Rich to our Troops

Self-sacrifice for thee, but not for me. Thanks for defending our country while I got rich off it. Tough luck about the missing limbs, brain injuries, ruined families, soaring suicide rates, and landfill burials. I’m outta here! Gotta protect the investment and look out for Numero Uno!

Not only can you not serve God and Mammon, you can’t even serve your country and Mammon. Seek first the kingdom of God and everything else will be added as well. Seek first the kingdom of Mammon and you will lose your lest shred of honor and then your soul.

God sees–and remembers. And he still casts down the mighty in their arrogance and lifts up the meek and the lowly. Our debased culture calls that “class envy”. I call it the Magnificat and the praise of God by his greatest saint.

  • Ben not the athiest

    I’m not sure you are being fair to everyone who is renouncing citizenship. My wife is not a US citizen, and if I were to go live in her country, and pay taxes in her country why should I still be taxed by the US government? They also point out that the US is the only country that does this. Sure some people are jerks and are just trying to hoard their money, but something feels wrong about our tax laws.

    • Mark Shea

      If you think the sudden surge of rich people ditching the US coincides with love and marriage and not with the downturn in the economy, I have a bridge to sell you. I can respect putting family before country. I have no respect for putting money before country.

      • Ben not the athiest

        I wasn’t thinking of rich people when perhaps I should have been. I was looking at my own situation and how my country has what I deem to be unfair laws. Yes a lot of rich people are jerks and are just trying to hide money, but I also don’t think it’s right that I get screwed by overwhelming bureaucracy and paper work if I were to choose to live in my wife’s homeland. I’d rather not have to drop my citizenship, but in that case the US doesn’t make it easy not to.

        • SecretAgentMan

          I agree with both of you. BNTA is right — one of the problems as I understand it is that the feds can’t cope with people “opting out” of the accrual of retirement benefits and other federal social funding while they live overseas. There should be a provision allowing someone to do that; there’s simply no reason to double tax someone’s income just because their work or family requires them to live in a foreign country.

          As far as the uber rich, the reason we know why they’re leaving because we’ve seen what they’ve done here. Nest-foulers all. Don’t know why the Swiss would want them. If I could, I’d require complete divestiture as a requirement to renounce citizenship — prohibited ownership in any US company, all US land, remove all personal property from the country, and only then after a full audit with complete financial disclosure; if participation in the audit isn’t satisfactory, we just ignore the renunciation and keep taxing them.

      • Nick R

        The article states that it coincides with a increase in tax enforcement, which would cause more people to give up citizenship regardless if the reason they ere overseas was for love or money. If fact, I think rich people would be smart enough to have renounced it years ago, since they can pay lawyers and accountants to remind them of such things.
        I realize that it’s tempting to file this story into the “rich people not paying taxes and sending soldiers to die” narrative, but I really think it’s a much better fit for “our tax laws suck.”
        My fiance and I are spending the summer in Canada, and possibly living overseas for a few years as a result of her job, and it’s become practically impossible to bank overseas as a US citizen, because of the IRS treating all Americans living abroad as nefarious agents. The reporting requirements for foreign bank accounts are so tedious that most banks will not offer accounts to American citizens unless you plan to deposit over 100k, because otherwise it’s not worth the hours of paperwork demanded in recent changes necessary to prove to the IRS you’re not evading the double tax they want you to pay when you are living overseas, which as Ben mentioned, no other nation does.
        I have no desire to give up my US citizenship, but if it means paying the taxman twice, it might simply be unaffordable to do otherwise. Beware the collateral damage caused in the lives of little people when burdensome laws are passed to go after the rich.

  • Hezekiah Garrett

    I can see abandoning your own people to attach yourself to the people of a woman. That’s human, it makes sense.

    But ‘something feels wrong about our tax laws’? That’s no kind of decent reason for changing teams.

    • Ben not the athiest

      I don’t feel I have abandoned my own people, but thanks for the understanding (I guess?).

