Hypocrisy, Thy Name is American Woman

Uncle Volodya says, "The question isn't who's going to let me; it's who's going to stop me"

The Russian Flag, as it appears to non-clowns

More precisely, thy name is Julia Ioffe or La Russophobe – increasingly as alike as two peas in a pod in their sneering contempt of everything Russian, their tone-deaf inability to see rampant corruption in their own homeland while they crusade against it in another’s, and their simplistic ignorance of tax law. You’d almost be able to make a case that they were the same person, except that Ioffe is well-educated (save for tax law, evidently) and generally shows it, while La Russophobe is a lazy, semi-literate boob who also shows it. In their loathing of Russia, though, as well as their pretense to a patronizing affection for it, they are on the same sisterly wavelength. If only Russia were just like America, they rhapsodize, it’d be improved out of all recognition. In that case, (a) it wouldn’t be Russia, and (b) if it adopted all of America’s bad habits and errors on the same scale, it is debatable if it would be an improvement.

Consider the latest piece of sarcastic Ioffe offal, pounced on by Larussophobe for re-chewing followed by instant laudatory reamplification in typical sycophantic hero-worship. According to The Coven, some businessmen in Russia are dodging their taxes by putting most or even all of their property and assets in their wife’s name. “Corruption!!!”, screams the  Twin Harridans Anti-Corruption Task Force. Maybe so: illegal, not so much. 

Here we come upon an interesting distinction – tax avoidance versus tax evasion. There is a bigger difference than mere suffixes that start with different letters; one is legal, and one is not. Tax avoidance is the restructuring or reapportioning of one’s portfolio mix or asset distribution, so as to create a new model that does not bear the same tax burden; the actual definition says, “Lawful minimization of tax liability through sound financial planning techniques…” As the definition suggests, tax avoidance is legal. Tax evasion is illegal, and defined as “Illegally avoiding paying taxes, failing to report or reporting inaccurately”. You could argue that reporting you made almost nothing while your wife made a killing is reporting inaccurately. The U.S. government frequently does, and loses every time the respondent has a decent tax lawyer. I’m sure the Russophobic Union won’t mind my using United States tax law as the benchmark reference, since they constantly hold up the United States as the gold standard: but also because if it’s legal in the USA, it’s damned sure legal in Russia. Well, except for corporations buying elections – that’s legal in the United States and is not in Russia, but we’ve already covered that in a previous post.

Just so it’s clear, courts recognize that no taxpayer is obliged to arrange his/her affairs so as to maximize the tax that the government receives. Individuals and businesses are entitled to take all lawful steps to minimize their taxes. I’m not implying the Russian government should believe Mr. Businessman made diddly for income while his wife made out like a bandit – and I’m sure it doesn’t believe it. At the same time, it’s perfectly legal, and only boneheads go out of their way to pay as much tax as possible. This particular model makes little sense from a tax perspective, as the wife would now assume the same or a similarly large tax burden, and the objective of minimizing it would not be achieved. Therefore, these examples are likely capital-gains exemptions. There is a limit on these, and for large-scale applications you can typically only do it once.

Do western businessmen reallocate assets to family members before tax time in order to legally minimize their tax burden? All the time. Income splitting presupposes the other spouse is actually working at something, which Ioffe’s sarcastic article does not specify, but I presume that’s the case. If not, that isn’t even much of an impediment – invent something for your spouse to do. Have a look sometime at how many U.S. Congressmen and senators employ their spouse or another family member as, say, their Chief of Staff.

So: tax evasion – illegal. Tax avoidance, perfectly legal and widely practiced by people everywhere who think the government already has enough money, and ought to be able to manage without driving its citizens into bankruptcy. Now that we’re au courant on tax policy, and since the Ioffe Twins brought it up, let’s move on to corruption.

