The bipartisan fight against American demonisation of U.S. Persons abroad

Laura Harrison McBride has an interesting article over at The Smirking Chimp blog (tagline: “News and commentary from the vast left-wing conspiracy”) entitled “Me and Eduardo Saverin; The major difference is money”, in which she discusses her own relinquishment of U.S. citizenship in February 2012 and eloquently contests the tiresome mainstream narrative (spread by bloggers like Matias Ramos and the Tax Justice Network) that people giving up U.S. citizenship are all rich traitors “fleeing” the United States with ill-gotten gains in their pockets.

Ms. McBride begins:

On Mother’s Day, Huffington Post ran a story–or at least, promoted a link to one–about why Eduardo Saverin’s renunciation of his US citizenship made him a bad, bad man. Really? Is it now, in America–home of the brave, land of the free, and incubator of financial criminals of every possible stripe–a certain ticket to inclusion in a subclass of humanity to take your marbles and leave? What happened to freedom of choice? Isn’t that what America’s about?

Well, no, actually. It is about subservience to everything from your boss to the IRS to the worn-out meme, “America is the greatest…and if you fail to mindlessly spout that drivel, you’re a creep, an ingrate and a Bad, Bad Person.” It was after reading that ludicrous article that I decided, having written it several days ago, to finally post my own column about renunciation.

She goes on to state: “Not taxes that pushed my buttons, but the tax collector”. Which is what we’ve been saying here all along. Several people here have said: we wouldn’t mind paying a few hundred or even a few thousand per year to the U.S. government to retain U.S. citizenship. But they refuse to make the transaction this straightforward; instead they throw us into an insane maze of paperwork from which the only exit is either to give up U.S. citizenship or to pay thousands of dollars to an accountant to file “information returns” which have nothing to do with collection of tax.

And she concludes:

It was the ethical situation that drove me, finally, to get dual citizenship and, ultimately, to discard the citizenship of a nation so mired in ethical failure I doubt it will resurrect itself in my lifetime. Now, when people I encounter in stores and such ask me if I’m American or Canadian (bless those who mistake my fairly neutral Yank speech for Canadian!), I say, “Neither. I was a Yank, but decided to renounce and adopt a royalist, quasi-socialist nation that at least tries to care for all of its citizens–not just the white, educated one percent and the greedy politicians.”

The U.S.’ unfair treatment of overseas citizens and green-card holders is a bipartisan issue, something we should all remember in the coming weeks when Congressional debates and the American public will try to paint us all as uncaring Randian fat-cats decamping to tax havens. Even here at the Isaac Brock Society we’re a broad coalition with a variety of views on U.S. politics and on the level of taxation that should be faced by corporations and rich people who actually live and do business in the United States. Some of us voted against Obama; others of us registered to vote in the U.S. in 2008 for the first time in decades specifically in order to support him (and in the process destroyed earlier claims to having relinquished U.S. citizenship, leading to Kafkaesque tax consequences).

Ms. McBride blogs at Cafe de Flore if you’d like to express your thanks to her for speaking out.

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21 thoughts on “The bipartisan fight against American demonisation of U.S. Persons abroad

  1. Remember come election time that both the GOP and the Dems fucking hate you for being an expat. Neither will be in your interest. If you are going to bother voting at all from overseas, you are best off doing the following:

    Find a local friend who thinks the world of America
    Trade your ballot for beer on the condition that they research the candidates and issues.
    Sit back and drink your beer as they come to the realization that all choices are bad choices and anyone half-way decent will never win.

    Everyone loses, but you at least get a free beer out of it, and that’s more victory than anyone else will get. Also getting drunk helps dull the pain.

  2. Speaking of ethical dilemmas: In 1991, Obama had his literary agent create a promotional leaflet for him saying that he “was born in Kenya and raised in Indonesia and Hawaii.” There is also rumor that he accepted foreign student scholarships, and that is one reason that he did not release any of University records. The man is a consummate liar. Either he was born in Kenya and is not eligible to be president; or he was born in Hawaii and he permitted his literary agent to lie on the promotional leaflet. Which is it? In either case, this looks bad for Obama.

    Rosslyn Smith writes:

    It’s always been my understanding the author controls what is said about the author’s background by the literary agent, the editor and the publisher. That certainly was my experience both when I worked for a professional magazine and when I’ve written articles in professional and general interest publications. We might advise that some aspect of their background be highlighted over another but everything got double checked with the author.

  3. Her story is yet one more of many where the IRS outright steals from people by nickle and diming them on deductions. That’s really the heart of the matter; outright theft by your own government and the ensuing surprise and anger when you come to the realization that your own government really wants to just extract all it can until you cry uncle and exit its clutches. This realization is a far far cry from the benign image of the nanny state we were all taught to trust and adore. That is part of what can make the act of relinquishment/expatriation such a heart wrenching, emotional matter. Trust me though once you jump ship you won’t look back.

