Thursday, July 12, 2012

Vanity Fair article: a big hit for tax justice

From the Treasure Islands blog:

I have been astonished at the reaction in the United States to my Vanity Fair article on Mitt Romney's offshore investments. It's generating headlines like this:

Vanity Fair's Brutal Offshore Banking Piece Just Sank Mitt's Candidacy

which is surely over the top, but it does reflect (the extreme end of) a fair few opinion pieces out there. We have Obama's campaign spokesman Ben LaBolt saying:

"Vanity Fair's raising important questions about Romney's offshore accounts in foreign tax havens"

and I'm told that Obama has personally taken quite an interest in my article. I should also credit the Associated Press, which followed up with a more detailed piece about that strange Sankaty entity I describe in my article. There's the New York Times top op-ed yesterday entitled Mitt Romney's Financial Black Hole, which credits my story, and Paul Krugman doing much the same thing:

"there’s a lot of buzz about an investigative report in the magazine Vanity Fair highlighting the “gray areas” in the younger Romney’s finances.

There are also plenty of articles like this, and even a Fox News opinion piece linking to my article and entitled

If Romney vetted himself, his tax returns would KO shot at White House

Well, this is whole more attention than I could have dreamed of. And it's the kind of attention that I think, based on the issues I've been exploring and the opinions I've formed about tax and tax havens, is going to be helpful in the long run. I hope so, at any rate. I particularly like this more thoughtful piece on the New Yorker site, entitled

Tax Wars: Will Romney's Offshore Accounts Save the Progressive Principle?

It went on to discuss all the kerfuffle about the offshore investments and continued:

President Obama himself appeared at the White House and practically dared Romney to oppose his plan for the Bush tax cuts: extending the cuts for all households with an income below two hundred and fifty thousand dollars, while allowing Bush’s giveaways to those earning more than that to expire at the end of this year. “We don’t need any more trickle-down economics,” Obama said. “We need policies that grow and strengthen the middle class.”

and followed it, a little further down the article, with this:

"Behind the theatrics, two important and opposing principles are at stake: the principle that rich people should pay substantially more of their income in taxes, which underpinned American politics for almost a century; and the principle that a politician who endorses a tax increase of any kind is inviting certain defeat, which has dominated politics in Washington for much of the past decade. Obama is endeavoring to give new life to the first principle and overturn the second. If he succeeds, there will be a great irony—Romney and his byzantine personal finances will have played a significant role in saving the progressive-tax system.
. . .
The Obama campaign . . . is rolling out a political strategy designed to make a debate about taxes that is potentially hazardous to Democrats into a much more favorable debate about just how rich and out-of-touch Mitt Romney is"

Well, if this has helped unlock some changes in this direction, as seems the case, I think that would be a good thing. If it gets more people -- either through reading Treasure Islands, or otherwise -- to take a deeper interest in tax havens, and finally to see and understand how malevolent and enormous the offshore system has grown to become, then that will be a fantastic thing.

And I have done a lot of interviews recently, including with MSNBC (two of them), CNN (two of them), Brian Lehrer, and my personal favourite, a long discussion about tax havens on Philly NPR with Leslie Wayne of the New York Times, who just wrote a really good article about Delaware. Not all of these interviews have appeared yet, and there are more to come; I will put some links up when I get some breathing space.

TJN: Vanity Fair commissioned this article as a result of reading Treasure Islands, which in turn was very much the product of the funding and support provided by the Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust and TJN, and of course many others. We're very pleased about these (hitherto unexpected) developments.


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