The global tax man cometh

Posted: Jan 18, 2002 12:00 AM
WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Things are pretty much back to normal in Washington these days. Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle is doing his best to keep the recession alive and well so that his congressional colleagues will have an issue on which to run this fall. Late-night comedians are twisting the truth to make salty jokes about the president and pretzels; and the Washington press corps -- when not arguing over who is the sexiest -- is searching for scandal where it doesn't exist. On Capitol Hill, many of the same congressmen who raided and looted the Social Security Trust Fund for the last 40 years to finance their own political ambitions are crowing with indignation about Enron executives who raided and looted Enron pension funds to finance the political careers of congressmen. And the pundits, bless them all, are railing that while there is no evidence that Enron received political favors, special treatment or quid pro quos, the whole mess could have been avoided if Washington would just come to its senses and embrace the Holy Grail of campaign finance reform (please genuflect when that term is invoked). Hopefully, somewhere in the tens of thousands of pages of Enron documents subpoenaed by congressional committees, it will be shown that the collapsed energy giant was collaborating with Kofi Annan. Such a revelation might motivate our beloved Fourth Estate and Congress to pay attention to another outrageous scandal otherwise known as the United Nations. This week in New York, U.N. delegates -- when not racking up parking tickets during an endless list of cocktail parties -- convened the "Prepatory Committee for the International Conference on Financing for Development." The ostensible goal of this tete-a-tete, to be held in Monterrey, Mexico, in March, is to "combat poverty and achieve sustained growth as we advance to a fully inclusive and equitable global economic system." Sounds noble enough, but like everything the U.N. does, the devil is in the details. This is also a case where I can say, "I hate to say, 'I told you so,' but ..." Nearly two years ago, as faithful readers of this column will attest, I warned of the U.N.'s efforts to redistribute wealth and begin collecting global taxes to finance Kofi Annan's ambitious "Global New Deal." Annan's plan, unveiled in July 2000 in Geneva, would have the United Nations provide a "basic income for all people." The problem with this concept, as I wrote at the time, is how to pay for it all. The solution? A "global tax," collected by the U.N. Annan's innumerable defenders claim this is simple if the United States and the industrialized West would just cough over a mere 0.7 percent of GNP each year to the U.N. "Not true. A global tax is not being advocated," said an otherwise nameless person at the U.N. when I raised the issue on my radio broadcast this week. "Secretary-General Annan," said the voice, "simply wants to reform the international financial architecture," and has called on the International Monetary Fund to step up its "surveillance of all economies" and "strengthen international tax cooperation." This apparently is what Kofi calls "good governance at the international level" and will help us "unlock the financial resources that are so desperately needed" for his global welfare program. Elsewhere, Annan said that the conference would be a failure if it did not produce "tangible results," with "effective follow-up mechanisms," to ensure that their goals are "actually done." And what is it that Kofi wants "done"? He wants "sound macroeconomic policies," with "prudent fiscal and monetary policies, (and) an appropriate exchange-rate regime ..." to reduce "exchange rate volatility." That may sound like gobbledygook to most, but to U.N. watchers, that's "code-word" for the Tobin Tax -- an international levy on currency exchange transactions advocated by Nobel Prize winning economist James Tobin to help fund global governance. Experts estimate that a 0.10 to 0.25 percent tax on currency transactions would reap from $100 billion to $300 billion annually for the U.N. As goofy as this idea may sound, congressmen such as Rep. Peter DeFazio, D-Ore., support it. The never-shy "SG" wants "equitable and efficient tax systems" and says he "recognizes the potential of international tax cooperation to enhance the scope of national fiscal efforts." This, of course, fits neatly with a recommendation that the agenda for the Monterrey Conference includes the formation of an "International Tax Organization," which would be authorized to "develop international norms for tax policy ... maintain surveillance of tax developments," and "take a lead role in restraining tax competition." All this is part of Annan's ambitious plan to rescue Third World economies. Those in the press and Congress who are generally enthusiastic about the U.N. -- and U.N. taxes in particular -- ought to be required to do two things before the Monterrey Conference. First, they should watch the movie "Black Hawk Down" to see what happens when the U.N. is responsible for rescuing anything. And second, they ought to read Article I, Section 8 of the U.S. Constitution to see who has the power to tax the American people. Hint: It's not the U.N.