and political power in America’s new Gilded Age, as well as the perverse incentives of casino capitalism if you bother to check out these no deposit mobile casinos and connect the dots.
Please go read the whole thing. You won’t regret it.
(SPACE.com) The sun is unleashing some powerful solar flares today (July 4) in an impressive celestial fireworks display just in time for the U.S. Independence Day holiday.
The latest solar flare erupted at 5:47 a.m. EDT (0947 GMT) and hit its peak strength eight minutes later. The flare fired off from the active sunspot AR1515 and registered as a class M5.3 solar storm on the scale used by astronomers to measure space weather, according to the Space Weather Prediction Group operated by NOAA.
Class M solar flares are powerful, but still medium-strength, sun storms that can supercharge northern lights displays on Earth. The weakest of the sun’s strong solar flares are C-class storms.
NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory spacecraft currently watching the sun also captured another solar flare this morning that reached M2 on the sun storm scale.
“As the United States is observing Independence Day, active region 1515 unleashed another M2-class solar flare,” SDO scientists wrote in an announcement posted to the mission’s Facebook and YouTube sites. The flare peaked at 12:37 a.m. EDT (0437 GMT), they added.
Here’s a video of solar flares that took place on July 4, 2012.
One of Glaxo’s blockbuster drugs was Wellbutrin, which was approved by the FDA to treat depression. Starting in 1999, the Justice Department says, the company “engaged in a nationwide scheme” to promote the drug to treat other conditions including weight problems, addictions, and sexual dysfunction. Pinsky was one of the experts paid to tout Wellbutrin, according to the complaint filed against Glaxo by government prosecutors….
The federal complaint says Cooney Waters, a public-relations firm hired by Glaxo to promote Wellbutrin, “hired Dr. Drew Pinsky from MTV and Loveline as a spokesperson to deliver messages about WBSR [Wellbutrin] in settings where it did not appear that Dr. Pinsky was speaking for WBSR.”
Apparently Pinsky hasn’t specifically been accused of any crime. He told The Daily Beast that he was paid $275,000 to discuss “intimacy and depression” in a number of settings and media. He claims that all of his “comments were consistent with my clinical experience.”
Here’s one example from the federal complaint:
Pinsky said one of the ingredients in Wellbutrin “could explain a woman suddenly having 60 orgasms in one night.” The complaint against Glaxo says “Dr. Pinsky explained that one of the things he advocates for people experiencing diminished libido or arousal” is Wellbutrin.
A sunken land bridge that once was home to “tens of thousands” of people has been discovered in the North Sea between Scotland and Denmark.
‘Britain’s Atlantis’ – a hidden underwater world swallowed by the North Sea – has been discovered by divers working with science teams from the University of St Andrews.
Doggerland, a huge area of dry land that stretched from Scotland to Denmark was slowly submerged by water between 18,000 BC and 5,500 BC.
Divers from oil companies have found remains of a ‘drowned world’ with a population of tens of thousands – which might once have been the ‘real heartland’ of Europe.
A team of climatologists, archaeologists and geophysicists has now mapped the area using new data from oil companies – and revealed the full extent of a ‘lost land’ once roamed by mammoths….
The area was once the ‘real heartland’ of Europe and was hit by ‘a devastating tsunami’, the researchers claim. The wave was part of a larger process that submerged the low-lying area over the course of thousands of years.
Those are my recommendations for today. Now it’s your turn. What are you reading and blogging about?
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There’s another Republican Debate in South Carolina tonight. Can you believe it? This one is hosted by CNN. How much more of this torture can American stand? These debates just keep on coming! We’ll live blog this one later on, perhaps with some interesting variations on the theme.
Speaking of horrible things that never end, can you believe Obama is considering appointing Larry Summers to head the World Bank? Here I thought we were finally free of Summers, but the guy just won’t go away. He keeps coming back, no matter how ghastly of job he does. From Bloomberg:
President Barack Obama is considering nominating Lawrence Summers, his former National Economic Council director, to lead the World Bank when Robert Zoellick’s term expires later this year, according to two people familiar with the matter.
Summers has expressed interest in the job to White House officials and has backers inside the administration, including Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner and current NEC Director Gene Sperling, said one of the people. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is also being considered, along with other candidates, said the other person. Both spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss internal White House deliberations….
A nomination of Summers would bring scrutiny of his previous stints in government, both as former President Bill Clinton’s Treasury secretary and Obama’s NEC director, as well as his tenure as president of Harvard University.
“Larry is controversial,” said Erskine Bowles, who served as Clinton’s chief of staff. “Anything you appoint Larry to, you know there are going to be some people who are going to take shots at him. But you know he’s a brilliant economist, which I think everybody recognizes.”
