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October 23, 2021

Cal Thomas: The Pandora papers

“The rich put cream on their berries; the rich drive shiny black cars.”

— (from the Broadway musical “Carnival!”)

The Pandora Papers, “an exposé of the financial secrets and offshore dealings of dozens of heads of state, public officials and politicians,” writes CNN, could not have come at a better time for congressional “progressives” who are seeking to win over enough Democrats to pass the massive Biden-Pelosi $3.5 trillion infrastructure bill, which is loaded with enough pork to infect the nation with financial trichinosis.

The Pandora Papers, released by The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) on Sunday, is not equivalent to the Pentagon Papers, which revealed how the U.S. government lied to the public about the Vietnam War, but it might serve the political ends of the left.

The papers reveal — wait for it — that rich people have managed to avoid paying taxes by hiding their wealth in foreign countries, such as the Cayman Islands. Who knew?

What I like best about this “revelation” is the double standard it again reveals about wealthy politicians who have been critics of tax avoiders, while avoiding taxes themselves.

One of many examples is former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, a critic of tax avoiders. The Pandora Papers journalists found that Blair and his wife, Cherie, who is a lawyer, avoided paying tax on a high-priced London office they purchased. Cherie Blair was quoted in the UK Daily Mail as saying the transaction and avoidance of tax was perfectly legal.

To paraphrase the writer Michael Kinsley, the real scandal is not what’s illegal, but what’s legal.

“The rich go here, the rich go there

It’s close to the truth but far from fair”

In that lyric lies the basic argument by the left when it comes to fairness. Politicians have a vested interest in demonizing the rich because envy of the successful helps solidify their careers in Washington, where they also can become rich. Ask yourself how many members of Congress arrive as “thousand-aires” with annual salaries of $174,000 (leadership gets slightly more) and leave as millionaires. It isn’t because they know how to play the stock market.

By focusing on “fairness” and other buzzwords like “equity” and “equality,” these same politicians manage to distract the public from the real problem.

To put it succinctly, as Ronald Reagan often did, we have a debt, not because the American people are taxed too little, but because their government spends too much.

“The rich stay cozy all winter

Stay cold the month of July”

How does what others make and how they choose to live affect your life? If you favor punishing the wealthy with higher taxes, how does that improve your financial situation? It might make you feel better, but envy produces no positive outcome.

The best way to retrieve offshore money from tax avoiders would be for the U.S. and Britain to lower taxes. That’s what Donald Trump did for American companies that had moved overseas to escape a higher tax burden. A few companies returned and began paying taxes at a lower rate to the U.S. Treasury, most did not.

There remains the issue of revenue verses spending. The U.S. government receives plenty of money. The problem is it refuses to live within the means taxpayers provide it.

As for the rich, there are several ways to define the word. For some, true wealth comes in the form of a loving spouse, successful children, good health and a feeling that one’s life has purpose.

As the puppets and main character Lili in “Carnival!” assess their own happiness in modest circumstances, they sing:

“But for all of the world, we wouldn’t switch, we’re glad we’re rich.”

Readers may email Cal Thomas at tcaeditors@tribpub.com.

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