Nobody in their right mind would argue America is more corrupt overall than Russia, because that isn’t the case. However, assuming that means corruption on a disgusting scale does not occur in the United States would be a misjudgment.  How about, for example, Randy “Duke” Cunningham, former Republican congressman and convicted felon, who confessed to taking bribes to selectively allocate government contracts? Custer Battles, those loveable American entrepeneurs in Iraq? Former Ohio Republican Bob Ney? Pennsylvania Republican Curt Weldon? Corruption. Corruption. Corruption. And these examples (except Custer Battles) are only government figures, the vast majority of them Republicans – we haven’t even touched on businessmen and lobbyists. Each of these cases, had the culprit been a Russian, would have been good for its own 600-word hysterical the-sky-is-falling article from Ioffe or her clone, or both.

As far as these businessmens’ wives being “bad role models” – please. It’s fairly clear what the Russophobe template for good female russian role model includes. The martyred journalist, a la Anna Politkovskaya, Natalia Estemirova…..gloriously dead, in other words, or a pretzel maker in America. Even if you’re the owner, you’ll have to work every day God sends because there’s not much profit in it. A nice little job where you can work your fingers to the bone and never get above yourself – just the ticket for an immigrant. If any other Russian women have been pointed out as “good role models” by these two smug know-it-alls, be so good as to show me.

Conspicuous by their non-inclusion as  role models for young female Russians are Maria Sharapova, who makes around $30 million in a good year and is one hell of a tennis player, Valerya, internationally-known classical-vocalist-turned-pop-star, artist Zinaida Serebriakov, or fighter pilots Yekaterina Budanova and Lydia Litvyak.

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13 Responses to Hypocrisy, Thy Name is American Woman

  1. Alex("zed" one) says:

    Your post reminded me that I still need to do my ” tax avoidance” for the previous financial year🙂 , so several links in your post certainly served as a useful refresher.

    Now, about Julia’s post. It seems to me that her post was questioning the legitimacy of unusual wealth of the families of public servants (Luzkov’s being an example), rather than how they manage their tax affairs. In this context, the wife-women issue was a pretext for raising a vital for Russia question about corruption in the Government and law enforcement offices. The question is vital not only because the Russians traditionally take stealing of public property much closer to the heart then eg. the westerners, but also because in the country, where most GDP is derived from export of raw materials, most of the population is quite simply constitutes a burden to the owners of the resources. It is not needed to sell the oil to the “west” while it needs money (in the form of tax) to keep them alive. Unless a law which obligates the public servants – and especially those in MVD and courts – provide evidence of the legality of their income/assets, the exponentially growing corruption will either kill the country or (more likely) will result in a revolution. The amendments to the law is being currently discussed & IMHO, anything that helps pushing it through cannot be Russophobic – no matter what Kim claims.

    BTW – Julia promised to blog in a “death defying manner”. This her piece probably will not result in her death, but has a potential to bring her some problems. As you know, Luzkov and his wife did not loose a single case out of dozens they filed for libel.

    • marknesop says:

      Hey, Alex! I’m always happy to help someone out with their taxes, as I am one of those who believe the government has quite enough money already, and has not proven particularly efficient with spending what it does have!

      “It seems to me that her post was questioning the legitimacy of unusual wealth of the families of public servants (Luzkov’s being an example), rather than how they manage their tax affairs. In this context, the wife-women issue was a pretext for raising a vital for Russia question about corruption in the Government and law enforcement offices.” That’s a fair point, and Julia is far from stupid, although I still find her sarcastically Russophobic. However, it’s clear the wealth in question was merely transferred, titularly speaking, to the family member, and actually belongs to the public servant himself. In that, there’s nothing much unusual; people in charge make more than the lower-level workers, and the income gap in more progressive countries such as the USA has grown exponentially as well. There’s a solution that would fix the gap in Russia overnight – return to Communism. However, I don’t think anyone wants that. The west always wants to have its cake and eat it, too. Russia should follow our leadership, but when they follow a particularly bad example, it’s because of something lurking in their savage genes. There’s no doubt the transition to a state under the rule of law is both needed and challenging, but it always is.

