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Panama Papers: Cameron Won't Jump & Britain Won't Push Him

11/04/2016 15:58

So, tax avoidance has dominated the headlines and airwaves again this week.

The leak of 11.5million previously restricted documents to the media - dubbed the "Panama Papers" - highlighted the inner workings of Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca and exposed the identities of individuals embroiled in funnelling their personal finances away from the prying eyes of the national taxman, and into comfortably untouchable tax havens.

Heads of states, elected representatives, royals, CEOs of global corporations and various celebrities suddenly found themselves in an awfully taxing situation as intricate details of their financial jiggery-pokery became public knowledge - and, overnight, they became hate figures.

The leak has already caused considerable disruption to the stability of the geopolitical landscape - tensions between the people and the government in several states with figureheads linked to the documents are reaching peak levels. Within a week, Iceland's prime minister, Sigmundur Davíð Gunnlaugsson, was faced with over ten thousand protestors and quickly resigned after being implicated in the scandal. Mauricio Macri, the President of Argentina, was linked to an offshore haven and, days later, thousands congregated in Buenos Aires demanding his resignation.

And, our very own Bullingdon boy David Cameron has likely spent this weekend trying to drown out the chants of "Cameron must go" from protestors outside Downing Street after he finally admitted (following five days of skirting around the issue in front of him) to profiting from an offshore fund established by his late father, Ian Cameron.

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Well, well, well - the shock! An elitist figure has benefited from an elitist economic system? My fellow supermarket co-workers are lumped with PAYE and offered no lovely low tax alternative, whilst some shady Tory who has been bred to rule is? Major plot twist!

Seriously, though - the fact that this revelation really wasn't that surprising tells us a lot about the frame of mind that so many of us have found ourselves in. Running parallel to the growing understanding that we operate within an economic system that unfairly favours the wealthy, is the expectation that this stuff just happens. Someone has a savings account that equals a lottery win? Yeah, it's probably banked offshore. Global corporations aren't paying their fair share of tax? Duh - what else is new? Bankers crashed our economy then were met with measly fines? Go right ahead.

Surely, if this latest scandal in a timeline of many is going to teach us anything - it has to be that the reason those sitting on the throne of the social stratosphere keep getting away with this is because we continually allow them to. I listened to a podcast from the Financial Times today, in which one of the commentators highlighted that while Cameron's dodgy tax news should be fatal to his premiership, it won't be - because "the public have a short term political memory". Basically - next week, there'll be another scandal and we'll forget all about this one. Sadly - he's right.

Maybe there's still a whiff of stiff Britannic conservatism in the air and it's badly polluting our rebellious tendencies - but I keep asking myself why we can't all be a little bit more Icelandic. There's a reason why our corporate media has shied away from covering the Nordic country's political developments in any real detail: while most Western states launched heavy austerity measures in response to the 2008 economic crash - the people of Iceland (literally equipped with pots and pans) protested outside parliament for five months, toppled their government and ultimately jailed twenty nine high level bankers for the very market manipulation and insider trading that resulted in the financial collapse in the first place. So, perhaps it's unsurprising that they just managed to force the resignation of their Prime Minister. They've already set a precedent. They won't put up with this unscrupulous financial skulduggery that our global elites engage in and they really have no problem standing outside for months until they achieve their goal.

That, my friends, is people power and it really seems like - as a nation - we're lacking in it. Already, police have managed to clear the remaining protestors from outside of Downing Street, albeit pretty heavy handedly. No resignation, no commitment to closing tax loopholes.

Writing in the Guardian this week, Thomas Piketty outlined that "...in many areas of the world, the biggest fortunes have continued to grow since 2008 much more quickly than the size of the economy, partly because they pay less tax than the others." Right under our noses, we're all being shafted by an army of upper class crooks. My favourite part of the Cameron saga was when he claimed in his now notorious ITV interview that obviously he couldn't point to "every source of every bit of the money" that he made from the fund. I fully expect that this entire situation goes much deeper than we know. Let's not forget - Mossack Fonseca is one firm: what about the rest of them?

The Panama Papers leak, in itself, is simply one arm of a very obese body of problems. Our economic system favours the wealthy. Banking insiders gamble away the financial stability of our country and traders constantly tread a thin line between immorality and illegality. The richest are presented with an army of lawyers and accountants who assist them in transferring their assets to avoid paying their fair share. Major corporations turn over billions in profit yet gleefully skip past the taxman. Meanwhile, the most vulnerable and exposed in our society feel the heavy hand of austerity measures, watching as their income dwindles along with their quality of life. Food banks spring up across the country and child poverty shows no sign of dissipating.

While our own Prime Minister benefits from an offshore fund established to avoid tax - one of my grandparents is lumped with a backdated tax collection totalling £2500, and has to take out a bank loan to repay it.

This is our economy. This is the system that we operate within and, frankly, it's on us to do something about it.

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