  4. Personally, I love seeing blog articles like this because it shows that there are a lot of pi**ed off “US Persons.”

    Sadly, I doubt that they will say “Enough is enough,,,” and change things in my lifetime.

  5. Politicians have too little to lose by throwing expats under the bus. It’s not like we’re 300 million strong. They can always gain points by framing the tax issue simply as fat cat deviants trying to optimize taxes. By turning the vise on us, they extend their powers, which is what most of them want anyway. Even though I don’t have polite words for Sen. Schumer and his ilk, he may not do too bad in the next elections. In recessionary times it always pays to find a scapegoat. And that’s us.

    I keep hoping they will come to their senses but have prepared for the worst anyway. I hope this site and others are able to make a difference.

  6. Thanks for posting part of my Smirking Chimp column. I wondered why I had gotten much more than the usual traffic on my Cafe de Flore blog, too, and now I know why. I’ve known about this site for a while…will hang up and join. Thanks again.

  7. @ Muffy, I was just about to thank Eric for directing my attention to your blog so I could now follow it, and here you are – welcome to the Isaac Brock Society! I’ll go check out the Smirking Chimp and Cafe de Flore right now.

  8. @ Laura, Thanks so much also for your blog post. I’m curious about your case. Your blog’s title and tagline suggest that you left the US because of the Bush years. Now a lot of people said they were going to leave if Bush was re-elected (e.g., Alec Baldwin), but I’ve only know of one other person (someone who once said so in comment here) who left because of Bush. Is it the case that you left the US because of the Bush presidency.

    I say this because I know many who are renouncing because of the Obama presidency–or I should say, Obama’s adminstration represents the culmination of bad extra-territorial taxation policies that has accumulated against expats–policy which is bi-partisan in its implementation.

  9. @Laura, I really, really enjoyed reading your post, thank you for publishing it. It’s great to have some regular person stories to counteract all of the Saverin hysteria. And btw, I don’t think you were paranoid at all. I really do believe that the IRS/US gov’t was intent on punishing you for daring to leave quote-unquote ‘the greatest country on Earth’.
    Welcome to the society, I think that a person with your experiences, and being such a ‘hobbyist’ (said very firmly tongue-in-cheek) could add a great deal of value here.

  10. @Laura: Thanks so much for coming on board. I’m delighted you will be joining us here.

    You said you left the US during the Bush years. After his re-election in 2008, there was a website http://www.marryacandian.ca to offer refuge in Canada to those forced to endure another four years of Bush. I never actually heard of anyone doing it, though.

    I love the name Smirking Chimp!

  11. @ Muffy/Laura
    Thank you for your blog post. I’ll be dropping by your Cafe now that I know about it. I haven’t been to Smirking Chimp in ages (so many places to go, so little time) but I’m about to renew my enthusiasm for that site too. It features so many of my favourite writers. Oh, and welcome to the Isaac Brock Society.

  12. Laura –

    Thanks for your useful and interesting story, and welcome to Brock. For me you said it all in one sentence:

    I renounced because the United States has become a thug among nations, subjecting its own to unreasonable demands at every turn, subjecting the rest of the world to its greed to consume most of the world’s resources at the end of a gun.

    Otherwise put, ditching that US citizenship has become a matter of honor — we could say that severance has become the most American thing we can do in the circumstances, except that American has ceased to mean what we naively thought it did … if it ever did.

    When you get the hell out of Dodge you discover just how dodgy Dodge looks.

    Sacred honor, that is literally the last word.

  13. Laura, Really outstanding article. All the media hysteria recently over the “rich” who renounce has one wanting to weep in desperation. And trying to explain over and over and over again that it is not about taxes? No one wants to hear it. (I live in France where I pay far more taxes than in the US). In fact no one really wants to hear about American expats at all. Not the numbers. Not our demographics and socio-economic profiles. How about WHY people are renouncing? Nada. And no one (least of all the US government) wants to make the effort to find these things out. Where are the studies? Hell we aren’t even part of the census. And gee whiz it can’t be THAT hard. (The French did it in 2010. Full study right down to where their expats send their kids to school abroad)
    I’ve been accused of paranoia over this but I’ve come to the conclusion that the reason there is no hard data is because homelanders and their politicians in the US would *prefer* not to know…

  14. @Laura, the replies to comments will appear in chronlogical order, so we just use the @ sign to indicate what comment we’re replying to.

  15. @Laura. Excellent post, and welcome to Brock.

    @Harold. Spot on. This isn’t just about Obama; a lot of this dates back to Dubya and earlier. Anyone who thinks the Republicans would treat them any better is dreaming. All the US choices in November are likely to be bad ones.

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