      “As you know, Luzkov and his wife did not loose a single case out of dozens they filed for libel.” Yes, perhaps the most prominent of which was brought by Boris Nemtsov. I doubt, however, that Ioffe is a big enough fish to earn any official attention. If Yulia Latynina, for all her frantic barking, can’t even buy herself some official protest, I’d be surprised to see Julia get any attention, especially given her direct western backing. She’d be much more useful to the government as an example of a Russophobic shill.

  2. Alex("zed" one) says:

    Mark, “return” to the Communism is hardly possible in Russia, because there had never been one. The word is intentionally misused in the “western” education system & media, presumably, to scare off people. What Russia had was called “Socialism” and as one who has direct experience living under different systems here and there, I can assure you that eg. Australia, New Zealand and Canada have much more of the “communism” then Soviet Union ever had. And that is what Russia needs to built – a capitalism with “communist” -type government (to channel back the stolen by entrepreneurs money). These “communists” though, should be of the “democrat” type i.e. those who will actively encourage private business (so there will be more for them to tax) . Basically, “yes” – take the best from the “west” example. Right now Russia runs extreme libertarian model of the governance, where, basically, it is possible to hire/buy police, court, governor etc. to one’s liking almost officially. Naturally, these officials serve only to those who pays. Which is not the average public. To develop this model to the extreme – soon it will be possible to buy an army – fully equipped with nuclear missiles. This danger, btw, is not unlike the possible consequences of the US bill you discussed recently.

    Latynina, though, looks more like she is paid not only by Carnegie but also by Putin – to create an impression that there is an opposition in Russia..

    • marknesop says:

      Ha, ha! (laughing about Latynina, that’s funny). I’m not a Soviet scholar like A Good Treaty or Mark Adomanis, so you probably have the advantage of me there, although American conservatives have betimes referred to Canada as a “socialist basket case”.

      My wife’s grandparents managed a collective farm, and according to her recollections (she would have been quite a young child then) there was always lots of work to do, but it was a good life and there seemed to be plenty for everyone. That’d be on my father-in-law’s side; my mother-in-law is a Caucasian from Stavropol. Anyway, my wife grew up under a socialist system, or Communism as we knew it in the west. From her accounts, the horrors of Communism seem to have been greatly exaggerated here, although in the end it couldn’t hold together and morphed into a cancer under Stalin that was breathtaking in its horror.

      Any country or nation would do well to emulate democracy carefully, borrowing boldly from its strengths while avoiding its weaknesses. What remains “communistic” in Russia is state control over the economy rather than allowing it to be ruled by market forces, but you can have too much of a good thing. In Russia, obviously, businessmen with more money than brains don’t get to tell the government what to do. They don’t in the west, either, they have lobbyists do it for them. There are signs the government is relaxing its monopolistic control over the private sector, but it appears it will still only permit minority shareholding. The top priority for reform in Russia remains legal reform.

  3. Alex("zed" one) says:

    Your wife speaketh the sooth – the Soviet Union was not a paradise, but it wasn’t hell either for 99% of its citizens. Rather purgatory of sorts, after which the nation lost her way.

    With the rest, generally – agreed. Not only just legal reform, though. The Russia’s problem since Eltsin years has been that the Government itself largely became a collection of private (capitalistic) enterprises (businessmen). So the “government” control of the Russian economy effectively is not what it may look like from outside. Likewise, the continuing meaningless and seemingly self-destructing tightening the screws on political (real) opposition & just about any sort of organiosed social activity in Russia is not exactly the residual of “communist” mentality – it is rather McCarthy’s era paranoia of the businessmen who can aslo directly control the state resources, such as police and courts – more than it was possible in US.

    Will I qualify for an opposition in Russia? 🙂

  4. kovane says:

    Mark!

