Panama Bernie

Bernie Sanders’s politics produced the Panama Papers.

By Daniel Henninger

Bernie Sanders at a campaign rally in Laramie, Wyo., April 5. Photo: Associated Press

Bernie Sanders caused the Panama Papers. Bernie of Vermont didn’t do it by himself, of course. The world’s most famous socialist, and Hillary Clinton’s albatross, had a lot of help.

Spare me the crocodile tears over the immorality of tax avoidance. Panama is an indictment of government greed.

After World War II, the governments of the West established tax regimes to support the reconstruction of their nations. Six decades later, that tax machinery, which runs the social-welfare states in the countries Bernie Sanders cites in every campaign stop as a model for America, has run totally amok—an unaccountable, devouring monster. Billionaires aren’t the only ones who run from it.

Most governments, including ours, overtax their citizens to feed their own insatiable need for money. Then the legal thieves running the government and their cronies, unwilling to abide the
tax levels they created, move their wealth offshore to places like Panama. Arguably, all the world’s people should be able to move their assets “offshore” to escape governments that are smothering economic life and growth, which has stalled in the U.S., Europe and Asia.

Speaking of crocodile tears, Barack Obama spent Tuesday bragging that corporate tax inversions are akin to Panama Papers’ tax avoidance. Mr. Obama said “corporations,” another swearword invoked by Bernie Sanders at every stop, are “gaming the system.”

Well what about that “system?” Mr. Obama is saying, with Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton in his echo chamber, that U.S. corporations should suck it up on the U.S.’s 35% corporate tax rate, the developed world’s highest, and simply send that money to him. Why? Because he’s gotta have it. To spend.

Other than their national health-care systems, many of which are effectively bankrupt, most Europeans would be hard put to explain what it is their high-tax governments actually do with their money.

Suppressed for generations by high tax rates and regulatory minutiae, most Europeans survive in an economic half-life of gray and black markets, with their assets protected by cash-only transactions, bartering, and endless hours devising off-the-books deals involving family real estate, inflated art prices and anything else they can hide from the taxman. The Beatles actually wrote a song about it in 1966—“Taxman,” a grim ode to all this.

Governments with unsated “needs” for revenue exist in Europe, Africa, Russia and South America. The Associated Press this week reported that in Russia today shell companies exist simply to pay the bribes that are the price of daily life.

One way or another, most people living in the countries run on the Obama-Sanders-Clinton model eventually go searching for their own private Panama. When private capital is under public assault, it will hide. From the wealthiest to the poorest, it creates a world of chiselers, not productive citizens.

Sen. Sanders gave his Wisconsin victory speech in Laramie, Wyo., backgrounded by the smiling, bobbing heads of his 20-something voter base. In Western Europe, which is Sanders Land, those 20-somethings are the subject of a permanent economic discipline called high youth unemployment.

The Sanders campaign isn’t about idealism. It’s about the misallocation of capital.

“Misallocation of capital” is a phrase utterly alien to socialists, and increasingly to most of the modern Democratic Party.

In the now-extinct Democratic Party—the party of Hubert Humphrey, Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton—room existed for the private sector to breathe. Not yet unhinged completely from economics, Democrats understood the symbiosis between healthy private production and public revenues. Both Presidents Carter and Clinton deregulated economic life.

No longer. The deconstructed party of Barack Obama, Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders and forced-recruit Hillary Clinton says: Just keep squeezing them.

This week marked a historic moment in the Democratic drift toward low-growth Euro-socialism.

Both California and New York raised the minimum wage to $15. California Gov. Jerry Brown, who in his career has been every Democrat that ever was, summarized the true meaning of the new party.

“Economically, minimum wages may not make sense,” he said, but they make sense “morally, socially and politically.”

It has been my view for some time that to help her navigate Bernie’s new Democratic world Hillary Clinton should bring in Lady Gaga as a consultant. An expert in magic realism.

Sen. Sanders is getting mocked now by Hillary Clinton and her supporters for a catastrophic interview he gave this week to the New York Daily News, revealing he knows little about his own proposals. But France’s Socialist President François Hollande knew everything about his economic proposals. What difference does it make?

The day before losing to Bernie Sanders in Wisconsin, Mrs. Clinton argued: “I think we need a nominee who’s been tested and vetted already. For 25 years they’ve thrown everything they could at me, but I’m still standing.”

Tested, vetted and still standing. On the available evidence so far, that isn’t this year’s criteria for the American presidency.

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