$21 trillion has been stashed in tax havens by 0.001% of the world's population

The Tax Justice Network's Estimating the Price of Offshore Revisted report says that over $21 trillion has been squirrelled away in offshore tax-havens by 90,000 super-rich tax-cheats (0.001% of the world's population). The crime was abetted by a network of "enablers" from banks like UBS, Credit Suisse and Goldman Sachs.

Much of the money has been looted from the world's poorest countries, whose populations live in conditions of crushing poverty exacerbated by even more crushing international debt. The report estimates that if those countries' oligarchs and crime bosses were to pay their fair share of taxes that these debts could be settled. For example, Nigeria has lost £196b to tax havens -- while the country's national debt was about $37b as of 2011.

Heather Stewart has more in The Observer:

James Henry, former chief economist at consultancy McKinsey and an expert on tax havens, has compiled the most detailed estimates yet of the size of the offshore economy in a new report, The Price of Offshore Revisited, released exclusively to the Observer. He shows that at least £13tn – perhaps up to £20tn – has leaked out of scores of countries into secretive jurisdictions such as Switzerland and the Cayman Islands with the help of private banks, which vie to attract the assets of so-called high net-worth individuals. Their wealth is, as Henry puts it, "protected by a highly paid, industrious bevy of professional enablers in the private banking, legal, accounting and investment industries taking advantage of the increasingly borderless, frictionless global economy". According to Henry's research, the top 10 private banks, which include UBS and Credit Suisse in Switzerland, as well as the US investment bank Goldman Sachs, managed more than £4tn in 2010, a sharp rise from £1.5tn five years earlier.

£13tn: hoard hidden from taxman by global elite


  1. Why is it that when people hoard newspapers, we treat them as mentally ill, but when they hoard money, we praise them and hail them as thought leaders?

    1. Listen: I loathe these tax-dodgers as much as any person and understand the core idea behind your argument but you sound just plain silly. I think we’d come around on newspaper hoarders if suddenly our currency switched to decades old copies of the New York Times. Three grey old ladies for a hot dog!

      1. Hey, when the apocalypse comes and you’re out of toilet paper, you’ll be wishing you’d hoarded newspaper!

      2. I do see your point, but which of our positions makes more sense, I wonder?

        I think Mammon is whispering in our ears constantly, telling us money has some kind of amazing, superlative value that only increases the more we amass. Past putting a roof over your head and food in your belly, it really doesn’t, and study after study has demonstrated that.

        Do you feel in your gut that obviously, if they could, anyone would grab as much money as they could? Don’t be seduced by this mental illness – fight it!

          1. In which case it becomes as important, not more?

            This isn’t a serious argument anyway, of course; I’d be first in line to live in a small community that trades actual commodities, but the practical reality of that lifestyle fell long before the gold standard. Hence communes.

          2. I dunno, I’m no economist, but I think money meant a whole lot more when it actually represented something (i.e. a convenient way to trade goods without carrying around goods). The whole principle of countries being in debt with each other over imaginary numbers on a screen, and the people of those countries suffering as a result, is more than a little mind boggling for me. It sounds simple enough at the basic end, when you talk about inflation – but it all gets very fuzzy near the edges.

    1. & having a ruling class of the weathiest few is a bad thing.  & when they avoid their civic responsibilities & create legal loopholes to allow them special privileges, the rest of the citizens suffer, as does the infrastructure of the society they live in.  Having parasites is bad; it is unhealthy & unequal & inefficient.

      1. I meant am I supposed to be surprised or have some course of action ready to affect this situation in any way? This is people acting in their own self-interest, as per usual, sad as it may be.

        1. You could, for example, vote for the “least objectionable” choice wrt hyper-plutocracy in upcoming elections.  In the USA, this would be (somewhat disappointing but still promising) Obama instead of Cayman-Islands-tax-withholding Romney.  Just an idea.