      What feels wrong about our tax laws is paying taxes to a country in which you do not reside nor use public services, while also paying taxes in the country in which you do reside. That seems unfair. Now if I had a corporation in the states, or did most of my business in the states while residing overseas that would be a different story.

  • Tricia

    You’re not being fair, and you clearly know nothing about the situation.

    Over the past several years, the filing requirements have become INCREDIBLY onerous and intrusive for American citizens abroad – not just taxes, the moment any bank account goes over $10,000 even for a day, you have to report every detail about every account you have – and the fines for non-compliance EVEN OUT OF IGNORANCE are crazy-high, like $10,000 per violation per year if you didn’t know you had to file this non-tax form, higher for something they think is wilful.

    And legislation is coming into effect that means that the penalties for non-US companies who have any kind of contact with Americans not in compliance (whether though ignorance or not) are staggering – so many companies are beginning to refuse to deal with Americans AT ALL.

    This is totally, totally different to the tax/filing regime in place before 2009…it’s massive economic aggression by the administration.

    (And Ben is right – the US is almost the ONLY country that demands that you keep filing taxes even if you haven’t lived there for years and have no tax liabilities there. That alone always bothered me, but the current situation is far, far worse.)

    • Mark Shea

      So when poor people ditched their citizenship to avoid dying and being maimed in Vietnam, they were criminal cowards who sucked off the test of America and then abandoned her in her hour of need. But when rich people do exactly the same thing being their money is inconvenienced, they are Victims and have every right to ditch America. Right.

      • http://www.chesterton.org Sean P. Dailey

        “So when poor people ditched their citizenship to avoid dying and being maimed in Vietnam”

        It would not surprise me if those were actually rich people who’d run out of draft-dodging options, such as college.

    • http://www.chesterton.org Sean P. Dailey

      1. The article is wrong to say that only rich people do this.

      2. Tricia is right. American tax laws for Americans living abroad are now so draconian, fewer and fewer foreign banks are willing to even allow Americans to open accounts. This isn’t just the rich; a lot of Americans live abroad either because they married a foreigner or their jobs require it. Yeah, no doubt there are rich who are merely being selfish and ungrateful, but I’d bet that the majority of people who do this simply have no choice. Their choices pretty much boil down to, live with a noose around their necks and no place to deposit their salaries, or renounce their citizenship just so they can live like ordinary human beings.

      Just read the third paragraph. It is sad, tragic, and, yes, criminal, that our own government hates its own citizens this much, that they are forced to do this.

    • Ted Seeber

      Maybe there’s a reason for that however? Like the high probability of international money laundering? The Pope wouldn’t have had to deal with the butler/Bertone scandal had the Vatican Bank such commonsense if “onerous” rules.

      I can easily see renouncing your citizenship if you have moved to a foreign land and have NO business interests in the United States at all. I can’t see renouncing your citizenship to avoid taxes on the monetary system that you make your living off of.

      • http://www.chesterton.org Sean P. Dailey

        These people are not renouncing their citizenship to aviod taxes. They’re renoucning their citizenship to avoid cruel and draconian reporting requirements and penalties for not meeting those requirements — requirements they may not even know exist, and that are so bad, foreign banks will no longer let Americans open accounts. And how do these new laws help stop international money laungering? For your information, the dollar is one of the main currencies in international trade, especially in oil markets. To the extent that the dollar in your pocket is still strong and retains any value, it is because of this.

        Our new tax laws are turning America into a prison and turning ex-pats into prisoners on work release, and you support that. Hm.

        • Ted Seeber

          “These people are not renouncing their citizenship to aviod taxes. They’re renoucning their citizenship to avoid cruel and draconian reporting requirements and penalties for not meeting those requirements”

          And what I’m saying is that those draconian reporting requirements are there *FOR THE COMMON GOOD*. If people hand not tried to avoid taxes, then those requirements would not be in place.

          ” And how do these new laws help stop international money laungering?”

          They are not terribly new; they’ve been in place for many years. But they help stop international money laundering the same way any public reporting law does- by providing transparency into public transactions.

