by John Perkins
April 12, 2016
John Perkins has
written nine books that have been on the New York Times
bestseller list for more than seventy weeks and
translated into over thirty languages.
His new book - New
Confessions of an Economic Hit Man (Berrett-Koehler) -
came out Feb, 2016.
His previous books
include Confessions of an Economic Hitman and
Hoodwinked: An Economic Hitman Reveals Why the World
Financial Markets Imploded - and What We Need to Do to
Remake Them. He has lectured at Harvard, Oxford, and
more than 50 other universities around the world, and
been featured on ABC, NBC, CNN, NPR, A&E, the History
Channel, Time, The New York Times, The Washington Post,
Cosmopolitan, Elle, Der Spiegel, and many other
information go to
"The Panama Papers," writes Perkins,
"are a warning: we can't turn a blind
eye on legalized crimes."
(Photo: The Weekly Bull/flickr/cc)
The Panama Papers should be no
surprise. I was there in the 1970s, when the system they've exposed
was set in motion.
an Economic Hit Man (an EHM), I
helped forge this global economy that is based on legalized crimes.
It's a system in which 62 individuals have as much wealth as half
the world's population, and a handful of the super-rich control
governments around the globe.
Big corporations benefit from
infrastructure and social services without having to foot the bill.
Instead, average U.S. citizens pay for
it with their hard-earned tax dollars, while the very rich and their
corporations shelter their incomes in tax havens like Panama.
"The revelations of the
are one more indictment
of a failed system."
The foundations for Panama as a tax shelter go back to 1903, when
President Theodore Roosevelt fomented a rebellion to wrest
Panama from Colombia so the U.S. could build the Panama Canal.
J.P. Morgan and Company became the new
country's official fiscal agent.
Soon Panama passed laws allowing
John D. Rockefeller's Standard
Oil Company to register its ships there, avoiding U.S. taxes and
regulations - and Panamanian tax shelters were born.
I was sent to Panama to convince
then-head of state Omar Torrijos to stop insisting the U.S.
turn canal ownership over to Panama, and to soften his support for
Latin America's nationalistic movements.
Torrijos would not yield on the canal.
But he did let his country become a tax haven for international
He told me,
"If your country is determined to
exploit mine, the least I can do is help your corporations avoid
paying taxes that support the CIA and Pentagon!"
Torrijos died in 1981 in a 'plane
crash' many believe was orchestrated by
Since then, Panamanian administrations
have remained a puppet of U.S. business interests, and the country
is a tax shelter for the super rich. Over the past 12 years, the
system that helped create it has spread from developing countries to
the United States, Europe, and the rest of the world.
The result: a failed global economy:
Two and a half billion people
live below the poverty level, on less than $2 a day
Seven out of 10 people live in
countries with worse inequality than 30 years ago
Less than 5% of the world's
population lives in the United States, yet consumes 25% of
the world's resources
1% of that 5% dictate not
only U.S. policies, but those of most other countries
It is an economic system based on,
...consuming itself into extinction.
There's a lesson here. In this election year, we must understand
that the next U.S. president has very limited powers. The powers
rest in the big corporations and the people who run them.
When billionaires are able to get laws
passed such as the
US-Panama Trade Promotion Agreement of 2012
NAFTA, giving their corporations
more power than sovereign nations, it's time for change.
We must create an economy dedicated to
cleaning up pollution, developing new technologies that recycle and
spare the earth, and creating systems that alleviate desperation,
poverty, hunger, and the causes of violence and terrorism.
This system must include fair taxation:
those who benefit from the infrastructure must help pay for it.
The revelations of the Panama Papers are one more indictment of a
failed system that I know only too well. It's very possible these
latest revelations are the proverbial straw that breaks the camel's
back and encourages us to understand that we have a responsibility
to ourselves and future generations to reverse this terribly
Can it be reversed? Look at Vermont.
In a state with under 0.2% of U.S.
population, a small group of activists and bloggers successfully
pressured some of the biggest food producers in the country,
...to change their policies and commit
David can defeat Goliath...
Many will want to focus on the "arch enemies" exposed by the
and on overpaid celebrities and athletes.
Let us not be distracted.
Let us instead focus on the super rich - those who finance the
political campaigns that support their interests, promise lucrative
consulting jobs when politicians lose or leave office, and hide
their fortunes in tax havens like Panama.
The Panama Papers are a warning:
we can't turn a blind eye on
Let the people of Vermont encourage all
of us to take action.