When did graft, corruption and skulduggery become the default operating system of Western democracy?
It traces back to the introduction of neoliberalism and the ascendancy of illiberal democracy. Today we live off the rancid leavings of Reagan, Thatcher and Mulroney and the Big Lie by which they transformed our lives. So much of their malignant legacy lives on even in supposedly progressive governments that it's hard to imagine reclaiming our democratic freedoms without tossing the lot of them and the rigged institutions they have put in place.
Glenn Greenwald of Edward Snowden fame sees ominous similarities between the Snowden and Panama Papers scandals.
FROM THE START of the reporting based on Edward Snowden’s leaked document archive, government defenders insisted that no illegal behavior was revealed.
But illegality was never the crux of the scandal triggered by those NSA revelations. Instead, what was most shocking was what had been legalized. ...As the ACLU’s Jameel Jaffer put it after the Washington Post’s publication of documents showing NSA analysts engaged in illegal spying: “The ‘non-compliance’ angle is important, but don’t get carried away. The deeper scandal is what’s legal, not what’s not.”
Part Deux - the Panama Papers
'Even as the world’s wealthiest and most powerful nations have engaged in increasingly complex and intensive efforts at international cooperation to smooth the wheels of global commerce, they have willfully chosen to allow the wealthiest members of Western society to shield their financial assets from taxation (and in many cases divorce or bankruptcy settlement) by taking advantage of shell companies and tax havens.
'If Panama or the Cayman Islands were acting to undermine the integrity of the global pharmaceutical patent system, the United States would stop them. But the political elite of powerful Western nations have not acted to stop relatively puny Caribbean nations from undermining the integrity of the global tax system — largely because Western economic elites don’t want them to. …'
Greenwald's right. The Snowden scandal and the Panama Papers scandal go very deep, right into the heart of Western democracy, Canada included. It's rotting our society from the inside and out.
In my old Vancouver neighbourhood, tear-down (bare lot) values now exceed $2-million for what, in my time, was a neighbourhood of tidy, modest post-war bungalows. Yet that neighbourhood is unique in Vancouver. It has the lowest average declared incomes. People there declare subsistence incomes or declare nothing at all. Yet many of them own not one but multiple properties and leave most of them sitting vacant.
Everyone knows. Those houses are being bought up with illicit monies from offshore. It's money laundering on a grand scale and it ensures that my kids and their friends will never be able to afford to live in the neighbourhoods where they were born and raised.
And what are our governments, provincial and federal, doing about it? SFA - Sweet Fuck All. If those properties were held by known drug dealers the Canadian Revenue Agency would move in. Based on the value of the assets they would calculate an appropriate "deemed income" that would be required to buy and maintain the properties. Then they would levy taxes, plus hefty penalties and interests, on that deemed income and slap a lien on the properties until they could be seized and sold. Easy, peasy.
Only they're not doing it. Why not? Because Canada's political apparatus is in a gluey relationship with our major banks and accounting firms and their benefactors don't want them meddling. It's corruption, plain and simple, and it reaches deep into our provincial legislatures and the House of Commons.
That is the foul legacy of Reagan, Thatcher and Mulroney and their Big Lie by which they duped us into accepting neoliberalism. We couldn't imagine it would usher in corruption and the ascent of illiberal democracy. It did. It's here. It's hard to imagine how we'll get ourselves out from under this, reclaim our democracy from the political apparatus that has so cravenly sold us out, without throwing the whole sordid mess over.