As Panama Papers spark outrage, we must to pay attention to documents’ effects

By Nick Riebel || Staff Writer

Despite the great importance of the Panama Papers, it seems that many have not heard, or know very little about, these documents. And, for good reason. Why should it matter, one may think, where rich and powerful people put their money? Or, even if they do try to hide their money, why does it matter? Why does it matter to me? After all, I am not directly affected, or so it would seem. And, besides, we suspected this all along anyways: that the rich and powerful play by different rules than the commoners. Yet, even if you do not think this affects you, it still does. There is a lot which is said, and even much of which is unsaid, in these papers that is worth paying attention to.

For those who do not know what exactly the Panama Papers are, they are adequately described in a recent Economist article: they “unveil the offshore holdings of 140 politicians and officials, including 12 current and former presidents, monarchs and prime ministers. They show how money was moved around and hidden by at least 33 people and companies blacklisted by the United States for allegedly doing business with rogue states, terrorists or drug barons” (http://econ.st/1RI59Zn). And this has already impacted global politics; Iceland’s government has been forced out of power, and Russian dictator Vladimir Putin and British Premier David Cameron are already facing questions about how they are implicated by these documents.

Yet, these are only the more well-known effects of the Panama Papers. Among other leaders, the president of South Africa, Jacob Zuma, was threatened with impeachment (http://econ.st/1RI59Zn). I admit, in a world where Putin may be trying to rebuild the Soviet Union or the Russian Empire, where Islamic terrorism is still a threat to the stability of the world, and now Armenia and Azerbaijan are in a deadly border-conflict that has the potential to spiral into a devastating proxy war in the Caucasus, one may wonder, still, why one should bother to care. After all, it doesn’t seem that there are U.S. politicians implicated in these papers.

But, it is interesting what the papers don’t say, or at least what they don’t seem to say. The papers do not show that mainstream American politicians or businessmen (or other wealthy individuals) are necessarily part of this corrupt system. And it doesn’t say that President Obama and then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton “reverse[d] their positions on Panamanian trade” to benefit American trade and security (http://for.tn/1qgHhBB). But, at the risk of sounding paranoid, it does seem interesting that no politically important Americans are implicated in this document. It also seems interesting that President Obama and Hillary Clinton were very interested in removing Panama as a tax haven (http://for.tn/1qgHhBB).

This is not to say that the United States should not cooperate with Panama in the failed Drug War, or on legitimate security interests. Yet, I would hope that, for all the Panama Papers say about the corrupt system of money-laundering the wealthy and powerful, it did not say anything too bad about our current leadership. After all, these sorts of scandals only seem to affect other nations. I think we can be absolutely sure that our leaders in Washington and Wall Street are squeaky clean, and we can rest assured that there will not be any more leaked documents exposing our own government’s and financial sector’s corruption.

In the meantime, watching the fallout from this should prove to be quite interesting. As the old saying goes: we’ll keep following the money. I hope that our media will pay better attention if information in the Panama Papers does lead back to the United States.

Junior Nick Riebel is a staff writer. His email is nriebel@fandm.edu.

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