    Let me use this opportunity to say that hiring you was the best Kremlin’s decision in years!🙂

    Speaking seriously, I think you’re doing a great job of debunking numerous myths and lies about Russia, much better than most of the Russians themselves, unfortunately. Please, keep up the good work.

    • marknesop says:

      Hi, Guys; Alex, I always enjoy my visits to Russia, but I’m not fool enough to think it’s the same for a tourist who can leave when he likes as it is for those who have to stay there and make a living. Some outlying areas are desperately poor, and fixing the problems won’t be easy. The government tends to concentrate on visible areas like the major cities for modernization efforts, since that’s where the vote concentrations and support are. My wife’s hometown (Dalneglorsk) is, to me, a microcosm of Russia’s problems once you get outside Moscow or St Petersburg. Dalnegorsk is a mining town, and was once relatively prosperous on shipments of Boron (BOR is still the major employer) – discovered, interestingly enough and like many of the mineral finds in the area, by Yul Brynner’s father. In those days, the Soviet Union paid a stipend to the town for upkeep and maintenance, and supplied the trucking company which hauled the mineral to the nearest railhead, some 200 km away. When the Soviet Union fell apart, those perks disappeared, and the town began to decline. Now there’s hardly 10 feet of whole sidewalk in the whole town, the grass is growing up between the cement tiles on the bases of the monuments to Soviet power and unemployment is chronic. The town has immense potential for further mineral exploitation by more efficient means (many of the works are still open-pit, which is wasteful, unhealthy and unsightly), lumber (huge forest resources) and fishing (no port or harbour) if only someone would put some money into it. But the state is only now beginning to slowly relax its control over foreign investment, and (very sensibly, I think) will only allow minority shareholding. When big corporations begin to take a controlling interest, they sometimes begin to think they are the government. A sensible, managed approach to foreign investment will do Russia good.

      Kovane, thanks very much for your good wishes, I appreciate your support. As I’ve mentioned before, if La Russophobe toned down the hyperbolic rhetoric and stuck to the truth, she’d still find plenty to complain about and I’d be out of work. I don’t see much danger of that happening, though.

  5. Alex("zed"one) says:

    Mark, it is my favourite joke from one of the J. Semenov’s book about Shrtirlits – about the difference between tourism and immigration🙂

    It seems to me that the only real Russian problem is corruption in law enforcement & courts – fix that and the rest will be fixed almost automatically – including racial tensions, radical political activity and foreign investment. With the latter, at the moment Russia is a high investment risk & naturally, one will only get the “adventurous” types coming to invest there – those who are after Browder’s 4,000% /year “chemicals” and think they can steal where the Russians themselves after 25 years still can not (* although only a quick look at eg Chubais should have warned them sufficiently*). The town you described does not look like an investment opportunity of that sort – it must be done by the Russians on federal level.

  6. poemless says:

    Whoa, there, mister.

    First off, I need to go on the record and say that I, as an American Woman, find LaR predictable and hateful and therefore entirely worth ignoring, and Ioffe… what I would give for the magical pill that would allow me to ignore her. Not because I find her to be a “Russophobe.” Who cares? It’s a free world. People are free to not like Russia. I just find her writing annoying. Oh, I just find her annoying. Who cares? It’s a free world. People are free to not like Julia Ioffe.

    I am really sceptical that going out of one’s way to find that which is worst about Russia (such a tough job for those two, but someone has to do it…) while ignoring dysfunction closer to home can be defined as an American or female occupation. The liberal opposition in Russia writes volumes about the incompetence within the Kremlin but take little or no responsibility for their own inability to get anything done. Likewise, McFaul, Lucas, Goble and countless others have not let their testicles prevent them embracing massively hypocritical policies, and outlets like The Economist and Washington Post surely have some men influencing their editorial line…

    Go to town on LaR for hating Russia (why, though? it’s like outing the KKK for being racist) or Ioffe for devoting herself to smugly ensuring we’ve all gotten the message that Russia is pathetic, but I don’t think their gender or even nationality are terribly noteworthy. Also, Julia is Russian too, isn’t she?

