Still Sister Republics ?


The revelation that Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney had a Swiss bank account has once again raised the specter of Switzerland's U.S. image as a place for rich Americans to hide their money.

The former Governor of Massachusetts' posting of his tax forms not only indicated great wealth, suddenly a sin in a country where rags to riches has always been part of the American dream, but, even, worse, the manner in which he placed his money further tarnishes his image. First, he was accused of working for Bain Capital and firing people instead of creating jobs.

Now, according to his rivals, he is accused of hiding money in Switzerland, Bermuda and the Cayman Islands, the ultimate sin for hardworking, honest, taxpaying Americans. The fact that he actually paid taxes on those accounts is not relevant. The fact that 6 million Americans living overseas are subject to double taxation by the United States is also not mentioned. Somehow, the populist rhetoric has become dominant with anything foreign becoming suspect. For Romney, just as in the unsuccessful presidential campaign of John Kerry, even speaking a foreign language like French has become a liability.

A recent U.S. article on the plight of Romney and the negative effects of his tax disclosures ends by saying, "Not a lot of unemployed Americans have bank accounts in Zurich".  I would be surprised if many unemployed Americans have accounts in America and if they do, I hope the banks have not gone under. The point is unemployment, not the location of the banks.

I will not vote for Mitt Romney, but not because he had accounts in Switzerland. I also have accounts and I also pay taxes on them. I specifically object to the arguments mentioned above against him. He was elected Governor of America's most liberal state as a Republican. He did a fairly good job of governing. Why should Romney's wealth disqualify him from being President? Jack Kennedy's father was enormously wealthy and his money was made selling liquor during Prohibition. No one held that against him. Why has this negative narrative about Switzerland become so forceful now?

Both Sister Republics are in trouble when populism shows its ugly head. The historic ties between Switzerland and the United States are based on similar federal systems, similar Constitutions, and similar democratic underlying values. The attacks on Romney as well as a certain anti-Americanism in Switzerland reflect instability in times of economic downturn. That is not surprising. What is disappointing is to see how Switzerland and the United States have become easy prey for populist pandering.



  • Who was it said that he was ashamed of paying tax at a lower rate than his secretary? I don't think it was Mr Romney, so if I had to vote between them I would not hesitate a millisecond.
    The problem with Mr Romney, plus too many other powerful people (in Switzerland also!), is that their sense of what is right and what is wrong has been sacrificed on the altar of the "me first" generations that have succeeded Mrs T.

  • The attacks against CH are not new in the U.S.A.: CH remainend neutral during WWII and later its banks did give money to survivors of dead clients.F. is not in better place, because of its arrogance, filth and depravation. Just to speak only of the two mentioned countries. At the moment the Old Europe is not in favor in the mind of certain US politicians, who, by the way, for the most of them, never left the U.S.A. and totally ignore Abert Gallatin and Rochambeau.

  • That's a pretty amusing fact! I had not heard anything about it and must thank you for bringing it up to my attention!
    It's hard to believe (from a CH expat's perspective) that so many americans don't have a bank account. It's even harder to believe these very same people will vote for someone as out of touch as Romney! He said yesterday that he "wasn't concerned about the very poor"! Maddow's piece on it yesterday was very funny, and her blog goes a little further:
    Sir, I am going to have to disagree with another one of your post: I find the republican primaries to be much more entertaining than the Djokovic and Nadal game!

  • "Why should Romney's wealth disqualify him from being President?"
    Let's not confuse things, or for the same matter, bent them. Nobody called to "disqualify" Mitt Romney. Some people asked if Mitt Romney and his fortune, had any chance of understanding the hardship of a majority of americans *today* and under this circumstance, would he make the right decisions for them, instead of deciding what's best for those who share the same good fortune as his.
    "... how Switzerland and the United States have become easy prey for populist pandering."
    One thing about living through hard times is that it makes you look back to figure how you got where you are and consider the hard facts that led you there, instead of rehashing the big lies you hoped would lead you to Better-BetterLand.
    Please, do NOT compare the attacks on Switzerland with those against the USA. The needs and opportunities exploited by a landlocked, mountainous country of 8 million inhabitants, severely lacking of natural resources, claiming for financial and trading exception, has NEVER the same impact as the USA claiming for equal treatment and then operating from regulation evasive countries to make an extra buck, even at the cost of burying it's older generations, and denying a future to the younger ones who are not willing to depossess their immediate neighbors for that purpose. China is a much better candidate for such a comparaison, even though China appears a lot more foreign to americans than primitive Switzerland.

  • Being Swiss I will not vote for anybody in the next presidential election. What disturbs me is the way American government has started treating Switzerland as a bunch of criminals. This is just not acceptable, considering that most of the organisations under attack have acted according to Swiss laws. America has lately started to behave as if its rules and regulations were valid for the rest of the world. This is sheer unacceptable and will lead to strong anti American attitudes even in a country which, as you stress in your article, is so close to the US.

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