        2. it is hardly “people acting in their own self-interest”. a much more accurate summary would be “a tiny percentage of people acting in their own self-interest, and an overwhelming majority of people barely acting at all”. you can debate why the majority is so inactive (maybe they agree with the plutonomy, maybe they are just working so hard to make ends meet, maybe they really don’t care, etc. etc. etc.), but the current situation is not the result of the majority of people acting in their own self interest.

          1. Actually I think it’s these people’s accountants that are acting on behalf of their employer’s best interest.

            There are exceptions to the rule, but the vast majority of wealthy people have tax experts who massage the legal loopholes to minimize the “losses”.

      2. “Having parasites is bad; it is unhealthy & unequal & inefficient.”

        I have the suspicion that those people view the rest of US as the parasites.

        Casting light on these sociopaths is nothing but good.

        1. I still think capitalism is the most efficient way of keeping track of resources & shuttling it around, but all I can think about is how much like evolution it is, & how incredibly awful evolution is at optimized solutions, & how reason & regulation need to be strong. Probably to the point of socialism.

          1. Probably to the point of socialism.

            It’s scary how, in the U.S. at least, socialism has become the new communism.

          2. Well all I’m saying is that the means of production should be in the hands of the people, not a ruling oligarchy. That doesn’t make me a communist*!

            (* It probably does).

          3. Righto, here here!

            I was just lamenting how far away the U.S. is from considering even socialism, which has been branded as the new evil opposite of our beloved, hazily conceived capitalism, now that communism has been declared dead.

          4. I mean, WHAT, do you want to end up with equal access to health care like some kind of ANIMAL? Those socialists, they are out to get you, what with their crazy schemes of not charging usurious sums of money for medical care. Practically Nazis, actually, come to think of it. Yeah no, I don’t get the political discourse in America anymore.

          5. Remember guys, socialism = raising taxes on the wealthiest and tax dodgingest Americans to any level above the lowest level they have ever been in history (well, since the 50s anyway). When I think about the marginal tax rates in the 1950s — well, maybe McCarthy was right. They were all communists!

        2.  Well, besides not being socialist, the U.S. is also a long, long way from being capitalist either. 

  2. a properly functioning economy she reward value creators with access to value, or wealth.  It seems pretty clear that the current global economy rewards people who are best at making and holding on to money much more than anyone else.  These 90,000 are clearly the most skilled at obtaining and holding on to wealth.  is there any solution to this?

    I hope that rapid manufacturing and computer design will someday eliminate enough costs that there will be no need for credit or centralized business, and excessive centralization of wealth will disappear as well.

    1. So what happens when it isn’t properly functioning?  For instance, “skilled” is a funny word when applied to something like…inherited wealth?  Or to crime?  I mean, being a skilled murderer isn’t something we laud, but being a dictator who brutally oppresses people counts as “skill?”  No, I’d say that it isn’t functioning properly at all, though I share some of your hope that distributed tools like the internet & new manufacturing options will level the playing field somewhat.  Good thing that there isn’t a concerted effort by the wealthiest few to hamstring those options.  Oh what, wait, copyright & “net neutrality” are being used as hammers to keep people from having equal access to opportunity?  Huh.  Sounds like it isn’t functioning properly at all.

      1. yeah, to clarify, i think the fact that people who are skilled at making money are the only ones with money indicates that it is NOT functioning properly.

      2. ” I mean, being a skilled murderer isn’t something we laud” well now if we did and applied it to this problem… Ok that would be wrong.

        1. Also, wait, we have national holidays devoted to historical murderers, so. Also lets not bring soldiers into this– I think we actually need skillful killers, I guess. Better than skillful hereditary usurers!

    2.  How many of these 90,000 were born uber-wealthy? Saying they are ‘skilled at obtaining wealth..’ is more than a little disingenuous.

      1. Hear Hear!  I also am very skilled at being: white, a male, and I’m very skilled at my particular sexual orientation.  One last thing, I’m very proud of my skill at metabolizing carbon, oxygen, and various trace elements.

        1. And the bizarre thing is that you can do all those things, and many more besides, without actually needing money. If the whole world just woke up to that fact, a ten thousand year nightmare might finally end.

