Taken together, British Columbia, Oregon and Washington (Cascadia) had a combined GDP of more than a trillion US dollars a year, and a population just under 16 million in 2017. Home to a multitude of global brands and and emerging technologies, it should come as no surprise that Cascadia’s economy sits among the wealthiest when compared world wide.
So what are the top 8 wealthiest countries in the world above Cascadia doing to earn the most money per person?
Simple, pumping oil and laundering dirty money.
When taking into account the dominant economic factors of the top 8 nations on the list, each has an unsustainable oil driven economy or acts as an international corporate tax haven, unethically distorting the numbers.
Norway and Qatar both have economies heavily dependent on oil extraction, a resource with a finite lifespan. While the other countries above us on the list (Lichtenstein, Monaco, Luxembourg, Switzerland, Iceland and Ireland) all have long histories of questionable banking practices and create tax loopholes used by large corporations to escape taxation in their home markets.
Meanwhile, Cascadia has, by and large, a diversified economy, transitioning away from a history of resource exploitation (logging, trapping & fishing), and towards innovation, technology and services. The bioregion also has highly regulated banking laws, that if anything, contribute to the offshoring of profits & tax revenue. With over 40% of corporate profits being filtered through tax havens, some of the countries towards the top of list doubtlessly benefit from Cascadian tax revenue and skew these numbers in their favor as the expense of our local economy and society. So why is this important?
Reports revealed since the Panama Papers in 2015 have built an increasingly clear picture of the devastating impact of global tax havens. According to the revelations, somewhere between $21-32 trillion US dollars are held in non taxable offshore accounts, nearly half of the 75 trillion global GDP. Research by Business Insider shows that nearly 10% of all the global gross domestic product is held in offshore accounts, and more than 50% of global fluid capital moves through these havens. Money held in these reserves ranges from 3% of GDP in Scandinavian countries, to over 60% in certain Gulf and Latin American countries. In the United States, the top 1% of income earners. This number is growing quickly, more than tripling in total value since 2010.
In the United States, these statistics are even worse. According to a recently released study from the Institute of Taxation and Economic Policy that examined years of information from the Internal Revenue Service, U.S. corporations claim that 61 percent of their foreign subsidiaries’ pretax worldwide income is being earned in 10 tiny tax haven countries.
The Cascadian economy, great as it is, is actually underrated. Among the top 9 wealthiest countries in the word per resident, it is the only one with an outlook towards sustainability and honest economics. This year Washington State passed a mandate that all electricity must come from carbon neutral sources by 2045, a target that is likely to be adopted by British Columbia and Oregon in upcoming legislative sessions. The Cascadia Innovation Corridor is bolstering the economy of the bioregion with plans to build a high speed rail line linking Vancouver, Seattle and Portland while greater collaboration across the border leads to advances in greener technology and medical advances. A Seattle Times article on the newly established body states,
“Our collective universities, businesses and research institutions have led the world on everything from carbon fiber and airplanes, to vaccines and cures for cancer. The Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center is creating new partnerships with the B.C. Cancer Agency that could help revolutionize scientific discovery and save lives.”
While oil and gas extraction might provide a big boost to a nation’s financial system, the long term viability is zero once the resource is depleted. And international organizations are exercising more pressure on tax havens globally to increase transparency and curtail corruption. Under these conditions, Cascadia stands to climb up this list as an example of successfully transitioning towards a sustainable and equitable economy. As collaboration and coordination among the various administrative bodies of Cascadia increases, the economic benefits for all stand to raise with them.
While we have a long way to go, and rife with our own issues, Cascadia continues to define a pathway towards a sustainable, green and equitable future. It is up to each of us to hold those in economic and political positions accountable, and make that trend, a reality.