Carl Levin Takes on Tax Cheats and Dark Money in Retirement Statement

Carl Levin, a pretty old but very healthy 78, but relatively young given MI’s very old Congressional delegation, announced his retirement today.

I don’t always agree with Levin. But he is one of the smartest, most effective (when he wants to be) Senators in the Senate. I will miss having him represent me in DC.

I expect Gary Peters will replace Levin.

I’m just as interested in how Levin will go out. Here’s most of his statement:

I have decided not to run for re-election in 2014.

This decision was extremely difficult because I love representing the people of Michigan in the U.S. Senate and fighting for the things that I believe are important to them.

As Barbara and I struggled with the question of whether I should run again, we focused on our belief that our country is at a crossroads that will determine our economic health and security for decades to come. We decided that I can best serve my state and nation by concentrating in the next two years on the challenging issues before us that I am in a position to help address; in other words, by doing my job without the distraction of campaigning for re-election.

Here are some of those issues. Years of bipartisan work by the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations that I chair have shed light on tax avoidance schemes that are a major drain on our treasury. The huge loss of corporate tax receipts caused by the shift of U.S. corporate tax revenue to offshore tax havens is but one example of the egregious tax loopholes that we must end. Thirty of our most profitable companies paid no taxes over a recent three year period although they had over $150 billion in profits.

Tax avoidance schemes that have no economic justification or purpose other than to avoid paying taxes may be legal but they should not be. These schemes add hundreds of billions of dollars to the deficit. They lead to cuts in education, research, national security, law enforcement, infrastructure, food safety and other important investments in our nation. And they add to the tax burden of ordinary Americans who have to pick up the slack and accelerate the economic inequality in our country. I want to fight to bring an end to this unjustified drain on the Treasury.

Second, I want to ensure that the manufacturing renaissance that has led Michigan’s economic comeback continues. We’ve made progress in building the partnerships we need to help U.S. manufacturers succeed, but the next two years will be crucial to sustaining and building on that progress.

A third item I want to tackle is a growing blight on our political system that I believe I can help address: the use of secret money to fund political campaigns. Our tax laws are supposed to prevent secret contributions to tax exempt organizations for political purposes. My Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations needs to look into the failure of the IRS to enforce our tax laws and stem the flood of hundreds of millions of secret dollars flowing into our elections, eroding public confidence in our democracy.

Finally, the next two years will also be important in dealing with fiscal pressures on our military readiness. As Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, I am determined to do all I can to address that issue. I also believe we need to pursue the rapid transfer of responsibility for Afghan security to the Afghans. And, as our troops come home, we must do a better job of caring for those who bear both the visible and invisible wounds of war.

These issues will have an enormous impact on the people of Michigan and the nation for years to come, and we need to confront them. I can think of no better way to spend the next two years than to devote all of my energy and attention to taking on these challenges.

Carl Levin has said his priorities in the next two years will include finding a way to tax the rich and prevent the rich from stealing our elections. Having made the decision he will not need those rich donors to fund his reelection, he will have significant flexibility to piss them off.

Levin has never been known to shy away from pissing people off in any case.

May Senator Levin go out in style, taking on those rich looters who are gutting our country.

 

Marcy has been blogging full time since 2007. She’s known for her live-blogging of the Scooter Libby trial, her discovery of the number of times Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was waterboarded, and generally for her weedy analysis of document dumps.

Marcy Wheeler is an independent journalist writing about national security and civil liberties. She writes as emptywheel at her eponymous blog, publishes at outlets including the Guardian, Salon, and the Progressive, and appears frequently on television and radio. She is the author of Anatomy of Deceit, a primer on the CIA leak investigation, and liveblogged the Scooter Libby trial.

Marcy has a PhD from the University of Michigan, where she researched the “feuilleton,” a short conversational newspaper form that has proven important in times of heightened censorship. Before and after her time in academics, Marcy provided documentation consulting for corporations in the auto, tech, and energy industries. She lives with her spouse and dog in Grand Rapids, MI.

15 replies
  1. thatvisionthing says:

    Carl Levin: The huge loss of corporate tax receipts caused by the shift of U.S. corporate tax revenue to offshore tax havens is but one example of the egregious tax loopholes that we must end.

