Over the last two months, I've been keeping a secret. Described as the "Panama Papers on steroids," the newly published Pandora Papers is the latest revelation in how global and domestic billionaires are aggressively avoiding taxes and hiding their wealth. My take? We in the U.S. should be embarrassed that we've become a magnet for kleptocratic funds. It’s time for our elected officials to shut down the hidden wealth system.
Over the last two months, I’ve been keeping a secret.

A secret about the preparations for the just-released “Pandora Papers,” the blockbuster revelations on how billionaires the world over are aggressively avoiding taxes and hiding their wealth. I’ve been working closely with journalists from Spain, Mexico, Argentina, Sweden, and the UK affiliated with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, providing background on the U.S. hidden wealth system that draws from research for my recent book, The Wealth Hoarders.

In one particularly explosive revelation, the Pandora Papers show how states like South Dakota and Delaware have morphed their laws to attract billions, sometimes illicitly obtained, from around the world. 

My take? All of us here in the United States should be absolutely embarrassed that we've become a magnet for kleptocratic fortunes. Our elected officials need to shut down the hidden wealth system. Now. Stay tuned with Inequality.org as more details emerge.

Chuck Collins,
for the Institute for Policy Studies Inequality.org team
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The Fight to Protect Democracy from Big Money
The core policies the White House has outlined in its Build Back Better agenda — two years of free community college, universal preschool, and affordable care for seniors, among other important policy priorities — have enormous popular support, with backing from three out of every four voters. Yet the corporate lobby is fighting the Biden agenda tooth and nail. Why? Our ultra wealthy, after receiving trillions in tax cuts from the last administration, want to normalize the gap between rich and poor. Organizations like People’s Action refuse to accept this reality. They’ve published a new report outlining who’s spending big to stop the Biden plan. Sondra Youdelman, People’s Action campaigns director, has more.
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Can Billionaire Pique Fuel a Mission to the Moon?
Poor Elon Musk. Last week the billionaire 200 times over regained his title as the world’s richest man in the daily Bloomberg Billionaires Index. But Musk couldn’t bring himself to simply enjoy the moment. He had to go out of his way to stick the shiv in his chief rival for global richest-of-the-rich status. Jeff Bezos, Musk intoned from the Beverly Hills stage of the invitation-only annual Code Conference, should stop trying to litigate his way to success in space. Bezos is currently contesting NASA’s award of a massive lunar lander contract to Musk’s SpaceX. You can’t, said Musk, “sue your way to the moon, no matter how good your lawyers are.” In fact, as GeekWire would later share online, Musk himself has been a serious serial space litigator. He also appears to be none too happy with the Biden team. Jabbed Musk in Beverly Hills: “Not the friendliest administration. Seems to be controlled by the unions, as far as I can tell.”
Expose — and Crack Down on — Hidden Wealth
The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists describes its efforts to analyze nearly 12 million leaked documents on the tax-dodging schemes of the global rich as the “largest-ever journalistic collaborative.” Among the top findings of the Pandora Papers: Over 330 current and former political leaders, including Jordan’s King Abdullah II and former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, have avoided billions in taxes by using tactics not available to ordinary citizens. The investigation will turn up the heat on politicians around the world who are protecting this hidden wealth system. In the tax haven known as the United States, the Pandora Papers should boost momentum behind a progressive tax plan to fund the Build Back Better program — including money for IRS enforcement to ensure the wealthy pay their fair share. Chuck Collins has more.
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The Least Sympathetic People in the Entire World?
Imagine if some friend of yours shared this grisly tale of condo woe: Owners in a new condo building are having quite a spat with the developer. Floods from the plumbing. Horribly loud and scary noises. Folks living in fear of getting stuck — for hours — on the elevators. You’d naturally feel some sympathy with the poor souls that condo developer had taken to the cleaners, right? Well, that troubled building does actually exist, at 432 Park Avenue in Manhattan. But the victims aren’t getting much sympathy. In fact, those victims — fabulously rich gazillionaires all — just may be the world’s least sympathetic people. Inequality.org co-editor Sam Pizzigati has more.
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This week on Inequality.org 

Updates: Billionaire Wealth, U.S. Job Losses and Pandemic Profiteers. As the Pandora Papers expose more and more of the ways the rich hide, use, and shield their wealth, our billionaire wealth updates show just how wealthy they’ve gotten during this awful pandemic.

Elsewhere on the Web

Jan Vandemoortele, The open-and-shut case against inequality, Development Policy Review. History shows that shifts toward greater equality come far more from external shocks than  policy shifts. To overcome this conundrum, we need to enhance our comprehension of inequality’s multifaceted impact.

Heather Boushey, I’m One of Biden’s Advisers, Here’s How I Think About His Economic Agenda, New York Times. What has become abundantly clear: Our problem lies with a government that rewards wealth over work, that serves big corporate interests over working families.

Behind The Curtain: The Corporate Plot to Upend Democracy, People's Action and Demos. The story of how the richest 400 Americans have come to see their tax rates drop by 31.4 percent since 1962 while the bottom half of households have seen their rates increase.

Jeff Ernsthausen, James Bandler, Justin Elliott and Patricia Callahan, More Than Half of America’s 100 Richest People Exploit Special Trusts to Avoid Estate Taxes, ProPublica. Secret IRS records show billionaires use trusts that let them pass fortunes to their heirs without paying estate tax. Will Congress end a tax shelter that has cost the Treasury untold billions?

Steve Wamhoff, The Billionaires’ Income Tax Is the Latest Proposal to Reform How We Tax Capital Gains, JustTaxes. An ace primer on the problems our current approach to taxing capital gains creates — and how we can fix them.

Kate Pickett, Coming second in the game of life, Social Europe. Status matters. People at each economic level live longer than people in the level just below them. If we want to tackle inequalities in health, we have to do more than just try to tackle health problems at the bottom.

Mathias Gjesdal Hammer, How the Premier League Helped the Super-Rich Take Over Football, Tribune. A new BBC documentary on the rise of the Premier League overlooks the drastic financial consequences that the new league had on grassroots football and the distribution of power within the game.

Charles Tiefer, How Huge Military Contractors Will Get Even Richer Off The Australian Submarine Deal, Forbes. A look at the stunning amount of “cold cash” giant contractors like General Dynamics will pocket from the Aussie sub deal.

Irene Garcia Perez and David Hellier, Football Is the Next Big Thing for Hedge Funds and Private Equity, Bloomberg. Awash with cash, financial industry kingpins have been gradually gaining a foothold in soccer, the world’s most popular sport.
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