Oh really? If he’s so brilliant, then why is teaching college freshman? Why doesn’t he publish in academic journals? Why did he get fired by Harvard and the Obama administration? Enough with the retreads, Mr. President.
I’m sure you’ve heard by now that Mitt Romney has admitted he pays somewhere close to 15% of his income in Federal taxes. NPR’s Here and Now had an interesting discussion yesterday about how he and other richie-rich folks get away with this. I recommend listening to the show if you have time. Here’s a bit from the write-up:
“Carried interest is the way that hedge fund managers and private equity firm managers get paid when they do a deal,” Howard Gleckman of the Tax Policy Institute told Here & Now‘s Robin Young.
Gleckman says private equity firms bring in outside investors. To get in on the deals, investors pay the firms in two ways– an initial fee, and a 20 percent cut of future profits.
When the owners of private equity firms pay taxes on that compensation from the investors, they pay as if it were capital gains– so that means they are paying a top rate of no more than 15 percent.
“Ordinarily if they were paid like the rest of us in wages and salaries, they’d be paying a top rate of up to 35 percent,” he said.
Gleckman said the carried interest tax arrangement is completely legal and not uncommon.
Bob McIntyre of Citizens for Tax Justice said that this kind of income comes from work and should be taxed as such. And Gleckman agreed, saying that capital gains taxes are lower because the goal is to encourage people to risk their own money. Romney isn’t doing that.
Romney, one of the richest men to seek the presidency, probably benefits from a controversial tax break that allows him to pay a lower overall rate than do millions of American wage-earners whose votes he’ll need to capture the White House.
That’s because private equity executives, as Romney was for 15 years when he ran Boston-based Bain Capital LLC, receive much of their compensation as “carried interest.” That enables them to treat what would be ordinary income for other service providers, taxed at rates as high as 35 percent, as capital gains taxed at 15 percent….
Yet those investments were largely made by Romney’s former partners with other investors’ money, not his personal funds. The vast majority of the resulting gains represent compensation for Bain’s work acquiring, sprucing up and selling individual companies, critics say.
“This is labor income for them, not a return on capital invested,” said Victor Fleischer, an associate law professor at the University of Colorado whose 2007 paper on the topic helped spark a move in Congress to try to change the law. “It’s a method of converting one’s labor into capital gains in a way that’s unusual outside the investment management industry. Ordinary people wouldn’t be able to do this.”
If Romney just paid his taxes like the rest of us, he’d probably be doing a much greater service to the country than if he becomes president. BTW, the articles says that Obama has paid 31% of his income in taxes for the last three years.
Official documents reviewed by ABC News show that Bain Capital, the private equity partnership Romney once ran, has set up some 138 secretive offshore funds in the Caymans.
Romney campaign officials and those at Bain Capital tell ABC News that the purpose of setting up those accounts in the Cayman Islands is to help attract money from foreign investors, and that the accounts provide no tax advantage to American investors like Romney. Romney, the campaign said, has paid all U.S. taxes on income derived from those investments.
“The tax consequences to the Romneys are the very same whether the fund is domiciled here or another country,” a campaign official said in response to questions. “Gov. and Mrs. Romney have money invested in funds that the trustee has determined to be attractive investment opportunities, and those funds are domiciled wherever the fund sponsors happen to organize the funds.”
Bain officials called the decision to locate some funds offshore routine, and a benefit only to foreign investors who do not want to be subjected to U.S. taxes.
Whatever. The guy is filthy rich, pays very little of his income in taxes, and has no clue how most Americans live. His attitude is that capitalism is sacred and if millions of “little people” are hurt by the machinations of people like him, that’s just the way the cookie crumbles. And we shouldn’t have any safety nets for when things go wrong either. This man should never be POTUS.
Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney suddenly pulled back his hand after hearing that a young college student who greeted him at a New York fundraiser Tuesday night was undocumented, according to DREAM Act activists.
“He extended his hand to shake mine,” the young woman told The Huffington Post. “But once I said I was undocumented, he pulled his hand away from me.”
The 19-year-old college student, who asked to be identified only as Lucy because of her undocumented status, said she was also booed by Romney supporters as she was escorted out of a New York City fundraiser. One of the supporters told her to “go back to Mexico,” and she responded that she was “actually from Peru,” according to her account of the event.
Oops! There goes the Latino vote….