    But one of the points of Nicholas Shaxson’s interview with Harry Shearer recently (“OFFSHORING GOES ONSHORE”) is that the United States has been trying to turn onshore US into as much a tax haven as offshore:

    http://harryshearer.com/transcript-nicholas-shaxson-interview/

    NICHOLAS SHAXSON: One of those moments of illumination came when I was talking to a U.S. lawyer and he was explaining to me that the United States itself had over the last few decades been turning itself into a tax haven. In other words, providing secrecy facilities to foreigners to attract hot money from around the world and essentially trying to kind of copy Switzerland and copy other tax havens to bring all this money into Wall Street. And not only that, but he was saying that the U.S. had had this kind of under the radar as a central pillar in its strategy to finance its external deficits.

    And that conversation told me two things: One, that the geography of tax havens, that tax havens weren’t where I thought they were, not just the Cayman Islands and places like that, but the United States itself, and I subsequently found out my own country, the United Kingdom, arguably even more important, the most central player in the system.

    So there’s the geography of tax havens, but also the size of it. I mean, this is absolutely huge stuff we’re talking about. The offshore economy has been growing much faster than the supposedly onshore economy for decades, and as a result it’s grown up to something of absolutely enormous proportions.

    Up with secrecy and tax havens, down with democracy — the resource curse morphed into the finance curse:

    HARRY SHEARER: Okay. We’ll await that. In the meantime, you mentioned among your list of tax haven type countries one that may surprise a lot of listeners, i.e., the United States of America. Now I last year happened to be in Wilmington, Delaware, for a couple of days, and I walked through downtown Wilmington, a downtown festooned with a lot of tall buildings with the names of banks on them, and at midday I think I was about one of three people walking the (laughs) streets of downtown Wilmington.

    NICHOLAS SHAXSON: (laughs) Okay.

    HARRY SHEARER: And I thought, what’s in these buildings if not people?

    NICHOLAS SHAXSON: Yes, Wilmington’s a fascinating little place, and it’s got its own little financial center, and that results from – the main sort of impetus for that was the so-called Financial Center Development Act of 1981, and this was initially a project to essentially offsh—what I regard as offshore activity, poaching activity off other states by deregulating. You know, it’s a kind of race-to-the-bottom activity. And at the time there were strong curbs on interest rates and, you know, what banks could charge, the interest rates.

    HARRY SHEARER: You mean the so-called usury laws.

    NICHOLAS SHAXSON: Yeah, the usury laws, exactly. And essentially there was a court case in which it became clear that individual states were allowed to export their own interest rates to other states. They were allowed to roll out, you know, credit card operations or whatever and use them in other states, use the same rules in other states. So, I mean, South Dakota tried to be the first to get on this bandwagon but South Dakota’s, you know, quite off the beaten track compared to Delaware, which is halfway between New York and Washington D.C., and so Delaware got onto this one and it created this Financial Center Development Act.

    And what really struck me about it was, you know, I researched this in detail and I had a very good researcher working with me, and we discovered that essentially this was a project that was done with absolutely no local consultation. There was a small group of insiders who decided they wanted this thing. There was no consultation even with the population of Delaware, let alone the states that were going to be affected by all this legislation. It was a deal that was done. The Democrats were brought in on it. It was a Republican governor at the time but he brought the Democrats in and the Democrats agreed not to make any noise about it until after the election. And it was a deal that was just kind of presented. It was created by the finance industry and there was no, there was just no democratic consultation.

    And, you know, that’s kind of my main point. I mean, one can argue about whether or not usury laws should have been repealed or not, but – and, you know, some people argue that it has been a very negative thing. But the thing that struck me was just this kind of small, kind of – it was just like what I’d seen in other tax havens. It was just small groups of people coming together in private, talking to the financiers, “What do you want, we’ll give you what you want, and that’s it, and we’ll make the laws and no one will need to know about until we’ve created the laws.” And in these very small jurisdictions you have, you know, usually there’s not very much expertise and people just essentially saying, “Okay, we trust you on this. You know, you’re going to make this legislation; we don’t really understand it, but, you know, we’ll vote for it, that’s fine.”