    What these two writers have in common that makes me crazy are their eagerness to pounce on low hanging fruit and their framing of issues in such a way that it is not the actions of individuals or the logic of cause and effect but conspiracies and neuroses that are to blame for real and perceived problems. Do you think maybe you are doing the same thing?

    • marknesop says:

      Good Day, Poemless!!

      First, I am honoured to receive a visitor of your star cloutiness!!

      Probably the title “Hypocrisy, thy name is American Woman” was unnecessarily provocative, but it was not intended to insult America womanhood as a whole, and I took pains to point out to whom it was directed. Beyond that, it was just a deliberate play on the LaR title; “Frailty, thy name is Russian Woman”.

      You’re quite right that I’m attacking the low-hanging fruit myself, but (a) it’s like a scab I can’t resist tearing off – some of that smarmy stuff just makes my blood boil, and even if she had a readership of two, I’d have to try and show them what an asshat she is. If I were at a party and overheard somebody saying that kind of stuff, I could no more avoid drifting over and cutting them up than I could learn to breathe through my feet, (2) it’s easy and it’s fun, and I can’t spare the time to do nothing but blog, and (3) I never intended to be cerebral. There are plenty of bright scholars out there who are actual specialists in Russian politics; I just don’t like to see ordinary Russians baselessly insulted because, generally speaking, I like them.

      I’d have been satisfied just being a dissenting commenter on LaR, but she blocked two subsequent ID’s; my real name, and Francis Smyth-Beresford (which I chose because it sounded like a sissy Englishman who everyone would hate, and had the initials FSB). It was either ignore her, or start a blog, which she’s always challenging her detractors to do, as if it’s hard or something. It probably is, if you’re serious, but neither of us appear to be.

      Yes, Julia Ioffe is a Russian. She comes off as well-educated and bright, and I could forgive her her perceived Russophobia if she’d just say something nice about Russia once in awhile. There can’t be nothing good about it. Instead, she abandons any pretense at impartiality in favour of going for the cheap laugh. She could be funny, if she wasn’t so snotty.

      I’m delighted to “see” you, and I hope it means you’re feeling a little better.

      • Misha says:

        Re: Subject of Blog Post

        Having a seemingly neocon to neolib leaning slant against Russia that includes a certain anomosity towards that country

        An observation based on a series of expressed thoughts by that person over the course of time.

        I detect a bit of a buddy system, where in some circles, the criticism is more muted than it could and IMO should be.

        Not a whiz on foreign policy, historical and sports issues.

        Example of how tilting a certain way and good writing skills can lead to a propping which is otherwise questionable.

        • marknesop says:

          Hi, Mike! Once again, the heavy lifting is done for me. All I need is another ridiculous article, heavy on opinion and light on facts, with some questionable or improperly-represented references, and I’m in business.

          As far as I can make out, the website we’re discussing is not an expert on anything, but searches for ambiguous positions that can be spun or outright bias that can be amplified.

  7. Misha says:

    There’re so many of them Mark, inclusive of how some who belittle the anti-Russian bias suggesting that Russians are paranoid.

    Never mind the dubious claims like the Russian government needing to bomb its own people to serve as a basis for engaging in the second war of the 1990s in Chechnya and supposed Russian mob influence in figure skating.

    As for anti-Russian bias, note the American government sponsored Captive Nations Week that recognized every Communist country as captive with the exception of Russia. Some of the recognized countries were Nazi creations which never existed. Another example is how the previously mentioned La Russophobe site is tolerated by the likes of RFE/RL and JRL , in a way that a hypothetical La Judeophobe site wouldn’t.

    Beware of what amounts to as commercialized “Russophile” views, that don’t address these points.

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