      2. Often the wealthiest people – many of whom inherited their wealth as you noted – seem to feel that being wealthy makes them superior to those who are not wealthy, and that the special privileges they receive are the natural reward for their inherent superiority over the rest of us. The reality is that while any one of us, through a combination of skill, intelligence, luck and seizing the right opportunity at the right time etc could become wealthy, we will never be likely to reach the astronomical levels of wealth the very top 1% achieve. Of course many of us are likely too moral to do so as well, as in many cases the wealth that the rich accumulate has been earned at the expense – sometimes the lives – of those whom they employ.
        The illusion of course is that because any of us has the potential to do well in our economy, that there is nothing wrong with a system that is stacked to ensure the wealthy remain so, that they continue their stranglehold on power and influence, and that they can then use those powers to ensure that only those whom they deem worth get to the top.
        There is much less wrong with a shallow economic pyramid: A few people are very wealthy, but a lot more are somewhat well off etc. The current shape we are facing is a very sharp economic pyramid, where the majority of people find themselves enslaved to the ultra-rich.
        This situation cannot continue without changes I am afraid. Either we reform the system so that the ultrarich have to part with their due share of the taxes and contribute to the societies that have enabled them (or their remote ancestors) to become so rich and powerful – or a more violent solution is likely to arise. The later is not preferable. Think of Russia under the Tsars and what became of them.

      3. Thank you.  Romney, (our topic du jour lately) is a perfect example of how a one percenter is born wealthy and works to keep that wealth funneling up and out of the hands of the people below.

  3. Let me guess – the countries with the most looting also have governments with the highest concentration of central power.

    1. Bad guess. America has the most decentralized economy of any OECD nation, and most of the world’s wealthy looters. It turns out that self-regulated, deregulated economies don’t magically turn honest. Shocking!

      Well, no, not shocking. We tried deregulated capitalism from 1840 to 1930, and the result was constant corruption, financial crises that wrecked the global economy every 10 years or so, and a permanent class of wealthy looters who were above the law in every way, impossible to convict for any crime. We finally outlawed that garbage in the 1930s, and went without wealthy looters or their global financial crises from 1930 to 1980. Then we got sold on deregulation again, and now they’re back, and so is the damage that they do. Not so shocking after all. Actually, quite predictable.
      Assuming the pattern repeats, and allowing for the Feiler Faster hypothesis, we’re in for at least 10 more years of robber-baron corruption and lawlessness, and one to two more global financial crashes, before the consequences get so horrific, and the pattern so obvious, that people learn that it’s not that we keep electing the wrong people, it’s that the policies themselves, the mainstream bipartisan consensus positions that the voters keep voting for in the primaries, are just plain wrong.

      1. The US has it a little tougher though, because “The American Dream” is so ingrained that suggesting that there might be flaws in it is politically impossible.   The main times deep social change is possible is generally only after a war or a revolution, and even then the changes barely survive for a generation or two before the game-players distort the system.

        1. That “the American Dream” stuff is bullshit the pundits likes to trot out to make their opposition seem “Unamerican”.  Nobody in the real world cares about that crap, they just want their pensions and retirement accounts not to vanish overnight for one reason or another. 

        2. I’d like to note that the attitude I am seeing among my generation is that the “American Dream” is bullshit. While it might have been possible for authorities to wave that away before, things like the internet have made it all but impossible to keep facts from constantly inundating large swaths of people.

      2. My guesses usually are. :-)  But the reason I guessed is because I’m having a hard time finding what I’m looking for from the link Corey provide. Am I missing something obviously? Where does it show looting by country?

        I’d be surprised if your point about the US is accurate. I’m hoping there is some sort of normalization in the analysis, i.e., Total Looted / GDP.

        But, I’m always open to learn what the data says.

      3. World War III is long overdue because of the freakish nature of nuclear weaponry.  Call me cynical but these cycles of corruption usually terminate with a big bang (Napoleon Wars, 1871,  WWI, WWII…) which acts as a societal “reset” every generation or two. Many people die which has a sobering effect on the survivors… until the corruption and decadence seep in again. According to some historians (couldn’t bother to look, sorry) we should have had a proper big ‘un somewhere in early 70’s, at the very lastest by 1990.
        However, unlike in the past where at maximum a few tens of percent of population would die off, now the consequences would be total annihilation of human race as we know it, and very probably of all life on earth.
        I don’t know how are we going to get out of this mess, frankly.

