Tag Archives: Taxation

Big Backers of Clinton Foundation Found in Leaked Swiss Bank Files: Report

Whether legal or not, Hillary Clinton’s deep connections with the planet’s financial elite may cast a shadow of her attempts to play the populist in the 2016 election

By Jon Queally
February 10, 2015
Common Dreams

 

Bill and Hillary Clinton on stage during an event sponsored by their family foundation. (Photo: AP)

 

Large financial backers of the Clinton Foundation charitable fund have been found among those named in the trove of leaked documents from a Swiss division of HSBC bank this week, raising questions about the integrity of such individuals and what it says about the relationships they have with the powerful Clinton family.

According to the Guardian newspaper, which broke the story, on Tuesday:

Leaked files from HSBC’s Swiss banking division reveal the identities of seven donors to the Bill, Hillary and Chelsea Clinton Foundation with accounts in Geneva.

 

They include Frank Giustra, a Canadian mining magnate and one of the foundation’s biggest financial backers, and Richard Caring, the British retail magnate who, the bank’s internal records show, used his tax-free Geneva account to transfer $1m into the New York-based foundation.

Hillary Clinton has expressed concern over growing economic inequality in the US and is expected to make the issue a cornerstone of her widely anticipated presidential campaign in 2016. However, political observers are increasingly asking whether the former secretary of state’s focus on wealth inequality sits uncomfortably with the close relationships she and her husband have nurtured with some of the world’s richest individuals.

The newspaper notes that it is perfectly legal for citizens from around the world—including those from the U.S. and Canada—to hold bank accounts in Geneva and reports there is “no evidence any of the Clinton donors with Geneva accounts evaded tax.”

However, with Hillary Clinton now considered the Democratic Party frontrunner for 2016, the revelations may once again cast a special shadow over such dealings.

As Reuters reported last September ahead of a high-profile event for the Clinton Global Initiative in New York City, “When Hillary Clinton rubs shoulders with financial executives and philanthropic giants… it will underscore the tension between her elite connections and populist image likely to feature in her expected 2016 presidential campaign.”

“If you look at her track record from the past, it is out of step with the current Democratic Party,” said Charles Chamberlain, executive director of liberal group Democracy For America, at the time. “Not on social issues, but definitely on economic issues, so we’re going to be watching very carefully.”

As Common Dreams reported last summer:

Clinton has been looked on with suspicion by progressives following high-paid speaking engagements with Goldman Sachs and other powerful Wall Street institutions since leaving her post at the State Department. And last month, Clinton put her weight behind the powerful biotech industry by speaking at their national conference, not only endorsing their business model but offering political advice on how to overcome public opposition to the use of genetically-modified seeds and industrial-scale, chemical-based agriculture.

Also this week, comments made by Clinton suggest her political strategy, if elected, would follow her husband’s well-worn tactic of “triangulation,” tacking to the political right as a way to curry favor with Republican and corporate interests, but doing so in a way that ameliorates the objections of progressives and liberals. Bill Clinton was famous for doing this when he passed “welfare reform” legislation and deregulated the financial industry in the nineties, both of which, according to many experts and analysts, say paved the way for the current economic crisis the country is now suffering.

Asked for comment by the Guardian about the foundation’s receipt of money from donors with Swiss bank accounts, a spokesperson for Clinton declined to comment.

“It is unclear whether the foundation has ever questioned the offshore status of supporters,” the newspaper reported, “although foundation officials stress they thoroughly vet contributors regardless of where the donation originated from.”

GOP Rule Change in Congress Signals New Dawn for ‘Voodoo Economics’

‘Few economic theories have been as thoroughly tested in the real world as supply-side economics, and so notoriously failed.’

