Friday, May 18, 2012

Renunciation is a right, not a treasonous act...even in America. Yet.

Chuck Schumer (D-NY) at an LGBT parade: I guess he thinks it's OK to be transgendered--but woe betide you if you try to change your nationality! (Wiki Commons)
When Democratic politicians begin tearing up their unspoken mandate to be the voice of reason and the champions of personal freedom, it's time to leave.

I have already done that. I saw it coming, and made plans to make tracks. I'm not prescient; I've merely been a journalist for 40 years and reading between the lines of what politicians spout had long since become second nature.

Once I was gone, I realized that I was actually a bit late on the uptake on that one. When we got to England, the local bank phoned to offer us a fantastic interest rate on our savings. We went to see the lady. Upon finding out that I was  US citizen, despite my having dual nationality, the second being that of the Republic of Ireland, she withdrew the offer. In fact, as it turned out, there was no banking product she could offer us except the lowest possible savings and checking plans. Why? She wasn't sure. So I began the research.


Everyone tarred with the USB brush

Why? Because in its avaricious attempt to own all the world's wealth, even that which has of its own accord chosen to go elsewhere, it has imposed on foreign banks serving US nationals residing there reporting requirements to the IRS that are draconian in every way. Nor can the banks opt out without incurring penalties that are exacted when they, or their other clients, attempt to do financial transactions in or with the United States. The convenient excuse for this intrusive juggernaut into the sovereign affairs of other nations was the UBS bank agreement a couple of years ago, whereby the notoriously secretive Swiss banks were coerced into giving up details of their well-heeled American clients. At the time, I wondered if it would be ALL their well-heeled American clients...or just the ones not politically safeguarded by the Bohemian Grove, and so on. Or if the one percent had identified and set up a different tax haven for themselves, and had decided the time had come to gather in the gold held by the next three of four percent of Americans.

I don't blame the foreign banks, by the way, for complying. Who wants Uncle Sam peeking into your undies and grabbing a good part of your package just because of Sammy's greed? But in global economic terms, complying is probably less horrific than losing business because of US sanctions.
I do blame the arrogant, avaricious, narcissistic attitude of the American government. The only question I have is this: Is it a case of trickle down? Or trickle up? We found that Reagan's General Economic Theory of Trickle-down was a miserable failure. Instead, wealth trickled up.

Saverin, Schumer, Casey and me--and you, like it or not

After reading the comments concerning Eduardo Saverin's renunciation of his US citizenship, I must conclude that in the United States, arrogance, greed and narcissism trickle up. The recent maneuvers by Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Bob Casey (D-PA) make it clear that this is so. If they are responding to the grass-roots opinions vividly expressed on HuffPo and elsewhere regarding renunciation, they are simply the boil at the head of a great chancre of chauvinism--incorporating the other factors mentioned--that needs to be pricked.

A Yale Law professor, Bruce Ackerman, opined in the LA Times (requoted by HuffPo) those who "can look with disdain upon the struggling 99.9% who believe that a commitment to their country is a lifetime affair" deserve to be punished. He spoke, of course, about Eduardo Saverin, Facebook co-founder who relocated to Singapore last September. Ackerman  further stated that he thought that the "number of Americans renouncing their citizenship grew from 238 in 2008 to 1,534 in 2010. This sixfold increase no doubt includes a hefty portion of super-rich cosmopolitans."

He could not be more wrong. Very, very few renunciants are of the super-rich. Most are of the super-disgusted. The United States of America of song and story is long dead; it is the work of alchemists and fools to attempt to resurrect it at this point, and only trompe l'oeil painters have a shot at making it look like something it is not: the home of the brave and the land of the free.

America: "Love it or leave it" attitude..except you won't leave unscathed

The land of the free would not fear the defection, permanently or not, of citizens. If that nation were worthy of returning to, many would come back. Some would not. Some of those leaving for good would be rich, some middle-class, some poor. Same for those returning.

But the "all or nothing, love it or leave it" meme of America holds sway, and now anyone who wants for any reason to dance to his or her own drummer is branded an ingrate, a traitor even.

