Ringside Seat: Lifestyles of the Rich and Offshore

The rich are different from you and me—and how. For instance, you may work hard with your tax software to make sure you haven't overlooked any deductions you can take on your income taxes, but some people—quite a few people, as it turns out—can take advantage of an international web of offshore companies and trusts that enable them to hide assets from their governments. Today, the Center for Public Integrity released a report, "Secrecy For Sale," based on 2.5 million documents unearthed by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists that show how these secret investment vehicles are exploited by the world's rich and sneaky. Among the investors, the report details, are "middle-class Greek villagers as well as families and associates of long-time despots, Wall Street swindlers, Eastern European and Indonesian billionaires, Russian corporate executives, international arms dealers, and a sham-director-fronted company that the European Union has labeled as a cog in Iran's nuclear-development program." 

There are, of course, Americans too. Remember Denise Rich, the Friend of Bill who caused President Clinton so much trouble on his way out of the presidency? "Records obtained by ICIJ show she had $144 million in April 2006 in a trust in the Cook Islands, a chain of coral atolls and volcanic outcroppings nearly 7,000 miles from her home at the time in Manhattan."

Perhaps Republicans in Congress will proclaim that the tax dodgers of the international jet set are actually noble conscientious objectors, attempting in their own small way to call attention to the tyranny of taxation by avoiding it. Heck, if Sean Hannity can proclaim his admiration for the fired Rutgers basketball coach who hit his players, threw balls in their faces, and screamed homophobic slurs at them ("I like the intensity, I like the drive," said Hannity. "My father hit me with a belt, I turned out OK."), anything's possible.

So They Say

"Not all black conservatives see it as their job to tell white racists that they embody the dreams of Martin Luther King Jr. It is certainly possible to oppose Obamacare in good conscience. No one knows this more than Ben Carson. In the late 1980s and early ’90s, he may have been the most celebrated figure in the black communities of Baltimore. Carson responded to that adulation by regularly giving his time to talk to young people, who needed to know that there was so much more beyond the streets.

"I was one of those young people. I don’t doubt that Carson was a conservative even then. I knew plenty of black people who loved their community and hated welfare. But white conservatives were never interested in them, and they were never as interested in Ben Carson as they are right now. When the presidency was an unbroken string of white men, there were no calls for him to run for the White House. And then he put on the mask."

 — Ta-Nehisi Coates, writing in The New York Times on Ben Carson


Daily Meme: Are You Ready for Some 2016?

  • It's April, April, gotta be talking about the election over 40 months from now in April ... wait, what?
  • D.C. has a fever, you see, and the only prescription is more Hillary Clinton 2016 speculation. Politico has already set up a team to keep an eye on her pantsuits and haircut, those foolproof signs of any lady's future ambitions.
  • Michael Tomasky predicts all the attacks the right will make if Hillary does choose to run—and promptly vanquishes them. "We’ve been fighting the culture war in this country over Hillary Clinton for 21 years now. The right-wing failed to notice that, about five or six years ago, she won it hands down."
  • Also, she's writing a book about her time at the State Department, which is coming out next year. It's no pantsuit, but still, suspicious, right? 
  • An army of super PACs is already starting to form, called to arms by the mere idea of a Clinton candidacy.
  • James Carville, who's probably super bored after losing his CNN gig, is joining upwith Ready for Hillary PAC, eager to continue his long career of shilling for the Clinton clan.
  • Some people are moving beyond the "will she/won't she" debate and wondering how Clinton's campaign could unfold. Alex Pareene's question: Will she hire Mark Penn again? If so, the game's already lost
  • If Clinton or Biden doesn't run, Democrats have no idea who they want to vote for. However, we would like to take this opportunity to remind you the election is more than three years away. (Oh god. This is going to be hellish, isn't it?)
  • David Frum's take is that Hillary is old news, which is why she's bad news for the Democratic Party. His argument has a kernel of truth, even if he is a Republican—especially when you consider the buzz about her candidacy, at the pace it's running at now, will be old news by the time she decides to announce.

What We're Writing

  • Smith College has turned down one Calliope Wong, a young transgender girl from Massachusetts, on purportedly legal grounds that are now looking spurious. Jaclyn Friedman delves into possible motivations and an ugly, intolerant side to old-guard feminism.
  • We're a week removed from SCOTUS's oral arguments on same-sex marriage, and Scott Lemieux has the handy legal breakdown: three opinions, three options, no fuss.

What We're Reading

  • It's been 125 years since a bearded man was last elected as president. A new super PAC hopes to change that deeply unfortunate statistic. 
  • All the arguments against background checks? Debunked.
  • Obama hinted that he might be leaning toward approving the Keystone XL pipeline in a meeting with donors yesterday. Boo.
  • ExxonMobil's Keystone look-alike is spewing oil all over suburban Arkansas, and the FAA has imposed a no-fly zone, so no-body can see how bad the spill is.
  • The State Department could still stop the pipeline (although it's declined so far), and under what was once a young, principled John Kerry, it may yet do so.
  • The Gun Owners of America is a "grassroots movement" founded "to oppose the government." It's current mission? Harass the NRA when it's not being reactionary enough.
  • Senator Roy Blunt happily admits that he trades legislation for campaign donations from Monsanto and the rest of Big Ag.
  • Virginia's Republican gubernatorial candidate, Ken Cuccinelli, is campaigning to re-illegalize oral and anal sex among straight adults (and gay ones) as crimes against nature, but is unwilling to say whether he himself has engaged in such wickedness.

Poll of the Day

Pew has rolled some data into one blunt report—a "majority now supports legalizing marijuana"—and it's true: a full 52 percent of Americans say the drug "should be made legal." Support has been growing as respondents have gotten greener; among Millennials born since 1980, a full 65 percent approve legalization. Those among the old Silent Generation cling to fears of reefer madness and clock in at a cool 32 approval.

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