    And, you know, I saw exactly the same thing in other tax havens. It’s just the sort of small jurisdiction mentality where finance comes in and gets what it wants and no questions are asked really.

    Apologies for the length of quote, I actually want to quote more. Hope Levin reads.

  2. Arbusto says:

    Wonder how effective his campaign will be after said corporations put a pot load of money in his IRA account? Don’t trust Levin in the least.

  3. Ben Franklin says:

    I remember when Eisenhower warned of the Military Industrial Complex, then exited stage right.

    Governing is hard, but leaving your untended baggage behind, is easy.

  4. FFEIN says:

    “May Senator Levin go out in style, taking on those rich looters who are gutting our country.”

    Amen. And I hope he can enjoy his retirement afterwards.

  5. orionATL says:

    jundreds of millions of dollars flowing into our elections…”

    including several hundred million from foreign accounts suporting

    – the nra

    – the israeli lobby

    – the saudi lobby

    – the u.s. chamber of commerce

    – the foreign banking lobby in the u.s.

    – foreign owners of u.s. corporations

  6. orionATL says:

    “…NICHOLAS SHAXSON: Yeah, the usury laws, exactly. And essentially there was a court case in which it became clear that individual states were allowed to export their own interest rates to other states. They were allowed to roll out, you know, credit card operations or whatever and use them in other states, use the same rules in other states. So, I mean, South Dakota tried to be the first to get on this bandwagon but South Dakota’s, you know, quite off the beaten track compared to Delaware, which is halfway between New York and Washington D.C., and so Delaware got onto this one and it created this Financial Center Development Act.

    And what really struck me about it was, you know, I researched this in detail and I had a very good researcher working with me, and we discovered that essentially this was a project that was done with absolutely no local consultation. There was a small group of insiders who decided they wanted this thing. There was no consultation even with the population of Delaware, let alone the states that were going to be affected by all this legislation. It was a deal that was done. The Democrats were brought in on it. It was a Republican governor at the time but he brought the Democrats in and the Democrats agreed not to make any noise about it until after the election. And it was a deal that was just kind of presented. It was created by the finance industry and there was no, there was just no democratic consultation…”

    this is THE model for how all state legislative decisions are made these days.

    as a power player in the georgia – republican and overwhelmingly
    controlling – legislature said in print recently: ” the tea party folk come down here (to atlanta) and talk with us but they don’t have much influence. here it’s strictly “pay to play”.”

  7. Nic108 says:

    Carl Levin? The Carl Levin that sponsored the NDAA indefinite detention bill? That Carl Levin?

  8. readerOfTeaLeaves says:

    I hope Levin has fun going after these economic structures.
    I can already hear Joe Scarborough and George Will whining that Levin is ‘attacking capitalism’ or ‘attacking the Free Market’.

    Here’s hoping we have plenty of reason to eat a whole lot of popcorn.

    There could be a ton of economic opportunity if the mess that is our current economic system was cleaned up; until it is cleaned up, the producers have to underwrite far too much parasitic economic bullshit, and that is sapping productivity in a third-world like fashion.

    As an added bonus, employee co-ops for some of the smaller manufacturing outfits could be a smart move.

  9. matt carmody says:

    Levin is a tool. He represents the Owner Class as much as any GOP traitor does.
    Good riddance.

  10. Stu Wilde says:

    No offense, but Levin has been an aider & abettor of all the recent transgressions against the Constitution by obama. Further, despite this bluster about tax avoidance, what has Levin actually done to promote tax reform? As an experience and savvy Senator, all Levin was doing was throwing out some good soundbites on his way out the door.

  11. Gino Schafer says:

    I don’t see Gary Peters getting elected. In fact I don’t see any democrat taking Levin’s seat. The GOP has won every major election in the last 4 years in Michigan, except Debbie Stabenow’s. And Stabenow is probably the least intelligence person to ever disgrace the halls of congress. The Michigan GOP with the support of the national party will throw out all the stops to win this seat. And the governor & friends have the political apparatus to make it happen. Levin’s seat will flip to republican for the first time since 1978. Too bad he can’t take his brother with him into retirement.

  12. Marc conder says:

    @orionATL: and let us not forget all those $20.00 and $40.00 and $60.00 envelopes that were bundled and forewarded to the Obama For President Campaign.

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