greed (grēd/) noun — intense and selfish desire for something, especially wealth, power, or food.
We’ve been told money is the root of all evil. I believe a rich presidential candidate said that in reference to his much less wealthy opponent.
The dissonance of a double-digit billionaire lecturing a single-digit millionaire on greed could provide some good comic relief, but how about we concentrate more on the topic of greed itself, this week brought to you by the Panama Papers.
A huge batch of reports late Sunday linked 140 public figures, executives and celebrities around the world to overseas assets in offshore tax havens ranging from the British Virgin Islands to Panama. Iceland’s prime minister has resigned, while Russian President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman deflected criticism. More political pressure is likely to follow.
Of the industrialized nations in the world, low taxes are an amusing concept but never something actually put into effect. In other words, the world is overtaxed, and waste abounds. So it’s a perfect lesson in hypocrisy when we see government officials take advantage of cloak-and-dagger offshore accounts in order to keep more of their money but insist — with guns, if necessary — that we all pay our fair share.
Even if every player in these Panamanian Games were acting within the laws of Panama and their countries of origin, do these people not see the abject unfairness of their actions? Of course they don’t. If by some small chance they do see that what they’re doing is wrong, they don’t care.
The world truly is getting smaller so, naturally, a story in which the particulars take place in a foreign land often ensnares some of our own. Wouldn’t you know it, Mrs. Hillary Clinton is connected.
The “Panama Papers” are being called “the Wikileaks of the mega-rich.” Corporate documents leaked from the law firm Mossack Fonseca show how world leaders have used offshore tax havens to hide their involvement in lucrative companies and business deals around the world.
Among those companies is the Russian Sberbank, whose U.S. investment banking branch recently enlisted the services of the Podesta Group. According to its lobbying registration form, the firm will work on banking, trade, and foreign relations issues.
One of the three lobbyists working on the account is Tony Podesta, a bundler for the Clinton campaign and the brother of campaign chairman John Podesta, who co-founded the firm.
Curiously, the definition of greed neither states nor implies that politicians are exempt from this human condition. The truth is, elected or appointed government officials can be, and clearly are, greedy too, except they get to use the taxpayers’ money to enlarge their wealth while the rest of us have to get it the old fashioned way. Oh, and that 401(k) or pension you may have? Yeah…our benevolent leaders have their eyes on them too, so they may not be private for long.
Economics tell us that people respond to incentives, and move in the direction that benefits them the most with the least amount of cost.
So let’s remember that the Panama Papers are Exhibit A in how a system that places too much burden on taxpayers will force them to look for ways out, and eventually turn everyone into criminals.