The scandal growing from the surreptitious leak of documents showing widespread tax evasion and fraud might be the biggest story of the year. Here's a quick primer.

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When the release of 11.5 million documents on tax dodging and sleazy financial transactions forces the resignation of the prime minister of Iceland — where banksters go to prison — we know this is more than an average scandal.

It’s also the kind of complicated story with, gasp!, numbers, that can easily fall out of the American news consciousness. Here are a few simple markers to start.

1. Who is involved? In addition to heads of state and celebrities, be on the lookout for who was using the “services” of Mossack Fonseca, the Panamanian law firm at the center of the leak. So far, some Americans are in the mix, including a man from Bellevue.

2. Who else. Addressing the problem will require sunlight be spread into every dark corner and every rock be kicked over. How much are the big American banks and hedge funds involved? Why didn’t U.S. regulators know — and if they did, why isn’t more being done? And what Citizens United oligarchs are hoarding money illegally offshore (several powerful British political donors have been found)?

3. What can be done to go after the criminals? Vice news questioned an expert who laid out how the feds pried open the Swiss banks, once a prime destination for American grifters. Maybe it’s a game of whack-a-mole in a world with so many rackets and havens, but advances can be made.

4. Where — Panama. The United States has a so-called free-trade agreement (FTA) with this nation that is a long-standing hideaway for ill-gotten gains (and a “flag of convenience” for foreign ship owners wishing to avoid stricter safety and labor rules). President Obama and then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton pushed for this and other Bush FTAs, despite warnings that it would worsen money laundering and tax evasion. Is it time to use the FTA mechanisms to tighten up this “investment freedom”?

5. Why? Our national attention span is short so keeping this one front-and-center is important. The rackets illuminated by the document drop involve looted wealth, including from shareholders, state-owned (hence public) companies and even potentially NGO aid, that was funneled to the benefit of a few plutocrats. That should offend our sense of fair play, at the least. No rule of law, no real liberal capitalism. And finally, remember all this loot when certain politicians say, “we’re broke,” and can’t build infrastructure, fix our subways and bridges, pay teachers — and must come for your “entitlements” (read earned benefits).


Today’s Econ Haiku:

Legal shooting up?

Would Council back a ‘safe space’

For tax-paying stiffs?