Invade the Caymans!

McMurray, Pa.

I have a fundraising suggestion based on David Cay Johnston’s insightful “Lax Little Islands” [June 1]. Johnson’s idea that we should invade the Cayman Islands is a good one, and the timing is right. So I suggest that The Nation, with Johnston, embark on a project to print and sell banners that can be hung on homes throughout America proclaiming Invade the Caymans! This could create viral pressure on Congress to set aside its umbilical connections to Big Finance and Big Corporate and perhaps, for a change, do something for big citizen.

JOHN HEMINGTON


George Town, Grand Cayman, B.W.I.

There is so much misinformation in David Cay Johnston’s “Lax Little Islands,” it’s hard to know where to start. His most egregious claim is that the Caymans are a haven for criminals and others who want to escape taxes and launder money. This is patently false. Unlike Switzerland, Liechtenstein, Andorra and Monaco, the financial sector in the Caymans operates under full transparency to access monies for the benefit of the US economy. For the past twenty years, the Caymans have worked cooperatively on every international initiative from the United States, the IMF, the OECD and the FATF to create a robust, accountable, transparent and fair financial regulatory structure, frequently inspected by the IMF. More specifically to Johnston’s claim, in 1990 Cayman entered into a fully transparent, all-crimes Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty with the United States and, in 2001, a comprehensive US Tax Information Exchange Agreement.

The GAO report corroborates and is highly supportive of the Cayman position. We agree that those who break the law should be punished, so it is irresponsible to suggest that the Caymans are aiding and abetting such activity. The Justice Department will confirm that. Offshore centers enable US companies–which pay tax twice, in the States and where they earn profits–to compete internationally and reinvest their profits, expand their operations and create jobs. Last time I checked, this was a good thing.

ANTHONY TRAVERS
Cayman Islands Financial Services Association



Johnston Replies

Rochester, N.Y.

There is so much misinformation in Anthony Travers’s letter, it’s hard to know where to start. There is no double taxation, since Congress gives companies a dollar-for-dollar credit for taxes paid in foreign regions. Further, transfer pricing abuses let companies take profits in the Caymans while paying little or no tax to any government. The GAO report, read in context, hardly supports the claims made above; cooperation is conditioned on the US government having first identified a cheat or crook and then asking for assistance, at which point cooperation begins. By the most generous measure, the Caymans government budget devotes less than a penny on the dollar to financial crimes law enforcement, which the GAO report states the Caymans see as mostly a domestic American problem. Cheating the United States tax system is not a crime in the Caymans, which despite their denials profit by fostering evasion.

DAVID CAY JOHNSTON



How We Lost Universal Healthcare

Bethesda, Md.

An addendum to Nelson Lichtenstein’s “Time for Another Reuther Plan” [June 1]: in 1968 Walter Reuther announced the organization of the Committee for National Health Insurance and enlisted 100 leading Americans to join in working toward a single-payer health insurance system. He recruited me as executive director of the Committee of 100 for National Health Insurance (we had first met as members of President Kennedy’s Medicare Task Force). Not present among the 100 were any leaders of the auto industry.

Walter and his top VP, Leonard Woodcock, spent hours with General Motors officials, extolling the economic and social values of national health versus the burdensome Blue Cross and Major Medical premiums, which even then had become a competitive and wage drag on GM, its employees and retirees. Walter emerged from the meeting and said to me, “There’s something more important to them than their own self-interest.” He had made an offer that union leaders of lesser stature would not have dared to make: under a comprehensive national health plan he would ask no more in collective bargaining than the benefits provided under that plan. His urging that they join in working to enact such a plan was flatly rejected. If it had been accepted, GM–certainly followed by Ford and Chrysler, and by most US manufacturers–could have produced enactment of a national health plan, probably during the Nixon administration.

After denouncing the Reuther effort early in 1969, Nixon–persuaded by favorable media reports about Reuther’s plan–recanted that July, saw “a massive healthcare crisis” and vowed to act. Six months later Walter died in a plane crash. In 1973 Nixon, buffeted by Watergate, offered a health plan based on employer mandates.

MAX FINE



Dirty Harry Comes Clean

Vista, Calif.

Akiva Gottlieb seems to argue in “Last Man Standing” [June 1] that Clint Eastwood is Dirty Harry and Dirty Harry is Clint Eastwood. Both are right-wing martyrs until death do them part. I’m no Eastwood groupie, but I disagree wholeheartedly with this hypothesis, especially Gottlieb’s statement about Eastwood’s latest film. “Gran Torino,” he writes, “never entertains the idea that America is a country defined by its immigrants and not by John Wayne.” Baloney. True, Walt Kowalski (Eastwood) is a typical white retiree, suspicious and disdainful of his new Hmong neighbors. But through a series of conflicts he comes to realize that these Asian immigrants embody the values of hard work, sacrifice, community and family that his own children and grandchildren have abandoned. At one point he looks in a mirror and says, “I have more in common with these Chinks than with my own family.”

If this is Dirty Harry, then it is Dirty Harry matured, seasoned and redeemed. This is why my wife makes the film required viewing for college students in her intercultural communication class. And this is why I consider it one of Eastwood’s best performances, Oscar or no Oscar.

MARK R. DAY


New Haven, Conn.

Slavoj Zizek once said that the true measure of a nonracist encounter is to be able to insult one another and know the sentiment is not serious; PC aloofness hides its own bigotry. The humorless Akiva Gottlieb takes deep offense at Eastwood’s latest film on this elitist ground, reviving the 1970s labeling of Clint as a fascist. In praising The Wrestler‘s cynicism over Gran Torino‘s sincere effort at multiculturalism, Gottlieb reinforces the same holier-than-thou attitude that has censored discussion on race since the Reagan era. Eastwood’s values are conservative, but he doesn’t deserve to be treated like a fundamentalist.

GRANT WIEDENFELD