        1. 10%? Entire nations and civilizations have been wiped out by that little rounding error…

          Can we please try to find a better way in the 21st century?

        2. You speak of a world war. I predicted long ago that we would not have any more world wars, unless by accident. The big boys that start wars wouldn’t have their hidey holes as in the past. Nuclear weapons decided that. I said then that we would have what I call brush fire wars. Wars are indeed important for the big boys to stay in power.

      4.  I keep wondering why no one uses a sports analogy to talk about regulation.  Remove the umpires and referees from sports,  and football becomes Thunderdome.  What are the chances of ever seeing star players in that system?  Long before a promising player can settle into a run of amazing performances, someone on an opposing team has broken his legs because, well, you know – there are no regulations. 

  4. Things will turn very ugly, if the current state of things is allowed to go on unchanged.

    Ah, ça ira.

    1.  The current state of things is the result of about forty years of this.

      Want to make guesses at the endgame of the ultra-rich? Suddenly some of those right-wing Illuminati/Lizard People/Enslaving Mankind/New World Order lunatics don’t seem so fringe now, do they?

      1. Pretty sure I’m allowed to believe that rich people like avoiding taxes, and that lizard people theories are just gussied up anti-Semitic craziness.  I mean, it’s not like I gotta believe in both just cause I believe in one.

        1. Jews don’t look anything like lizards! Besides, the fact that one of these tax havens is called the CAYMAN Islands sort of lends credence to the Lizard People theory, does it not?

      2. When I try to imagine the end result I always come out with something a lot like feudalism.  Private property ownership just keeps getting more and more concentrated and government keeps getting weaker and weaker.  So the haves rent out what they have in return for the protection and production they need to sustain their position.

        Except in the not so distant future they don’t need peasants or knights, because they have robots and drones.

      1. Yeah, it’s most probably an aging pentium 1 PC in a basement somewhere where they keep all the “numbers” which pass for money these days.

        1. It would fit on it and not require a whole lot more processing power.

          But its probably kept in redundant systems all over the world.

    1. May I politely suggest that you should not take lessons in economic policy from Genghis Khan.

    2.  Seriously, can we leave the Arabs and Africans alone for a bit and start threatening these creeps?

  5. I remember being 17 and thinking that torture, assassination(robot or non) squads, propaganda campaigns against citizens, offshoring massive wealth, and public acceptance thereof sounded impossible due to legalities, difficulty of execution, and moral repugnance for such things among those in power. I totally want to build a time-machine and rub my idealist younger self’s nose with this and the rest of our Lex Luthored society.

    Two words, 17 year old self: Corporate Capture.

    Any word on how soon until slavery is relegalized?
    (You are going to be so fucking gutted when that one happens, younger me.)

    1. Here’s how I imagine the conversation at the Chamber of Commerce of Evil would go

      So if we can control inflation so that the minions get a small but worthless raise every year while the super-wealthy make huge gains the minions will continue feeling rewarded in a stable system and won’t rise up against us, right? And we’ll have even more resources to fuck them every way to Sunday for less and less outlay by percentage of total wealth, right?

    2.  I live in louisiana, here we have prison work crews who clean up after sporting events, do repairs on public buildings, and other work that would otherwise employ folks.  We imprison primarily african american men, from the lower economic class through systemic laws that target them specifically and an unwillingness to offer social aid when needed.  Slavery is alive and well in the land of for profit prisons and prisoner work forces.

      1. Ah, yes. I’d forgotten about privatized prisons.  Here’s one of the more successful corporations http://www.cca.com/facilities/
        Watch out, younger self, I just found a Delorean on ebay!

        Job seeking advice in the Southern US:
        Black and can’t find a job? Get busted for pot possession and let privatized prisons find one for you!

