Ruffling the kleptocracy

In other news – just started a subscription to the FT and wow, there ARE other stories out there. Boring, significant. Anyway, the U.S. is about to ban anonymous shell companies:

The Biden administration’s focus on corruption and money laundering may so far have attracted less notice than its other big policy decisions. But it is the most meaningful manifestation of the US president’s argument that making the economy work for ordinary Americans is intimately connected to US national security and foreign policy interests.

There are many reasons to cheer this turn in policy. First, it is an all-too-rare example of relative bipartisanship in a deeply polarised country. Days before the January 6 attack on the Capitol, the Corporate Transparency Act was passed by overwhelming majorities of the US Congress as part of the annual defence spending authorisation bill. This law will, when implemented, in effect ban anonymous shell companies in the US — a favoured conduit for the world’s corrupt to launder dirty money, as Yellen referred to in her remarks.

Second, the administration means it seriously. The Treasury has issued an implementation rule for the shell company ban. Too often, in the US or elsewhere, good laws on paper have been dead letters in practice, because of loopholes or a failure to put enough resources and political support behind enforcement. This time looks different.

So weird, and not to get/stay meta all the time, but this story even hits the mythical ‘bipartisan’ note somehow, and yet still never rises to the level of the local news. Sure, it was drowned out by a coup attempt, but as the article points out, corrupted government institutions are the very things that abet anti-democratic movements. So, striking back at corruption also strikes a blow in support of liberal democracy. Sounds so quaint, but that’s where we are.

Image: Nicobar spindle shell, typically not itself a threat to democracy.

Nice Things

Atrios made a really good point the other day, avec his typical pith:

And, yes, for whatever reasons, infrastructure projects, especially anything involving a tunnel or a bridge, are absurdly expensive compared to most countries. Other people can figure out just why that is and try to do something about it. But the choice is between increasing rail capacity into New York with an imperfect too expensive plan, or doing nothing at all anytime soon. We spend all kinds of money to do stupid destructive things that at best do nothing useful for us, so we should be willing to support spending all kinds of money on nice things when the opportunities present themselves.

I’d rather have a $10 billion pair of tunnels than spend $10 billion on equipment the military doesn’t even want. That probably isn’t a choice, either, but we do the latter all of the time. We shouldn’t get “sensible” when the former is an option.

This is the point, the rub, the crux and the nub all in one: spending money as the U.S. does on armaments and then rending garments about the costs of infrastructure projects, much less factoring in the externalities for things like car-driving and plane-riding, is our great contradiction as well as the most obvious quandary we are avoiding. This avoidance takes a lot of effort and, as he points out, resources that could be better-invested elsewhere.