Tale of the Golden Hoard

Myriad media sources have reported that Mitt Romney has stored much of his $250 million in exotic tax-shelter locations like Bermuda, the Cayman Islands and, of course, Switzerland. We are often told that this is all legal. Of course, the wealthy have always bought the best laws for themselves.

Millionaires abound in the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives. Millionaire Romney ran for the Senate in 1994 but lost to millionaire Ted Kennedy. In fact, figures compiled by the Center for Responsive Politics in November 2011 showed that 47 percent of the members of Congress reported assets of over a million in 2010 — and that’s after the big housing and financial crisis that wiped out so many working people. In the richer Senate, 37 Democrats and 30 Republicans were in the millionaire bracket. In the slightly poorer House, 110 Republicans and 73 Democrats had made the club.

Romney’s secret bank accounts are but a few drops in a vast ocean of wealth stored in these same locations by the billionaires of the world. In late July, a study by the Tax Justice Network of the U.S. revealed that deposits stored in these tax shelters amount to the stupendous sum of between 21 and 32 trillion (that’s with a “t”) dollars.

This is more than the total annual production of the United States and Japan together, the report states.

Where did this vast wealth come from? It is the unpaid wages appropriated from hundreds of millions of workers around the world — from miners in Chile to hospital nurses in Philadelphia, from help-desk workers in Mumbai, India, to New York City taxi drivers, from Michigan auto workers to Indonesian textile workers. It is accumulated and then hoarded from the goods and services created by workers around the globe.

Of course, the Tax Justice Network focuses on the hundreds of billions of dollars that the wealthy are not paying in taxes to world’s governments, showing that the tax burden rests on the shoulders of the same workers whose labor has made them rich. And that is all true.

But it goes much deeper than that. Why are the capitalists hoarding their wealth instead of investing it to finance new factories, expand their operations and hire the millions of unemployed workers? After all, their minions in Congress call them the “job creators.” So why don’t they use this vast ocean of cash to create jobs?

The answer is simple: Right now they cannot expand production and at the same time make a profit. They have gorged themselves so much on new technology and the vast new armies of low-wage workers from around the globe, they have depressed the wages of workers here so much and thrown so many out of their jobs and their homes that they simply cannot step up the pace of hiring workers at decent wages and at the same time amass the huge profits that they crave.

So they hoard their stolen wealth. They hide it from the eyes of the world’s workers who created it. They redistribute it among themselves in their stock markets and through other financial “wizardry.” And they task governments, armies, police, prisons and the media to keep their wealth safe from those who produced it.

But this golden hoard is a sign of both decline and crisis. A system based on billions of workers producing an ocean of wealth for a handful of parasites to store in secret caches is a system that has stagnated, that has failed and that deserves to be discarded. This ocean of wealth rightfully belongs to those who produced it — the global working class.

Chris Fry is a former Chrysler auto worker.

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