        1. Help me with your thought process.

          Prisoners are forced to perform work for way below minimum wage that would otherwise employee a worker thus enriching corporate prison shareholders and paying lobbyists who then help spread for-profit prisons.

          So if the lobbyists were fired, the unemployment rate would increase 25%? That is a shitload of lobbyists.

          1. It seems pretty obvious to me. You are assuming that the light manufacturing jobs that are routinely done in prison would be performed otherwise by free Americans. For the past few decades it has been far more likely that such jobs would be done in Asia instead, meaning that without American’s inflated prison population doing labor at insanely cheap rates many of those former prisoners would be unemployed.

          2. So by depressing wages to the point where most people won’t do them we justify the forces that are depressing the wages in the first place?

          3. Suppose an unemployed person was paid a living wage while looking for work (y’know, like in other, civilized countries).

            They’d show up in the unemployment stats.  As it is, the unemployed are keel-hauled into prison – check the unemployment stats vis-à-vis the prison stats for black people (at a cost much higher than just paying them unemployment). As prisoners, their numbers aren’t included in the unemployment stats.

            It’s obvious.

        2. This goes to Jonathan Badger (threading limits):

          I’d like to see a profit turned from importing Asians to do the jobs referenced in occupyordie’s post.

          1. Who’s talking about importing anyone? The work that prisoners do — making furniture and the like — is generally done in Asia.

          2. @google-087f346a11f45b5cb18e74f4ce2a4ddc:disqus 
            (Occupyordie’s post mentions public clean-ups and other local work.)

            Even manufacturing jobs in Asia would provide State-side importing jobs and the workers would have rights.

    3. Slavery is already legal. The slaves get somewhat compensated for it with money and meagre benefits, which apparently makes it okay.

      1. Yeah, but, don’t call them slaves -has kind of a “Oh! we don’t go there anymore” vibe.
        Call them “Convicted fellons” -makes u feel like they deserve it!.

        Semantics…… What would it be of the world if it wasn’t for U…..

    4. Slavery has been back for quite some time, in at least one southern state. We just don’t admit it.

      Somebody goes into debt, debtor gets a court order requiring them to pay it, person can’t pay, court sends them to jail for contempt of court, privatized jail and/or privatized parole office starts slapping on charges, contempt charge cannot be lifted until the person is current on debts to both original debtor and to the privatized jail or parole office, court orders the debtor to work for the privatized parole office or jail for no wages until debts are paid.
      I can’t find a news article link on it with a quick Google search, but I know it’s been in the news off and on for the last couple of months, in the mainstream news for the last couple of weeks. It’s being challenged in the courts, but they’ve gotten away with it so far.

  6. Fair enough, but among those 90000, and among the many less wealthy individuals who hide their cash offshore, are many who earned it honestly and with hard work. Once they earned that money, and paid their taxes on it, they felt that that money is wholly theirs from that point onwards, and have taken steps to protect it from further abuse by their governments.

    BoingBoing campaigns for privacy, and that privacy surely also includes aspects of your money. Once your money is yours, and yours in a legal way, nobody should be allowed to ask or know how much it is, where it is, or what it’s doing.

    It’s not that I disagree with the original post, but there are valid reasons for putting your cash offshore.

    1. It’s cool. We’ll recognize the currency as effectively worthless for daily transactions and go back to bartering. The ultra-rich can maintain their vast stores of dollars. Hell, let’s give ’em a 12% return every time they invest in each other to reward their hard work and risk-taking.

      1. This why if I was a billionaire I would keep a decent chunk of my money in material goods.  Especially precious metals, and I’m not talking just about gold, silver, platinum.

    2. Not paying taxes is protecting your privacy, taxation is abuse, looting 3rd world countries is earning money honestly through some of that good ol’ hard work, corporations are people, slavery is freedom, blahlahlablhalhabbalblah.

