Friday, February 22, 2008
A Parasite's Priorities (Updated, February 23)
"I see nothing! NO-thiiinnng!": Affable, purblind doofus Sgt. Schultz, the patron saint of German Bank Regulators.
Klaus Zumwinkel, former CEO of Deutsche Post -- the German postal service and parent of the DHL parcel delivery company -- lost his job last week. He may soon go to prison. His "crime" was to protect his legitimately earned wealth from the omnivorous socialist bureaucracy that afflicts Germany. He did so by opening a foundation in neighboring Lichtenstein, where his earnings were protected by the banking secrecy laws of that tiny (pop. circa 35,000) but heroic principality.
During his tenure as head of Deutsche Post, concedes the New York Times, Zumwinkel "helped transform [the postal service] ... from a stodgy state bureaucracy into a publicly listed logistics and freight-delivery powerhouse...."
Despite operating within a thoroughly socialized business environment, Zumwinkel -- through the tenacious application of his considerable gifts -- added a great deal more wealth to his society than what he earned. Yet he is now being traduced by the German State as an enemy of society for the supposed crime of tax evasion. Even if he avoids prison, he won't get his severance.
Stefan Ortseifen is another German executive who is stepping down from a lofty post in Germany's corporate world. As head of the IKB, a Dusseldorf-based German bank, Ortseifen has presided over a lengthy series of government-subsidized catastrophes. In contrast with the huge net contribution to German wealth made by Zumwinkel, Ortseifen's ineptitude and mismanagement have destroyed billions of dollars' worth of capital, and his failing bank has devoured billions more in direct government subsidies.
With the serene confidence conferred by the knowledge that the taxpayers would absorb any losses, IKB invested huge sums in the sub-prime mortgage market here in the United States. As he did so, Ortseifen consciously defrauded investors, depositors, and the German public by assuring them that "uncertainties in the American mortgage market" would have "practically no effect" on the health of IKB's investments.
This was an obvious and vulgar lie, as would be recognized by any sentient being (or perhaps even Sean Hannity... well, maybe not). And just days after the last such assurance departed Ortseifen's schnitzel-hole, "IKB was on the verge of bankruptcy, with its supposed wonderful US investments worth little more than the paper [they were] printed on," recounts Der Spiegel.
At the very least, Ortseifen should be investigated for fraud and subject to both criminal and civi liability. Instead, he will be allowed to retire on his own terms and keep his pension, which is something north of $40,000 a month.
Liechtenstein's Castle Vaduz, one of many scenic attractions in that tiny but breathtakingly beautiful country.
In propping up America's government-abetted mortgage mess, Ortseifen pissed away countless billions of dollars earned by other people. Zumwinkel's "crime," recall, was to send his own money abroad to keep it out of the hands of people like Ortseifen.
Only to a mind entirely hostage to socialist assumptions -- and thus willing to abide the existence of an untouchable, unfathomably wealthy Nomenklatura -- could say that this makes any kind of sense.
In the decades since the advent of the Federal Reserve System in annus horribilis 1913, the entire world banking system has become intertwined with government -- both national and trans-national.
Germany's banking system may be the most statist in the known universe: The relationship between that country's government and banking system is so flagrantly and conspicuously incestuous that amorous Appalachian cousins, upon seeing the spectacle, would exclaim in disgust: "Hey, that just ain't right!"
Going up the food chain from Ortseifen we find Ingrid Matthaus-Maier, CEO of the state-owned (and, therefore, unregulated) KfW banking group and a long-time member of the Social Democratic Party. The salary of this champion of social equity is $614,000 a year, all of it paid either directly by the taxpayers or from capital acquired through taxpayer subsidies. In exchange for this relatively modest (by international banking standards) compensation, Matthaus-Maier helped orchestrate the crisis now rippling through the German banking system.
"The state-owned banks are supposed to bail each other out when necessary," comments Der Spiegel, "but the problem is that many are in trouble themselves and hardly in a position to help their peers." Germany's "public-sector banks speculated far more heavily than private banks in American subprime mortgage securities. Now these banks' beleaguered executives are calling on the government to bail them out from a disaster of their own making."
O.K. -- by a show of hands, how many of you are surprised by this? Just one? Oh, right -- it's Hannity again, who's always the dullest implement in the cutlery drawer. (Just go sit in the corner, Sean, and tend to your finger-painting, 'kay?)
Matthaus-Maier and Ortseifen "are perfect examples of the fatal mix of amateurism, greed and political protection that is symptomatic of Germany's state-owned, partially state-owned and public-sector banks," observes Der Spiegel. "It is an environment that can only thrive in the shadow of the state" -- and has drained scores of billions of dollars from the public treasury. "
Once again, I wish to underscore the fact that these people were part of the parasite class -- State employees (the word "workers" doesn't apply) and executives of State-supported institutions. Their actions have destroyed huge amounts of confiscated wealth.
