What Bernie Sanders said about Panama in 2011

The program Democracy Now! had an interview about the Panama Papers with Michael Hudson, senior editor at the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, which published the Panama Papers, and Frederik Obermaier, investigative reporter at Germany’s leading newspaper, the Munich-based Süddeutsche Zeitung that first received the papers from the secret source.

The interview began with host Amy Goodman quoting from a 2011 speech by senator Bernie Sanders opposing the Panama-United States Trade Promotion Agreement (that Hillary Clinton supported). In his speech, Sanders presciently said:

Panama’s entire annual economic output is only $26.7 billion a year, or about two-tenths of 1 percent of the U.S. economy. No one can legitimately make the claim that approving this free trade agreement will significantly increase American jobs. Then, why would we be considering a stand-alone free trade agreement with Panama, tiny little country?

Well, it turns out that Panama is a world leader when it comes to allowing wealthy Americans and large corporations to evade U.S. taxes by stashing their cash in offshore tax havens. And the Panama free trade agreement will make this bad situation much worse. Each and every year, the wealthiest people in our country and the largest corporations evade about $100 billion in U.S. taxes through abusive and illegal offshore tax havens in Panama and in other countries. So, according to Citizens for Tax Justice—and I quote—”A tax haven … has one of three characteristics: It has no income tax or a very low-rate income tax; it has bank secrecy laws; and it has a history of non-cooperation with other countries on exchanging information about tax matters. Panama has all three of those. … They’re probably the worst.”

President Obama and Clinton and pretty much the entire US government is friendly to the financial oligarchs and it is no surprise that they allow these structures to exist that benefit them.


  1. says

    Panama and Cuba were always nice havens where the wealthy could offshore their money, buy booze and prostitutes, and otherwise do things they couldn’t be seen doing at home. That’s part of why Cuba rebelled, after all.

  2. lorn says

    Bernie observations seem prescient until you figure out that Panama as a tax haven isn’t unique. He could have spoken more widely about tax haven nations. Or, as pointed out in the links below, the US as a tax haven. Bernie is right, but he could have said exactly the same thing about any number of nations:

    General orientation and information. Always good to define the terms and get the basics down before wading into the warm waters.


    Some context for the Panama case, including the US as tax haven:

    Surprise, the US in focus as a tax haven while other nations are cracking down:

    Of course the bigger question is why the “Panama papers” have come out right now. Is this an attempt to smear someone in particular, an entire class of people? Perhaps a move to put fire in the bellies of certain voters. Or, seeing as that the US may be rapidly becoming the world’s leading tax haven perhaps this is a move to speed up that process. Discredit Panama, and other nations, by showing that they can’t keep your secrets and people will move their ill gotten gains into the US.

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