          “For your information, the dollar is one of the main currencies in international trade, especially in oil markets. ”

          I am well aware of that, and it’s one of the big reasons why I’m for:
          1. Reducing foreign trade to barter level only between governments, with no international corporations, money or private citizens involved.
          2. Ending all foreign trade in oil. It just funds terrorism.

  • Mitch

    US Tax laws for citizens living overseas are draconian, at worst they seem like an attempt to keep all American citizens chained to America, tied to the land, at best they are obnoxious laws that no other developed country has the chutzpah to levy on their citizens living out-of-country.

    A few rich people are trying to leave to protect their assets and are doing so in a shady way that seems to value money over country. But if a middle class person resides overseas they are subject to the same ridiculous tax laws on US citizens living and banking in a foreign country and therefore have good reason to abandon their US citizenship. US citizenship is often dead weight for American nationals living overseas, if I was living out-of-country I would be tempted to do so too.

  • Steve P

    I would imagine there are many legitimate reasons for doing this, so I do think Mark is over-reacting. And there are many solidly middle-class people that exercise the option to live overseas, at least for a time. Personally, I can’t imagine not being able to come back “home” at some point.

    The only other consideration is that American citizenship of a person living abroad ought to mean something in the event something bad happens to you. I got the impression that it used to, at any rate.

  • http://mondayevening.wordpress.com/ Marcel

    Nobody has an obligation to pay the US federal government any more tax than he owes. Given what Washington spends the money on, a case might be made that no Christian should give the government any more money than he’s obliged to. I’d think worse of these people if I learned they were giving too little to charity, or that they were bad tippers.

    • Ted Seeber

      From the article:

      “While the U.S. taxes citizens regardless of where they reside, overseas income of as much as $95,100 is exempt and credits help compensate for foreign taxes paid. Americans living in Switzerland can’t take advantage of the absence of a capital gains tax in the Alpine country or tax deductions allowed on pension contributions.”

      and

      “The 2010 Fatca law requires banks to withhold 30 percent from “certain U.S.-connected payments” to some accounts of American clients who don’t disclose enough information to the IRS.”

      Gee, when I roll over an IRA, I have 30% withheld, and that’s within the same country. And I’ve never earned more than $80,000 in my life. Poor little rich folks, having so much money that a $95,000 tax break isn’t enough.

  • Ted Seeber

    I’m for a complete confiscation of domestic assets for anybody who chooses to leave their citizenship behind. But then again I’m also for a separate currency for foreign transactions and restricting the dollar to within the borders of the United States, as well as ending the federal monopoly on printing money and letting *every* governmental organization down to the neighborhood print money for local transactions.

    • Tricia

      Ted, as I said, it’s not just the taxes, it’s the reporting requirements. You can be bog-standard working class, and not have any assets in the US or income from US sources, no tax liability to the US at all, but if you are an American citizen living abroad who is trying to scrape together a mortgage down payment, or has the nerve to be prudent enough to have more than $9,999 in retirement savings at any point (not >$9,999 saved in a given year, just >$9,999 in an account at any one time), then you are suddenly hit with VERY onerous and VERY privacy-invading reporting requirements on every account you have, up to and including if you have lunch-money system on your office ID card. And, if you have a joint account with a foreign spouse, their information has to be reported too, even though they may never have stepped foot in the US, let alone having any US income/asset/tax liabaility.

      And the penalties for non-compliance, including out of ignorance, are DRACONIAN.

      And these people are not RICH. Are you telling me that RICH is anyone who has ever managed to get together a $10k down payment, and people in their 50s and 60s with $10k in savings?

      • http://www.chesterton.org Sean P. Dailey

        Well put, Tricia.

      • Ted Seeber

        I’m not bog standard working class- I earn $40/hr- and I’ve NEVER had more than $5000 in a single account at any given time. I don’t know how any Christian could; I give away far more than that a year, and will likely never retire because of it (I’m also of the generation where my expected Social Security income is a couple of thousand a month, but the amount that is actually funded is nothing).

