The World’s Favorite New Tax Haven Is the United States – Bloomberg 01-27-16

Salient to Investors:

The US is emerging as a leading tax and secrecy haven for rich foreigners because it is resisting new global disclosure standards. The US is one of only a few countries left actively promoting accounts that will remain secret from overseas authorities – with Bahrain, Nauru, and Vanuatu.

Andrew Penney at Rothschild said the US is effectively the biggest tax haven in the world.

Confidential accounts that hide wealth protect against kidnappings or extortion in their owners’ home countries.

Gabriel Zucman at Berkeley said Swiss banks hold $1.9 trillion in assets not reported by account holders in their home countries.

The UN estimates at least $1.6 trillion in illicit funds are laundered through the global financial system each year.

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Fareed Zakaria GPS – CNN 01-24-16

Fareed Zakaria said:

Lower oil prices are generally good for all countries except the major oil producers, but the size and speed of this drop could produce a credit crisis and deflationary spiral.

In periods like the present, open systems do better than closed ones. America’s transparency forces it to tackle its problems.

Sweden: Euro Monitor says that in 2015, 11% of the value of consumer transactions were made with cash versus 42% worldwide. The KTH Royal Institute of Technology says currency in circulation dropped by 25% in the last 6 years. Credit Suisse said between 2010 and 2012 over 500 Swedish bank branches went cashless and 900 cash machines were removed. The Swedish Bankers Assn says bank robberies in Sweden dropped from 110 in 2008 to 7 in 2015. The New York Times says e-fraud in Sweden more than doubled in 2015 versus 10 years ago.

The IAEA says that Iran has destroyed 98% of its enriched uranium and rendered inoperable its plutonium pathway – far more substantial than most military experts believed would have resulted from military strikes.

The World Economic Forum says that by 2050, the world’s oceans will contain more plastic than fish by weight and says the greatest global risk is the failure of climate change mitigation and adaptation.

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Fareed Zakaria GPS – CNN 01-17-16

Fareed Zakaria said:

Cass Sunstein wrote in Bloomberg that a study of Facebook analyzing posts between 2010 and 2014 found that people mainly share information that confirms their prejudices, while paying little attention to facts and voracity. The result was the proliferation of biased narratives fomented by unsubstantiated rumors, mistrust and paranoia.

Elizabeth Colbert in the New Yorker cited a 1970 experiment that found that simply by talking to one another, bigoted students became more bigoted and tolerant students became more tolerant.

The hard liners in Iran have always been very powerful.

Iranian sanctions relief will be less dramatic than people realize because Iran needs oil at $145 a barrel to balance its budget.

Joe Cirincione at the Ploughshares Fund said:

Iran does not have the capability to build a nuclear bomb and it would take them at least a year to make the material even for one bomb and are years away from the capability of building a nuclear weapon.

If they had a secret facility, they would need a secret mine to get the uranium, a secret group of scientists, and a secret facility for building the centrifuges. It would be extraordinary if Iran could secretly break out of the nuclear deal without our knowledge.

Brett Stephens at the Wall Street Journal said:

The enthusiasm about the Iran nuclear deal is reminiscent of that for the Yongbyon deal in 1994 when the same promises were made about North Korea’s nuclear program. Historically we have been surprised by nuclear development developments: like India’s surprise bomb test in 1998 which started a nuclear arms race in South Asia, and North Korea in the 2000s. The pathways to proliferation are multiplying and what we don’t know is vast.

The biggest Iranian hostage of all is the nuclear deal itself, as exhibited by US removal of the sanctions for Iran test firing two ballistic missiles.

The US must make sure that its allies understand that we will remain committed allies despite obvious defects in their social and political systems.

Wendy Sherman at Harvard said the US will proceed with sanctions for Iran’s missile violations: it takes time to gather the evidence.

Karim Sadjadpour at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace said:

The nuclear deal was not signed by the Iranians because of geopolitics but because of economics.

Iranians overwhelmingly want change and we should not underestimate their will for change, but we should not underestimate the will of their hardliners to crush change.

Iranian expectations that their quality of life will significantly improve post-sanctions may be disappointed.

Iran is the largest population isolated from the global economy, so attracts huge interest from Asian and Western businessmen.

The last remaining Iranian-American hostage in Iran is an energy consultant, which sends the message to Western businesses that Iran is not yet ready for change.

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Fareed Zakaria GPS – CNN 01-10-16

Fareed Zakaria said:

The most significant trend in the Middle East is Sunnis versus Shiites, which will continue to limit the ability of any outside power to stabilize the region.

Saudi Arabia faces challenges from ISIS to domestic extremists. Plunging oil prices have collapsed government revenues so its generous subsidies to its people will be hard to sustain.

10% to 15% of Saudis are Shiite and live atop the kingdom’s oil fields.

