Congratulations America. Exports really took off last quarter.
Not only did the U.S. Commerce Department report that sales of American products abroad rose but the U.S. Treasury Department/IRS announced that over 1,000 Americans citizens exported themselves in the first quarter of 2014.
It gets better. Tina Turner, the internationally known singer and American icon, appears on the list which just goes to show you that Americans do, in fact, know how to export quality (in the form of their own citizens).
Given that only 3,000 US citizens renounced in all of 2013, I think we can safely say that the trend is upward. So why aren't Americans out there shouting, "We're number one!"
Because citizens are not products, they are people and it hurts to watch good people leave.
The publishing of the names of individuals who renounce US citizenship each quarter started in 1996 and was originally designed to punish - to "name and shame" those who renounced. It seemed petty and childish even back in the 1990's and it's hard to say if it ever truly served its original purpose. In 2014 however it is clearly more of an instrument of torture for the homeland then a deterrent to renunciation. Those who want to renounce could care less - of all the factors going into the decision to lose that pretty blue passport, it hardly even merits consideration.
No, this list has become something else again: a national embarassment. The myth that "no one ever gives up American citizenship" has been thoroughly debunked (by official US government numbers no less) and now every quarter the American and international media rush to check out the latest figures and to spread them far and wide. As the American homeland peruses the headlines they provoke an orgy of self-flagellation about national decline, righteous anger at those "traitors", diatribes against tax evasion, and the all too predictable: "There ought to be a law, damn it!"
Never fear folks, the authors of the above-mentioned Name and Shame list, Reed and his pal Schumer, are working on it with the ex-Patriot Act. If you can't stop them through shame, exit taxes and byzantine bureaucracy, then harsher measures are coming soon to a theatre near you.
Would they work? Not a chance. Because something far worse is at work here and it has nothing to do with tax evasion or any of the other reasons the homelanders give for the uptick in outgoing citizens.
Today a U.S. citizen living outside the U.S. has or will experience one or more of the following things for the sole reason that he or she is an American: limited or no access to basic banking services, limited employment opportunities, the inability to marry (or stay married) to the one you love, the possibility of complete financial ruin and (this is the real kicker) a government (you know, one that ostensibly exists to protect American citizens the world over) that won't lift a finger in your defense.
The people in Washington are well aware of the banking and discrimination problems but won't actually do anything about it. This is in spite of the fact that the agreements between the US and individuals countries (the FATCA IGAs) have language that forbids those banks from discriminating against US Persons. Under the agreements the U.S. government could raise a stink about those banks and put pressure on local governments to do something about it. So, my U.S. friends, where is that much vaunted "protection" that you seem to think Americans abroad should be paying for?
Welcome to the American Diaspora Tax War which is now in its third year and so far no one (I repeat no one) is winning. The American homeland will never see the billions it hopes to gain from this exercise because they don't exist - for every so-called "rich tax evader" at home or abroad there are tens of thousands of teachers, IT workers, retirees, au pairs, translators, stay at home mothers and fathers and the like who already pay taxes to the countries they live in and just don't have the resources to hire expensive tax lawyers to stay compliant, much less pay taxes to the United States on top of what they already pay in their countries of residence. IRS resources have already been diverted to pay for the implementation of FATCA which means less IRS enforcement at home and fewer resources for US taxpayers in the United States who desperately need help coping with the cumbersome US tax code. These are some of the casualties we can quantify but the untangible ones may be ever greater.
For years US citizenship had an almost mystical quality. It was the citizenship that "no one ever gives up." Americans abroad cared so much about that citizenship that they fought long and hard to be able to pass it along to their children born abroad. Now it has been right-sized with a vengeance and that devaluation effects ALL Americans wherever they live.
As for Americans abroad we have a fair number of casualties on our side, too. We are seeing our ranks diminishing as we get a phone call here and an email there saying that so and so has given up and made that trip to the US consulate. Even our compatriots who said in the past, "I will never EVER give up my US citizenship." But when you listen to their stories, you reluctantly agree that, yes, they really didn't have much of a choice. Good people. Loyal Americans with strong emotional ties to the United States. People who were the best damn unofficial ambassadors the US could ever have abroad. Folks that Americans the world over were proud of.
I note that right now all we seem to be doing is going around and around with no solutions in sight. The US government isn't taking the situation seriously and the American public only does so when that horrible list comes out every quarter. And Americans are still marching down to the consulates and making appointments.
What a godawful mess this is, mes amis. Is there any hope that we can resolve this? I really don't know but over the past few years my faith in the basic fairness and justice of the American system, in the will of the US government to protect its citizens abroad and exhibit at least some concern for our well-being, and in the goodwill of my fellow citizens back in the US has been dangerously eroded. And, frankly, if those things go, then there really isn't any reason to remain a citizen, is there?