By Jon Queally
January 7, 2015
Common Dreams

 

Republican Speaker of the House John Boehner wields the gavel for the first time after being re-elected as the Speaker of the House of Representatives at the start of the 114th Congress on Jan. 6, 2015. Among the GOP's first act was imposing a new rule on non-partisan agencies to institute new prediction models that will be more favorable to trickle-down economic policies. (Photo: Jim Bourg /Reuters)

Republican Speaker of the House John Boehner wields the gavel for the first time after being re-elected as the Speaker of the House of Representatives at the start of the 114th Congress on Jan. 6, 2015. Among the GOP’s first act was imposing a new rule on non-partisan agencies to institute new prediction models that will be more favorable to trickle-down economic policies. (Photo: Jim Bourg /Reuters)

 

A seemingly arcane rule change passed by the House of Representatives on Tuesday night signals that a new wave of tax cuts for the wealthy and what has long been criticized as “voodoo economics” will again be in vogue as the new Republican-controlled Congress sets the agenda in the new session.

Along with a host of other rules changes that will govern procedural issues in the House over the next two years, at issue here is a rule that will force both the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) and the Congressional Joint Committe on Taxation (JCT), the two nonpartisan groups tasked with scoring the economic impacts of proposed legislation, to use projection models that include what is called “dynamic scoring.”

According to current lawmakers opposed to the change, the impact could be devastating. That view is also shared by outside economists and progressives who say that demanding the CBO to make expansive and unsupported predictions about the possible macroeconomic implications of new laws is akin to “cooking the books” and a proven failure when it comes to obtaining accurate, unbiased analysis on behalf of the American people.

Voicing objection ahead of the rule change on Tuesday, Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Maryland) and Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-NY) wrote an op-ed in Politico in which they argued that recent decades have clearly shown that the GOP’s “trickle down” economic policies have failed. “But instead of changing their approach to budgeting,” the pair wrote, “Republicans want to change the evidence.” They continued:

It may be tempting to dismiss this change as just an accounting issue. But they are rigging the rules in favor of windfall tax breaks to the very wealthy and big corporations who can hire high-priced, well-funded lobbyists—once again choosing to leave behind working families. Their plan would further distort the nation’s fiscal outlook by applying this scoring model only to tax cuts—not the economic impact of investments in education, healthcare, infrastructure, and other areas. That means that the value of tax cuts to the economy would be exaggerated, and the value of investments in the middle class would be undercut.

Though the Senate has yet to vote on new rules for its new session, expectations are that it will impose matching rules on the CBO and the tax committee. In a statement released just ahead of the rule change in the House, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) called the move a dangerous “gimmick” and vowed to fight the effort in the Senate.

“They call it ‘dynamic scoring.’ In fact, it’s a gimmick to help justify more tax cuts for the wealthy and profitable corporations. It’s what the first President Bush called voodoo economics—and he was right,” Sanders said. “The purpose of dynamic scoring is to conceal—not reveal—how Republican policies will affect the economy.”

As former Secretary of Labor and professor of public policy at UC Berkeley Robert Reich explained recently:

Dynamic scoring is the magical-mystery math Republicans have been pushing since they came up with supply-side “trickle-down” economics.

It’s based on the belief that cutting taxes unleashes economic growth and thereby produces additional government revenue. Supposedly the added revenue more than makes up for what’s lost when Congress hands out the tax cuts.

Dynamic scoring would make it easier to enact tax cuts for the wealthy and corporations, because the tax cuts wouldn’t look as if they increased the budget deficit. […]

Few economic theories have been as thoroughly tested in the real world as supply-side economics, and so notoriously failed.

In a recent op-ed for the New York Times voicing his opposition to dynamic scoring, Edward D. Kleinbard, a law professor at the University of Southern California and a former chief of staff of the JCT, said the Republican Party’s interest in the controversial model “is not the result of a million-economist march on Washington,” but rather, “comes from political factions convinced that tax cuts are the panacea for all economic ills.” The GOP, he continued, will “use dynamic scoring to justify a tax cut that, under conventional score-keeping, loses revenue.”

Sen. Sanders, however, says you don’t need a new measuring stick to show what happens when you cut taxes for the wealthy and powerful. “What history shows,” Sanders said, “is that when you give tax breaks to the rich and large corporations, the rich get richer, corporate profits climb and the federal deficit soars. In these difficult times, we need realistic economic projections, not discredited theories, not voodoo economics.”