    3. taxes are not really a one time thing. you pay them regularly and there are not just taxes based on what you earn, but also based on what you own (property, asset or capital taxes). rich people tend to put their wealth offshore to evade taxes. it’s not legal at all, it is just difficult to pursue them for tax evasion because other governments are involved.
      so yes, that money is theirs, but they still have to keep paying taxes on it and that is why we are allowed & required to ask how much and where it is

      1. Actually, other than the US which taxes based on citizenship, most nations tax based on a territorial and residence based system. Moving money offshore and then not paying tax on it is in most cases legal and not the result of an accidental loophole but a deliberate policy choice by that country’s legislature (and lobbying by their financial sector). Tax avoidance / deferal opportunities are built into the system – why else would the US, Canada the UK etc… sign tax conventions with Barbados, the Swiss, the Dutch, etc…

        One of the issues with the tax justice networks research is that they carelessly take two problems (illegal tax evasion, and legal tax avoidance) and consistently conflate and combine the two. They are two seperate problems and solving one won’t solve the other. Lumping the two together does make for some very impressive numbers and quotes though.

        Another issue is that they consistently push a bunch of anti-privacy solutions such as automatic information exchange between taxation authorities without advocating any sort of protection for the privacy ordinary citizens.  If 0.001% of the world is the problem, it doesn’t make sense to force the other 99% to share their SIN, marital status, sexual orientation, medical deductions, home address, what charities they donate to,  etc.. with every State in the world with no judicial oversight, due process or chance to challenge access to that information.

        The fight against tax evasion / tax havens has so far only accomplished a massive loss of privacy for ordinary people. Every industrialized state in the world has a captive tax haven that it protects and encourages. Canada has barbados, the UK has guernsey and the isle of man and london, the US has the caymans and delaware.

    4. Yeah, so when I kill that hooker it’s my business what I do with her body? If i chopped her up fair and square why should it be of anyone’s concern if i keep her bits under my sofa?

      1. you should really keep the bits in a biological waste storage unit.  As long as it is a temperature controlled model over the $1,000 range you should be able to use it as tax exemption for home improvement if you live in California or several other states promoting eco friendly home renovation tax incentives.  Obviously just for your state taxes not your federal.  Though you might want to consider not chopping up the hooker since a fully intact body can be claimed as a dependent.   The really exciting thing about all this is the higher end biological waste storage units that go for about $5,000 will not only get you into a higher tier exemption but they can also store at least ten times as many dead hookers all of which you can claim as dependents.  Remember most importantly these tax laws only apply to dead hookers.  if you are killing anything else the laws very greatly.

    5. …many who earned it honestly and with hard work.

      That’s charmingly naive.  A very great deal of it is inherited wealth or plunder from countries where corruption is rampant.  Ferdinand Marcos alone managed to make $10 billion disappear into secret bank accounts.  Multiply that by the number of Mugabes and Niyazovs.  Now consider the next tier of corrupt officials from India, China, etc. who only manage to stash ten to a hundred million, but they themselves number in the hundreds of thousands.  That $21 trillion is not from the Bill Gateses and Steve Jobses of the world.

      1. But they have their tax scams too, Google (do no evil) is particularly adept at it.

    6. For any given individual perhaps that makes sense. But I think this is one of those things like spitting on the street or cutting down trees on Easter Island: almost innocuous if one only person does it and awful once it catches on. 
      In my view it’s better to look at taxation through this lens. Sure, it’s annoying for us as individuals that governments take money from us and do things with it we don’t approve of. And sure, if I’m the only one who spits on the street it’s no big deal. But if everyone is hawking up in public all the time, and if no-one is paying taxes, the world gets unpleasant very fast.

    7. “You don’t EARN a billion dollars — you STEAL a billion dollars!”
         –  Fran Lebowitz

      1. Actually no. I recall looking at an article that showed the various billionaires around the world and where they go their money. Apart from a very few (mostly tech), the great majority simply inherited it. They may have made their wealth even greater, i.e. turned 3 Billion into 15 Billion, but its a bit easier to make a bit of money when you start with billions in the first place.

    8.  From what I’ve seen at this website – http://www.overseas-exile.com/ – it looks like (surprise, surprise), that with all the public noise about going after wealthy tax-dodging people, the government is actually going after mom-and-pop sorts who retire overseas to stretch modest retirement nest eggs.