        Like I said, there’s a reason for these laws, but it’s pretty darn easy to keep away from them at a $95,000/year exemption and a $9999 limit on accounts.

        I say the same thing to American Libertarians- don’t like income taxes? Then you need to emulate ST. KATHARINE DREXEL !

        • http://www.chesterton.org Sean P. Dailey

          “I earn $40/hr- and I’ve NEVER had more than $5000 in a single account at any given time. I don’t know how any Christian could”

          I’m sorry, but this is disguisting. You have no right — no right — to decide that someone is or is not a Christian based on what he earns. How you live your life and what you earn and what you do with your money is your business, and how anyone else handles their money is their business. I implore you, in all charity, that envy is a terrible sin. The humble rich man who earns his bread honestly and gives God his due will enter heaven before the prideful poor man who damns the rich man. And this holds true no matter how much the poor man gives away in a year.

          You love your country and I do not blame you for that. But patriotism works two ways, and governments that drive their citizens away through draconian, punitive, and oppressive laws that exist for no other reason than to remind those citizens who’s in charge commit treason.

          • Ted Seeber

            “I’m sorry, but this is disguisting. You have no right — no right — to decide that someone is or is not a Christian based on what he earns.”

            You need to learn to read. I’m not basing it on what he EARNS, but rather what he SPENDS. As in, is he keeping everything for himself, or is he following Caritas In Veritate and making provision for his family & the poor?

            ” How you live your life and what you earn and what you do with your money is your business, and how anyone else handles their money is their business. I implore you, in all charity, that envy is a terrible sin.”

            Has absolutely nothing to do with envy, and has everything to do with calling GREED a sin. Yes, Envy is a deadly sin, but you need to respond to sin with a virtue- like I do with my support of the Knights of Columbus and the Our Peaceful Place.

            ” The humble rich man who earns his bread honestly and gives God his due will enter heaven before the prideful poor man who damns the rich man. ”

            No man who actually gives God his due- will be rich in the long run. St. Katherine Drexel lived on $5/day and gave the other $995/day income from her trust fund away. In addition to that, based on the facts of economics as I know them, there is no way anybody is worth more than $80/hr. Ever.

    • http://www.chesterton.org Sean P. Dailey

      “I’m for a complete confiscation of domestic assets for anybody who chooses to leave their citizenship behind.”

      A policy like that just turns America into a prison. WTF?

      “But then again I’m also for a separate currency for foreign transactions and restricting the dollar to within the borders of the United States”

      What color is the sky in your world?

      • Ted Seeber

        “A policy like that just turns America into a prison. WTF?”

        Countries have borders for a reason- and the Church promotes subidarity and solidarity together, not individualism.

        “What color is the sky in your world?”

        The same color as Our Lady of Guadalupe’s dress. As opposed to the green of those who would rather follow the sin of Greed.”

        • http://www.chesterton.org Sean P. Dailey

          Yes, countries have borders for a reason, but under your philosophy, which treats personal property as subject to the whims of Caesar, those borders would become the walls of a prison. And your philosophy has nothing to do with subsidiarity and solidarity — indeed, it is the exact opposite. If you wish to make the state an idol, that is your business. And, please, stuff it with the “greed” charge. Especially if you ignore the cruel greed of the state.

          • Ted Seeber

            “which treats personal property as subject to the whims of Caesar, ”

            That’s because Ceasar is the ultimate owner of all property on earth.

            “And your philosophy has nothing to do with subsidiarity and solidarity ”

            Yes it does. According to the Church, men band together into governments for solidarity, and those governments should be as geographically small as possible, thus providing subsidiarity.

            “If you wish to make the state an idol, that is your business. ”

            I’m not. I’m trying to break up the state into small economic units.

            “And, please, stuff it with the “greed” charge. Especially if you ignore the cruel greed of the state.”

            I don’t ignore the cruel greed of the state, that’s why I want to break the federal monopoly on money and have neighborhood governments issue their own currency for local transactions.

  • CK

    “The rules make it harder for Americans to hold foreign bank accounts and gain access to mortgages, she said.”