The single greatest threat to America from the Middle East remains radical Sunni jihadists, many of whom draw support from Saudi Arabia.

Americans should root for China to succeed, else feel the pain at home.

The State of the Global Islamic Economy expects Muslims to spend $327 billion on clothing by 2020, versus $230 billion in 2014, ranked third after the US and China. Muslims spent $54 billion on cosmetics in 2014 and that will grow to $80 billion by 2020.

The Violence Policy Center says Alaska had the highest rate of deaths caused by guns in 2014, followed by Louisiana and Mississippi. says Alaska had a higher rate of gun deaths than Mexico. Hawaii and Rhode Island had the lowest gun death rates.

Martin Indyk at Brookings said:

The US went along with the headstrong young leadership in Saudi Arabia into getting stuck in a war in Yemen. 50% of the Gulf states military capability is embroiled in war that is causing humanitarian crisis in Yemen, to the advantage of Iran.

Pulling out of Afghanistan all together is not a good idea because we at least have a leadership there that we can work with.

The US leverage lies in making clear to the Chinese that if they don’t pressure North Kora then we will have no choice but to boost our presence in their region to protect our allies, South Korea and Japan.

Vali Nasr at Johns Hopkins said:

The US invasion of Iraq in 2003 was the tipping point.

The whole geostrategy of the region changed once the US started talking to Iran and decided that it is not as committed to containing Iran as Saudi Arabia expected.

The problem is not containing Iran but the too many Shiites in the region who have to accept to live under a Sunni political order that existed before 2003 Iraq invasion. A Sunni order in which Iran will have absolutely no influence and the Shiites will have absolutely no ability to rely on Iran.

Afghanistan is going sideways and downwards.

Nawaf Obaid at Harvard said:

Saudi Arabia is taking on a much more assertive and aggressive foreign policy to defend themselves from Iran and loss of US presence and leadership in the region. The Saudis will increasingly battle Iranian presence and influence in the Arab world in the next several years.

You cannot have an agreement with a country, Iran, which supports a Syrian dictator who has killed 400,000 people, funds a Shia militia in Iraq guilty of the most atrocious things, and not expect the new deputy crowned prince of Saudi Arabia for irrational decisions. He did not have the luxury to stand still and await guidance from the US which was not coming in the first place.

Robin Wright at The New Yorker, US Institute of Peace and Woodrow Wilson Center said:

The Sunni-Shia schism is turning into one of the biggest divides in Islam in 14 centuries and playing out politically, ideology, strategically, ethnically, and virtually every range.

The crisis has begun to derail Iran’s desire to end its pariah status and restore its stature.

Both Iran and Saudi Arabia are in transition, which limits the influence of the outside world.

Without Chinese help, the prospect of any moderation in North Korea is unlikely. Their leader is 33 years old and very insecure.

Ruchir Sharma at Morgan Stanley said:

A global recession is due. Since the early 1970s, global downturns have struck every 7.5 years on average.

Every country will be affected by China’s policies in 2016. China is now the world’s biggest driver of economic growth. China’s debt levels have risen to 300% of GDP: no developing country in history has ever taken on debt faster than China in recent years. Furiously rising debt levels are the single most reliable predictor of financial crisis.

China’s leadership is so worried about angering its people with slowing growth and rising unemployment that it has been unwilling to stop goosing its economy.

Niall Ferguson at Harvard said the younger Henry Kissinger was not Machiavellian at all, but inept in his attempts for self-advancement and politically slightly naive.

Gary Kasparov said:

Russia is at a very dangerous stage because of Putin and things will get worse before they get better because of collapsing oil prices and the Russian budget. There is no visible positive scenario, only choices for lesser evil.

Putin will continue his aggressive foreign policy because his white knight propaganda needs these victories. Putin is a very capable KGB officer and excellent negotiator and poker player. If not for NATO membership, Putin’s tanks would be in Estonia and Latvia. Putin looks for the weak spot on the map and grabs it if he can.

The fundamental problem of the West is complacency after the collapse of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War.

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Fareed Zakaria GPS – CNN 01-03-16

Fareed Zakaria said:

Trade accounts for 23% of the US economy vs. 71% in Germany.

The big trend in 2016 will be continued weak oil and commodity prices: the last dramatic decline of oil resulted in the collapse ofdemothe Soviet Union.

The stock market under Obama has compounded at nearly 14% a year but this cannot continue because we are overdue a recession, China is in a recession, Europe is going nowhere, and the oil-producing emerging markets have fallen off a cliff. At the end of the day the US always muddles through and looks better than everybody else.

In Rwanda, women comprise 64% of the parliament, 50% of the Supreme Court, 50% of the Cabinet.