Shumer and Casey are fools. But they are fools likely to appeal to the lowest common denominator of American. The ill-educated (regardless of academic credentials). The impoverished who think the money of a few measly millionaires--and those of us who paid just ordinary folks' ordinary taxes--will solve the problem. The self-righteous. The unimaginative. The fearful. The jealous; perhaps those are the worst of all, as they might hide their base emotion under a cloak of drum-banging patriotism.

There is already a law on the books that requires that those whom the State Department finds--in its singular and unsupervised inquiry--to have left the US for tax purposes may never again set foot in the nation. Whether or not they have family left behind. Whether or not, one assumes, they meant to return with the solution to poverty or the cure for cancer. Period. Amen. End of story...the black-and-white No Man's Land that I once thought only Republicans loved so well.

Poor old Ackerman. He also noted, "If an American wishes to separate himself from this country and its people, he is taking a step of deep significance. He should not be able to easily return and brag to his friends about the billions he is making by evading civic responsibilities." Such a deluded man for someone with academic credentials. The Reed Amendment addressed that more than a decade ago. As for it being a significant step, as I've noted before, only the United States, among so-called First World nations, makes a renunciation irrevocable. Indeed, most other nations don't require any formulaic process at all; people just leave, and come back, at will.

The personal aspect for an ordinary citizen of the globe

So there it is. I had no intention of bragging about anything, least of all the millions I don't have, have never had, and don't expect ever to have. I don't brag about the fact that I have the luxury of a second (well, now an only) citizenship; I am grateful, because it allowed me to renounce. I am very, very grateful for that. I don't intend to brag that I left; I merely offer that after 50 years in the trenches--from the time as a teenager that I became aware of the disparities in American society and the disingenuousness of its politicians--I decided I needed a few years of peace and quiet and humble enjoyment of my husband, my pets (grieving the horse left behind with a friend because he was too old to travel) and a small, polite, lovely nation, unfettered with the constant need to protest something outside my immediate environment, or protect something within. I was late, I might add, protecting our assets from the Bush meltdown, so it is definitely a humble exile I have decided to enjoy.

I never intended to ever set foot in America again, with or without renouncing, although I doubt even the State Department could make a case that a basically penniless, semi-retired journalist renounced for tax reasons, especially since my tax rate is higher in the UK. I did, however, take the precaution of obtaining high calibre legal representation for the renunciation to ensure that I could re-enter the US if I ever want to. To see my family, friends and aged horse, perhaps, although all but the horse can visit me here, and are welcome.

Nor did I intend to let this cat out of the bag without prior notice to my family and friends. But in the end, I decided the chips will just have to fall where they may. I have taken care of business assiduously, and delayed my own pleasure, for 45 years. And I suspect I still take care of business: I think it is the business of my soul to use what I know and who I am to attempt to shed some light on how the world works, take it or leave it.

I am not, in fact, going to return to the United States. My chiropractor asked me yesterday, as he worked on a mighty sprain, whether my family was upset that I had left.

I said I didn't know. I guess now I will find out.


POSTSCRIPT: Americans are, at present, still guaranteed the right to renounce US citizenship if they can find another nation that will have them. No mean feat, actually, unless one has megabucks and can buy one's way in (certain nations sell citizenship) or are descended from a citizen of a nation that recognizes one or two generations removed as their own, such as Ireland (my own salvation) and I believe Greece and Italy, under some circumstances, and even the UK for one generation. However, renunciation comes at a cost. While each person's emotional cost will differ, all will pay $450 for the privilege, a fee that is actually a burden to some renunciants, thereby belying the claim that most are rich. Moving abroad is expensive; some do it with every cent they can round up and adding half a thou to that is burdensome, and, I have read, sometimes impossible. It is a right, then, like voting was a right, back in the poll tax era. Unfortunately, while voting rights got nominally more expansive (except in Florida in 2000, when some people were chased from the polls for being the wrong color), the right to leave and seek one's fortune elsewhere had gotten more dear. Many legal scholars also believe the fee is illegal, it being the ordinary business of government to serve its citizens in such ways free of charge. And when the fee is exacted (extracted?), the renunciant is STILL a US citizen. Only after the fee is paid, the interview is endured, the oath taken and the State Department's magic woven is the person relieved of his or her US citizenship.