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Wed May 11, 2016, 08:19 AM

The Panama Papers expose the hypocrisy of England’s oligarchs


Cuts for the Poor, Tax Havens for the Rich
The Panama Papers expose the hypocrisy of England’s oligarchs.


(In These Times) In 1960, when we moved into the house I still inhabit, the real estate agent described this part of Chelsea as “run-down” but “coming up.” Indeed, my mother-in-law, who’d just stopped being a stalwart Communist, congratulated her son on living at last “among his own people.” She’d lived in our street briefly in the 1930s and remembered it as working class. Nowadays, the news that I live in Chelsea occasions whistles of surprise or disapproval or possibly envy. It’s where rich people live.

Yet until a month ago, there were five men sleeping on the ground under an overhanging concrete shelf by the local fire station, which is exposed to the elements and the unfriendly. I took them to be refugees, as they didn’t speak much English. Presumably those who sometimes left croissants and bananas and occasionally books thought the same. Now they’ve been evicted and their temporary sanctuary made impenetrable by the erection of a nasty green steel barrier. They are just some of the thousands and thousands of people who are told these days they’re not wanted, that they should return to homes that no longer exist, should expose themselves and their families if necessary to drowning and bombs, and to poverty and starvation.

A famous 19th-century institution, the Charity Organisation Society (which spread to the United States later in the century), saw its primary duty as distinguishing between the “deserving” and the “undeserving” poor. We appear to be returning to those times, as the state disowns responsibility for suffering or poverty and spends longer sifting the sheep from the goats than on confronting the causes and the extent of poverty in the world.

All that may seem miles from the so-called Panama Papers and the embarrassment they’ve caused our prime minister, David Cameron, when they revealed that his father ran a tax-avoiding investment fund in one of the “treasure islands” (otherwise known as tax havens) that now constitute what’s left of the great British Empire. Not surprisingly, Cameron turns out to have benefited from his father’s foresight, though it’s not clear that either father or son acted unlawfully. But Cameron refused four times to come clean about it all, and when he finally admitted to his party colleagues that it had been a “bad week” and he was sorry if he’d misled them and handled it all badly, his mea culpa ended with assurances that the Conservatives were still the “low tax” party, which is what matters most to them all. ..............(more)

http://inthesetimes.com/article/19102/panama-papers-reveal-david-camerons-priorities




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