Angus Deaton and Anne Case found that over the past 15 years, middle-aged US whites died in increasing numbers; caused primarily by suicide, alcoholism, and drug overdoses, partly because doctors and drug companies were far too eager to prescribe drugs. The case is worse for those with a high school diploma or less. Jeff Guo at the Washington Post said this cohort is largely responsible for Trump’s lead among Republican candidates.

Carolyn Rouse at Princeton said that non-white US groups might have lower income, standard of living, and social status expectations, while blacks cope with disappointment through family, art, protest speech, and religion.

WHO says 663 million people still have no access to safe, clean drinking water. UNICEF says water-borne illnesses kill nearly 1,000 children every single day.

Ian Bremmer at the Eurasia Group said:

At the end of 2016 the trajectory of US-Iranian relations will be better than US-Saudi relations.

To resolve Syria requires leadership, people who actually care, and the ability to coordinate, all of which are lacking, so we will be much farther away from a federated Syria in 2016 than we are in 2015.

Weak oil prices puts Middle East countries under much internal pressure, and they will more likely play nationalism which does bodes ill for peace in the region.

It’s either Cruz or Rubio for the Republican nomination. 2015 was the year of Trump, but 2016 will not be. Middle class anger is insufficient to get Trump the nomination: he is going after the losers, who historically in the US do not vote.  Hillary has no serious challenger for the Democrats. Who wins is a coin flip right now.

Expect many geo-political fat tails to impact the stock market, and we are due a recession. China is the big mover: the most volatile, the most uncertain, and the country with by far the most tools to kick the can down the road – and they want to.

Richard Haass at the Council on Foreign Relations said:

Weak oil prices will last through 2016 – excepting major instability involving Saudi Arabia – hurting oil producers, Africa, and Latin America, but a boon to India though not China, which has internal economic problems adjusting its economic model. Weak oil prices will be a mixed blessing for the US but a major blanket on world economic growth, feeding political uncertainty.

Saudi Arabia is the most underrated global risk because of weak oil prices. Yemen is the Saudis’ Vietnam, there are simmering rivalries inside the Saudi royal family, and the beheading of Sheikh Nimr has poisoned the already terrible relationship with Iran while exacerbating the Saudi position in Bahrain.

We are seeing elements of a “Thirty Years War” in Syria. ISIS will be rolled back a little in Iraq but not Syria, and it sees Saudi Arabia as an extremely ripe target.

On the Democratic side, Hillary will prevail but not easily.

In 2016, we have a good chance of passing the Transpacific Trade Partnership with the benefit of Speaker Ryan’s ability to get a budget deal. 2015 ended positively with the US showing the world it can function sometimes.

Anne-Marie Slaughter at New America said:

Expect a settlement of the Syrian civil war in 2016 resulting in a ‘federated Syria’ where the Kurds, Sunnis and others effectively have their own regions, but for Turkey this presents a huge problem. Russia will play nice because of both oil prices and its inability to handle rising casualties in Syria. Europe is completely focused on a settlement because of the refugee crisis, and everybody knows we have to solve Syria to be able to fight ISIS.

It will be a Clinton beating Cruz presidential election because the worse the world becomes, the more people want a President who knows the leaders and who projects competence. A Cruz-Clinton election is good for America in the world because it is between a woman and a Hispanic man.

The Transpacific Trade Partnership will happen in 2016 because it will be seen in more a security context than an economic context, thanks to ISIS and China’s maneuvers in the South China Sea.

The US dollar will rise and rise due to China’s instability, the euro, and the eurozone crisis.

Mariana Mazzucato at the University of Sussex said:

The narrative about Steve Jobs and Apple misses the fact that every technology that basically makes an iPhone smart was publicly funded, including the Internet, GPS, touch screen display, and Siri.

In industry after industry, key basic innovations were publicly funded, not indirectly like with tax incentives, but with basic research, applied research, and early stage, long-term financing. Most venture capitalists want to exit in 3 or 5 years versus the Death Valley phase for many innovative companies that can last 10 to 15 years. There is plenty of finance available, but not the right kind of finance for innovation.

The government has financed many winners, including biotechnology where the NIH has spent $900 billion since the 1930s on the basic technology. Private companies basically surfed this wave, which is today missing in the green tech industry.

Venture capitalists know that for every success there are 8 or 9 failures. Unlike public investors, private venture capital gets to reap the winners to cover the losers. Tesla received approximately the same public funding as Solyndra, yet gained massively for private capital, whereas the latter was written off by taxpayers. Israeli government investments take royalties through their public venture capital fund. In the US we see this as socialism.

Google, whose algorithm was funded by the National Science Foundation, Apple, Amazon, et al, pay little tax, despite tax rates that have fallen dramatically. NASA, founded when the top marginal rate was 93 percent, is not allowed to make money, yet SpaceX and Galaxy make use of its publicly funded infrastructure for free.


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