  7. So the worlds richest people treat the rest of humanity like the shit  stuck to the bottom of their Gucci shoes…so what else is new?

  8. I visited the Cayman Islands last year while on a cruise, and the tour guide commentary during our scheduled tour of the island was surprisingly frank. “We have no exports, no industry, and our soil is barren — we grow virtually no crops and have no livestock to speak of. But we are a tax haven for the wealthiest people on earth, so we are wealthy.”

    1. Things can change pretty fast – ten years ago Dubai was hailed as the gleeming  techno-haven to which the neocons could all flee with their plunder, while the world burned in the fires they started to cover the looting.

      1. And remember when all the cool tech-kids like Google were setting up shop in Ireland? I bet Ireland gained like a million shoe-polishing jobs out of that.

        1.  Ah, glad you mentioned Google’s tax dodging.  It’s not all done by just by Romney’s and African strongmen.

      1. What have you done lately to restore sovereignty to Puerto Rico, Guam or Hawaii?

  9. Just remember: the richest few are still People. They can be killed, and their flesh is delicious.

      1. The problem is network lock-in. We cant stop labouring because we need the help of others in order to survive, and other people require payment in a poorly designed (unless you’re at the top) currency, for the same reason we do, around in a vicious cycle.

    1. Comparisons are in order so, adjusting for population differences [US numbers are given in square brackets,] Russia, which became for a while the Soviet Union, and France which for a while became La République, required the cold blooded murder of a small number of oligarchs ([12,400, as per the IRS,] compared to the much larger 1% [3,060,000] number of bosses/barons/robber barons and the remaining 99% [302,000,000] of us).

      While we aren’t there … yet … the current political and economic situation in the south of Europe, (viz: Greece, Italy, Spain and Portugal, Malta etc.,) would argue for more caution by the financial industry and the oligarchy.

      Letting the banks fail is how the used to get rid of debt in the old days; from the time of the 12 Caesars to the creation of the Marshall Plan history is filled with bankruptcies by banks themselves. (The equivalent of backing the wrong horse.)

      The current coddling the banks and appointing of an unelected banking elite to the governments of the countries which shouldn’t have been lent money in the first place and letting the populace assume the burden for the banksters’ over estimation of the situation represents a break from how things have been done up ’til now.

      Let the oligarchy reflect upon this…

      Being a bit poorer, going from billionaires to millionaires, is temporary, having your property forcibly confiscated, and losing your lives in the process, is forever.

  10. and whats to stop the most powerful nations from freezing these assets and seizing them and using that money to bring some equality to the world. we could give these 90,000 a million each so they can make ends meet, but using that money to reforest africa and the rain forests, find a cure for aids and even cancer, funds schools around the world, rid us of our dependence on oil forever, and giving everyone on earth an ice cream, would be wonderful.

    1. The money they pay to parts of the most powerful nations to keep themselves untouchable.

  11. “Cash”, such a quaint and soon-to-be obsolete term. It brings to mind one walking into a market and pulling out a physical, tangible monetary note with which to purchase vegetables and other survival staples of the proletariat.

    Oh how I will miss the feeling and smell of a few hundred in bacteria-ridden 20 dollar bills as I pull them from my back pocket and peel off a few for my cocai…I mean…vegetable supplier.

    At least when cashless society is irrevocably enmeshed within the web and weft of the world we won’t have to worry about laundering (and I mean the type of laundering that involves clothing, Phosphate-laden detergent and a Maytag, lest someone imagine the nefarious alternative whereby HSBC and the like legitimize Billions in ill-gotten revenue from drug cartels and murderous dictators…and miss my intended definition) our fitted jeans, bought instead of food for a month, and forgetting our last 20 “bucks” in the pocket, never to be spent again.

    I’ve still managed not to launder my debit card yet…although I imagine I’d better not. Seems to me it might wreak havoc on the chip thingy and the myriad other “personal safety features” soon to come down the pipe. Sure hope I don’t do that on the day “the economy” goes rapidly spiraling into the abyss and I can’t get in line for the mad scramble to withdraw my savings…er cash…umm money?