But they're not the real criminals -- or so we are urged to believe. The real criminals, again, are those like Klaus Zumwinkel, "tax evaders" ("tax refugees" is a more honest term) who did what they could to protect their earnings from the confiscatory, punitive tax system that kept statist drones like Ortseifen knee-deep in strudel and strumpets.
Zumwinkel's arrest comes as a result of an operation carried out by the German Federal Intelligence Service (BND). A few years ago, the BND had a "walk-in" by a disgruntled ex-employee of Liechtenstein's LGT Group, a financial institution that specializes in setting up the type of foundations often used by German tax refugees. The spitzel offered the BND a CD-ROM containing data on German banking clients.
That information was proprietary, privileged, and protected by law. The individual who offered the CD-ROM to German intelligence was trafficking in stolen property. So the German spooks, pillars of Teutonic rectitude that they were, refused to accept it -- right?
Uh, yeah, right. And you'll probably believe that there's never been an escape from Stalag 13.
To purchase that stolen information, the BND shelled out $7.3 million in funds taken at gunpoint from German citizens, including Zumwinkel and others whose data was found on the CD-ROM.
"The German government has used tax money to pay for a crime by a citizen of Lichtenstein," protested attorney Ferdinand von Schirach, a citizen of that stalwart Apline principality. "That's illegal."
Hans-Adam II, Lichtenstein's ruling prince (who is on record as saying that a tax rate in excess of six percent is "tyrannical"), quite properly condemned the crime as an "attack" on his country. Subverting Lichtenstein's laws and invading its institutions "does not solve the problems [Germany] has with its taxpayers," the prince correctly observed.
Like Switzerland and Luxembourg, Lichtenstein's banking secrecy laws date back to the 1930s, a time -- like the one nigh on arrival, I'm afraid -- of global depression, ubiquitous socialist tyranny, and incipient world war. Those countries provided a safe haven for the assets of German Jews. And then, as now, those havens were denounced by German collectivists, both "right" and "left," for offering refuge to those seeking to escape "social justice" as conceived and implemented by Berlin.
"It's simply unacceptable to have tax havens in Europe that encourage capital flight and incite tax fraud," belched Ronald Pofalla, a high-ranking member of the German Conservative Union, at a Berlin press conference. "We must ensure that such refuges are shut."
Although the account I read was silent as to whether that last phrase was accompanied with a stiff-armed, stiff-handed salute, that gesture would have been appropriate in the context.
The flag of a free country: Liechtenstein's national banner. Like Switzerland, the heroic Alpine nation has not bent the knee to Ba'al by joining the European Union, and it permits productive people to keep their financial affairs hidden from the Argus-eyed monstrosity called "government."
German Chancellor Angela Merkel insists that Liechtenstein must revise its banking laws to make them more permeable by German authorities, and insists that the principality's
"reputation is at stake" on its response to that demand. I don't know what the culture-specific equivalent of an upthrust middle finger would be, but whatever it is I hope that Liechtenstein's response could be summarized as such.
Once again, Merkel and Pofalla are described as conservatives. And from their perspective, "capital flight" is best addressed by prosecuting the productive -- such as Zumwinkel -- rather than purging the parasites, of whom Ortseifen and Matthaus-Meier are typical.
And rather than cleaning out the State-abetted corruption and cronyism in Germany's banking system, Merkel's government is staging a propaganda spectacle intended to make tax refugees the scapegoats for that nation's coming depression.
It's worth studying these developments in Germany, if only to catch a glimpse of how things will soon play out over here as well.
UPDATE: Parasites and informants of the world, unite!
Apparently the Brits drive a better bargain than the Germans when dealing for stolen banking information: They only paid the snitch 100,000 pounds for information on 100 British citizens who used the same bank in Liechtenstein to protect their wealth from Britain's esurient tax laws.
The Sunday Times of London offers some additional details regarding the source of this illegally obtained private information:
"The suspected whistleblower, accused of stealing data from the bank, was sacked and convicted of fraud. He also offered data to tax authorities in America, Canada, Australia and France."
OK, we have to do a little semantic housekeeping here.
A "whistleblower" is someone who, at personal risk, defies threats and pressure from corrupt superiors in order to reveal corruption, incompetence, and/or criminal wrongdoing. This guy is a disgruntled ex-employee and convicted criminal, not a "whistleblower." The bank he worked for did nothing illegal under the enlightened and commendable laws of its country.
Granted, the governments that afflict other nations don't like Liechtenstein's laws, but that's just hard cheese.
It's going to be exceptionally interesting to see what use, if any, our own Leviathan makes of this stolen information.
Liberty In Eclipse is on sale now at The Right Source.
Dum spiro, pugno!