    Yeah, we fight for “freedom” in a country that is so free that the ever expanding tentacles of the state knows no bounds. And as Animal Mother rightly retorted in Full Metal Jacket “flush your headgear out new guy, we don’t waste g— for freedom, this here’s a slaughter, and if I’m gonna get my b—- blown off for a word, my word is ——.”

    • Ted Seeber

      You have a disordered notion of what “freedom” is. Yes, American Libertarian freedom is the right to do what one wants, but that’s disordered. True authentic freedom is the right to do what one OUGHT, which is entirely different.

      • CK

        I have no disordered view of human freedom, the “freedom” that is being fought for is disordered.

        I understand the Church’s teaching on what true human freedom entails.

  • CK

    Let me also point out that the “rich” renouncing “citizenship” of the Leviathan does not necessarily imply “self-sacrifice for me but not for thee.” The implication here being that somehow the troops dying in these preventive wars of choice leads to the freedom and wealth that many of these folks have earned. Now if the rich in this case were Halliburton and defense contractors who directly benefited from these wars, then yes, your implication and admonishment is correct. However, if the wealth derived was merely from peaceful activities, like building a better mouse trap, then it is unfair to blanketly condemn the renouncing of citizenship from a country mired in consequentilist thought thereby nuking and murdering hundreds of thousands across the globe and licensing the abortion of millions of its own citizens in the womb.

    Would the same standard apply to wealthy folks who fled the Anschluss and renounced their “citizenship” to save their wealth.

    • Ted Seeber

      I don’t know anybody whose talents actually justify more than $100,000/year, do you?

      • http://www.chesterton.org Sean P. Dailey

        Who the hell are you to decide that for any one? Sheesh!

        • Ted Seeber

          A good Catholic who still believes that Usury is a Sin:
          http://distributistreview.com/mag/2012/01/is-usury-still-a-sin/

          • Howard

            “I don’t know” = confession of ignorance.

            Bringing up USURY when they question YOU RAISED was about TALENT removes all doubt.

            • Ted Seeber

              Usury is defined as “The sin rests on the fact that sometimes the creditor desires more than he has given…, but any gain which exceeds the amount he gave is illicit and usurious.” (Vix pervenit, Pope Benedict XIV, 1745). What I am saying is that your TALENT is what you provide to the business in return for your wages. And that there are no talents worth more than $100,000/year. The only way to earn that much is to steal from your customers and direct-report workers.

          • http://www.chesterton.org Sean P. Dailey

            “A good Catholic who still believes that Usury is a Sin”

            “A Protestant will always call himself a good Protestant, but a good Catholic will always call himself a bad Catholic.” –G.K. Chesterton (paraphrasing)

            Please. This is a wholly separate issue from usury. And no good Catholic judges another by how much money he has, or considers himself superior because he earns less that someone else. You are indulging in envy, never a good path to trod. I say again, you have absolutely no right to judge someone who makes more money than you think he ought to make.

            • Ted Seeber

              It is NOT separate from usury, because only by usury- earning more than one ought without providing service or goods of equal value- can a man become rich to begin with.

              I EARN more than you do, I’ll bet I earn more than 99.9% of the people on the planet. But I balance that by GIVING IT AWAY, not keeping it in savings accounts. I trust God for my future. And this has nothing to do with what one earns, but rather how one earns it and what one does with it.

              Got to look at the COMPLETE picture- the CATHOLIC picture.

  • Jennifer

    Thanks, Mark. :)

  • Jeff

    This doesn’t bother me one bit. People have a number of reasons to avoid paying U.S. taxes, and I’m not going to assume it is because they are rich and selfish. Many ex-pats are vets living with their wives in her country. Why deal with a huge mess of bureaucracy when you’re in the second half of life?
    Let me add that I’m currently serving in the military and don’t care about how many people become ex-pats. A family member did this to be with his wife and he is definitely NOT wealthy. Be charitable in your assumptions. :-)

    • Ted Seeber

      Doing this for love *and to not harm the country* is honorable in the extreme.