    Hold on, what am I thinking?! That will be the beauty of the cashless society! When it all goes south the governments and central banks will simply freeze our assets so as not to allow us consumers to create a run on said institutions, sending the whole house of cards tumbling to the ground. This will serve a secondary purpose of mollification as well in that it will keep the majority of blissfully unaware North-American middle and lower caste – I mean class – citizens from realizing their financial institution of choice doesn’t have more than a negligible percentage of actual cash dollars on hand in some shiny, polished vault they imagine safely housing their futures.

    Yep, I’d better enjoy the feel of paper…or polymer while I still can.

    This is getting me down. I think I’ll read a good book and take my mind off things for a while. Now where did I leave that Kindle…never had trouble misplacing my copy of Infinite Jest before.

    D.F.W – F.T.W.

      1.  yeah
        probably carcinogenic
        plus old meat is stringy and tasteless

        yep – I’m testing this approach for the zombie apocalypse
        to explain why geezers like me make a bad meal

    1. I agree. Because then I can find out who among them is single, or at least trapped in a boring marriage and in need of a mistress to put up in a fabulous penthouse with an unlimited line of credit. ;)

    2. Just look at the tax rolls of the IRS, Revenue Canada, Inland Revenue, Tax France etc.

      They are all listed there, by name, address telephone number…

      Don’t be so lazy… Its a relatively short list: 12,400 people in the United States, about 1,200 people in Canada, 2,500 people in Great Britain, 2,500 people in France and so on.

  12. One depressing thing about this is that the hoarded 21 trillion dollars doesn’t actually exist in any useful form.  If we could somehow seize those assets and pay all the avoided taxes with them, would we end the financial crisis?

    Nope. For the same reason that we couldn’t solve it by just printing another 21 trillion dollars.

    The total amount of money in the world is not currently backed by a corresponding amount of actual wealth, in the form of minerals, agricultural land, fresh water, liquid fuels, transport and and energy-generation infrastructure.

    So yeah, it would be very beneficial to take back some of that imaginary money and pay off some national debts, but not because this magically creates more resources, but because then we can stop pretending the compound interest on those debts actually exists as an asset.

    1. very beneficial to take back some of that imaginary money and pay off some national debts

      Because those national debts are also imaginary.

      Just like stretches of the via appia are still in use, the some of the money was spent for things with longer life-spans than the so called debt.

      1.  So how do we retrieve our real wealth from the holders of all that imaginary money?  This may be a promising start. 


  13. The naivete exhibited in this report is rather shocking. From the new “top 50” report on the site:

    “- All of the “new” top ten except Pictet got heavy gov subsidies during this period”

    Talking about taxing this income is useless, because the people holding this money are the same people controlling the taxing. The longer overview even talks about it, noting how the accounts of Hosni Mubarak were discovered after the revolt in Egypt.

    From the overview the Guardian:

    “Assuming that super-rich investors earn a relatively modest 3% a year on their $21tn, taxing that vast wall of money at 30% would generate a very useful $189bn a year – more than rich economies spend on aid to the rest of the world.”

    Who is he kidding? That’s around the same amount of Greek governmental debt forgiven in March, as part of the continuing looting of EU taxpayers to protect the banks that hold that debt (a list of which is a near perfect match for the list of the top 50 banks). The United States spent nearly that much money *last week*.  $189 billion a year is a rounding error compared to the runaway government spending that is actually causing the problems in Greece, Spain, and elsewhere.

    This report shows the lie behind “we have to bail out the big banks to save the economy”. The loot goes to those in power, whoever they may be – if they release the list, take careful note how many of the people on it are leaders, members, or supporters of their local governments. In short, if you want to stop people from getting uber rich on the backs of the poor, perhaps you should stop giving them your money for “social security” or “aid” or “nation building” or “defending freedom”, and realize that the uber-rich “they” are the people you elected and continue to elect – the same “they” who humiliate you when you travel, spy on your conversations, and assassinate their own citizens based on secret lists and evidence.

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