But we can’t forget that Romney still has at least one viable competitor for South Carolina’s delegates–food stamp obsessive and child labor advocate Newt Gingrich. Guess what Newt’s been up to? He’s using a fund-raising letter to threaten to punch out Barack Obama
Newt Gingrich’s campaign sent out a fundraising request to supporters this afternoon touting that the former speaker said he wants to knock Obama out, because, as the subject line of the email suggests, “A Bloody Nose Just Won’t Cut It.” The comment comes from a recent town hall where a questioner asked Gingrich how he would “bloody Obama’s nose.” “I don’t want to bloody his nose, I want to knock him out!” Gingrich responded. “This is exactly why Newt Gingrich is the candidate who must face Obama,” campaign spokesman RC Hammond says in the email, above a bright red “Donate” button.
You just can’t make this stuff up!
Conor Friedersdorf has an excellent response to Andrew Sullivan’s silly Newsweek article defending Obama’s accomplishments as President. I think Friedersdorf is a liberatarian, but his assessment on Obama is still on point. Check it out. I’ll just reproduce his list of Obama’s “accomplishments” here:
(1) Codify indefinite detention into law; (2) draw up a secret kill list of people, including American citizens, to assassinate without due process; (3) proceed with warrantless spying on American citizens; (4) prosecute Bush-era whistleblowers for violating state secrets; (5) reinterpret the War Powers Resolution such that entering a war of choice without a Congressional declaration is permissible; (6) enter and prosecute such a war; (7) institutionalize naked scanners and intrusive full body pat-downs in major American airports; (8) oversee a planned expansion of TSA so that its agents are already beginning to patrol American highways, train stations, and bus depots; (9) wage an undeclared drone war on numerous Muslim countries that delegates to the CIA the final call about some strikes that put civilians in jeopardy; (10) invoke the state-secrets privilege to dismiss lawsuits brought by civil-liberties organizations on dubious technicalities rather than litigating them on the merits; (11) preside over federal raids on medical marijuana dispensaries; (12) attempt to negotiate an extension of American troops in Iraq beyond 2011 (an effort that thankfully failed); (14) reauthorize the Patriot Act; (13) and select an economic team mostly made up of former and future financial executives from Wall Street firms that played major roles in the financial crisis.
Unfortunately, he didn’t include Obama’s many contributions to the war on women.
Attorneys Carl J. Mayer and Bruce I. Afran filed a complaint Friday in the Southern U.S. District Court in New York City on my behalf as a plaintiff against Barack Obama and Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta to challenge the legality of the Authorization for Use of Military Force as embedded in the latest version of the National Defense Authorization Act, signed by the president Dec. 31.
The act authorizes the military in Title X, Subtitle D, entitled “Counter-Terrorism,” for the first time in more than 200 years, to carry out domestic policing. With this bill, which will take effect March 3, the military can indefinitely detain without trial any U.S. citizen deemed to be a terrorist or an accessory to terrorism. And suspects can be shipped by the military to our offshore penal colony in Guantanamo Bay and kept there until “the end of hostilities.” It is a catastrophic blow to civil liberties.
I spent many years in countries where the military had the power to arrest and detain citizens without charge. I have been in some of these jails. I have friends and colleagues who have “disappeared” into military gulags. I know the consequences of granting sweeping and unrestricted policing power to the armed forces of any nation. And while my battle may be quixotic, it is one that has to be fought if we are to have any hope of pulling this country back from corporate fascism.
Thanks to Hedges for putting his money where his mouth is.
In the space of a couple of days, Hollywood and its content creators lost the public relations war over Internet piracy SOPA legislation — which now appears poised to crumble into a million bits of dust.
The messaging industry never had control of the message.
The tech guys found a simple, shareable idea — the Stop Online Piracy Act is Censorship — made it viral, and made it stick.
Hollywood had Chris Dodd and a press release. Silicon Valley had Facebook.
It shouldacoulda been a fair fight. But it wasn’t.
It seems that Hollywood still does not realize that it is in the information age. Knowledge moves in real time, and events move accordingly. The medium is the message in a fight like this.
I disagree that the fight is over, but it’s nice to see the battle for free speech and privacy getting some corporate media ink.
So … what are you reading and blogging about today?
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The Sky Dancing banner headline uses a snippet from a work by artist Tashi Mannox called 'Rainbow Study'. The work is described as a" study of typical Tibetan rainbow clouds, that feature in Thanka painting, temple decoration and silk brocades". dakinikat was immediately drawn to the image when trying to find stylized Tibetan Clouds to represent Sky Dancing. It is probably because Tashi's practice is similar to her own. His updated take on the clouds that fill the collection of traditional thankas is quite special.
You can find his work at his website by clicking on his logo below. He is also a calligraphy artist that uses important vajrayana syllables. We encourage you to visit his on line studio.