Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders has released an official statement criticizing Democratic presidential front-runner and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for her support of the U.S.-Panama Trade Promotion Agreement (TPA). The official statement by the Sanders campaign comes after the “Panama Papers” leaks, through the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ).
The “Panama Papers” include about 11.5 million documents from the Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca, which reveal how the wealthiest one percent use shell companies and exploit loopholes in tax laws to spirit away billions of dollars to offshore accounts as a way of avoiding their fair share of taxes.
And as the entire world reels under the impact of the staggering implications of the massive leaks revealing the offshore tax havens that the global elite use to hide their wealth, Sanders released a statement yesterday (April 5, 2016) drawing attention to his vocal opposition to the Panama Trade Agreement back in 2011. He also contrasted his position on the trade agreement to the position that his Democratic primaries opponent Clinton took at time, pointing out that while he warned the Senate back in 2011 (see video below) that the agreement would only facilitate corruption, Clinton had supported the trade pact.
“The wealthiest people and largest corporations must start paying their fair share of taxes.”
Sanders had taken to the Senate floor on October 12, 2011, to denounce the pact, warning that it would lead to widespread corruption and allow large corporations and the wealthiest to evade taxes through illegal offshore tax havens.
He pointed out that “no one can legitimately claim that approving this free trade agreement will significantly increase American jobs.”
Now, the Sanders campaign is using the opportunity furnished by the “Panama Paper” leaks to remind American voters that only Bernie Sanders had the foresight to predict the consequences of the Panama Free Trade Agreement. Sanders had described Panama at the time as the “world leader when it comes to allowing large corporations and wealthy Americans to evade U.S. taxes.”
According to the official statement by the Sanders campaign released on April 5, the leaks reveal an important and significant cause of the increasing income and wealth inequality in the U.S. and the rest of the world. Sanders emphasized that he would like U.S. voters to recall that he “opposed to the Panama Free Trade Agreement from day one.”
“I was opposed to the Panama Free Trade Agreement from day one. I predicted that the passage of this disastrous trade deal would make it easier, not harder, for the wealthy and large corporations to evade taxes by sheltering billions of dollars offshore,” Sanders said in the statement.
“Americans are sick and tired of establishment politicians who say one thing during campaign and do the exact opposite the day after.”
“I wish I had been proven wrong about this, but it has now come to light that the extent of Panama’s tax avoidance scams is even worse than I had feared,” he continued.
Sanders then went on to contrast his prescience with the position that Clinton took about the trade agreement back in 2011. He reminded voters that Clinton had supported the trade agreement in 2011. He accused Clinton of opposing the agreement initially during the 2008 election, then changing her position as Secretary of State by saying that the agreement she had earlier opposed would “create jobs here at home.”
According to Clinton in an official statement released through the U.S. Department of State a day after Sanders’ address to the Senate, the trade agreement would “level the playing field for our businesses and workers, and champion America’s working families in an age of tough global competition.”
Sanders then ripped into Clinton, “The American people are sick and tired of establishment politicians who say one thing during a campaign and do the exact opposite the day after the election.”
He promised that as president he would end the agreement within six months in office and investigate U.S. banks and wealthy citizens for violations of U.S. tax laws.
“It is time for real change,” he said. “As president, I will use my authority to terminate the Panama Free Trade Agreement within six months. My administration will conduct an immediate investigation into U.S. banks, corporations, and wealthy individuals who have been stashing their cash in Panama to avoid taxes. If any of them have violated U.S. law, my administration will prosecute them to the fullest extent of the law.”
In contrast to Clinton, Sanders has been consistent in opposing trade agreements viewed widely to be unfavorable to U.S. economic interests. He has promised he would renegotiate all the trade agreements that the U.S. has entered into for better terms.
“Children should not go hungry while billionaires use offshore tax havens to avoid paying their fair share of taxes.”
Pundits are saying the leaks could mark a turning point in the 2016 Democratic Primaries. The latest scandal fits perfectly into Sanders campaign narrative that the key issues in the country’s economic decline are closely linked to financial corruption of the wealthy upper classes. But the elite are cleverly manipulating the masses by diverting attention from these real issues to racially-charged, but secondary issues, such as immigration.
Although, no Americans have been directly implicated in the initial “Panama Papers” leaks, there are indications of damming revelations to come as the consortium of journalists sift through the piles of massive data. The German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung, which broke the news, has also indicated that information will follow implicating U.S citizens.
Estimates of the global assets stashed away in tax havens, according to the Tax Justice Network, range between $21 trillion and $31 trillion.
[Photo By Brennan Linsley/AP]