  • Kirt Higdon

    I don’t see why it is intrinsically wrong to move to another country for economic, including tax related, reasons. People move to the US for that reason (or used to) and people move from one state to another for that reason. It is the sin of greed simply to hoard money in excess of need and not share with others, especially the less fortunate, but this sin can also be committed by those who just stay in place and hoard. As far as citizenship is concerned, I consider that my real citizenship is in the Heavenly Kingdom. Here in the evil empire, I’m just an alien and not a very legal one at that.

  • http://g Hezekiah Grxarrett

    I’d like to see how commenters here line up on other issues.

    How many here who defend choosing lucre, or ease of filing in some cases, over Country have ever thought or uttered such phrases as ‘shining city on a hill ‘or ‘last best hope of mankind ‘ or any other such expression of American exceptionalism?

    • Howard

      Wasn’t that Babylon 5?

    • Ben not the athiest

      I’ve never used those phrases. But ask me about some other issues and I’ll tell you to the best of my ability.

  • Esther

    I tried to click the link and it didn’t work.

  • Howard

    This is not really so different from the large number of immigrants who came (and still come) to the US precisely because they thought (think) that it is in their economic interest to do so. Not all of them were poor and aspiring to be middle class; many were middle class and aspring to be wealthy. Do you think that is qualitatively different from someone who is already wealthy and aspires to remain wealthy?

    For that matter, it’s not that different from Americans who, for example, abandoned their home states to go to Texas when it was still Mexican territory. They saw an opportuntiy to enrich themselves, and they jumped at it.

    • Ted Seeber

      Being a small part native american and knowing the history behind the ground I now call home, I have to say that I have some severe qualms about migrating to another place and taking land belonging to someone else.

      Even if they all died of Malaria in 1830 (I still want to see somebody explain to me how Malaria got to Oregon without referring to the ships carrying international trade.

  • CK

    What Ted Seeber above is confusing is nominal dollar amounts with wealth. And how earning $100,000 in a context outside of interest slogging is usury it is unclear.

    Further, a Catholic could very well make over 100K and still have a burden of 10k a year in property tax, not to mention whatever the income tax is, and pay 5k per child (of 5 kids) to go to the parish Catholic school. And still have a poor balance sheet despite being frugal. Yeah, that guy is really wealthy.

    • Ted Seeber

      Good points CK- better than Sean’s above.

      My point with the Talents was- my time isn’t really worth that much more than a person in Africa earning $1.25/day. I’m sorry, it just isn’t. I’m paid $40/hr based on my skillset and *added value provided to the corporation*. If I took more than that, I’d be stealing from either my customers, or the people I subcontract with. There is no way to earn tons of money *without* resorting to interest slogging of one form or another.

      If you own no property, you owe no property tax.

  • CK

    “Countries have borders for a reason- and the Church promotes subidarity and solidarity together, not individualism.”

    Nevertheless, the Church also rejects the contrary, which it totalitarian leviathan. Which is what the IRS is doing with oversees taxation and draconian bank regulation.

    • Ted Seeber

      The IRS would not be able to do that if US Dollars were limited to this country.

  • small_fish

    I know it’s been awhile, so I hope you guys see this:

    I was born in the US and have lived abroad for many years. The rules *ARE* Draconian. I’m DEFINITELY *NOT* rich, but my plan is to renounce. (I probably make less than the average American.) I was perfectly happy living overseas with a US passport and a foreign residency ID (green card). When FATCA rules were published, it changed the game completely for me, and for millions of other Americans abroad.

    I still have some happy memories from when I was a kid, but I don’t live there anymore and I feel like the US wants to keep me chained to the US somehow. It’s not right. It’s actually quite scary because these are some of the same things the Nazis did.

    When the renunciation numbers started ticking upwards, Obama raised the fee to renounce from $0 to $450, which is appalling. Countries rarely charge fees (aside from photocopies and rubber stamps) for this because we didn’t choose our birthplace. The US Government is profiting from our misfortune of being an American overseas.


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