Senator Chuck Schumer Is Appalled

Via reason.com, I came across an article in the politics section of the Huffington Post about Senator Chuck Schumer being “appalled” that his proposed plan to punish people for renouncing their citizenship would ever be compared to, frankly, similar legislation that was passed in Germany in 1931. According to the video at the top of the Huffington Post article, Senator Schumer believes that and similar comparisons are “absurd” and “odious”. Why? Senator Schumer explains in the video:

The law Mr. Norquist refers, references in Nazi Germany was purely discriminatory. It targeted a particular race of people, the Jewish people, and punished them for nothing other than being Jewish and exercised freedom of movement. It was meant to constrain that freedom by forcing Jews to reside inside Germany. Our proposal targets no single race, creed or class. It doesn’t punish you for factors beyond your control, like who your parents were. It applies based on actions you take, namely disowning the United Stated to avoid taxes. Our law is not triggered by a wish to travel beyond America’s borders, or even reside permanently in a foreign country. It’s the act of renouncing one’s U.S. citizenship for the purpose of avoiding taxes that triggers our bill.

Don’t be so sure. According to the Wikipedia page about the German law:

The Reichsfluchtsteuer (“Reich Flight Tax”) was a capital control law implemented in order to stem capital flight from the Weimar Republic. The law was created through decree on 8 December 1931 as part of the “Fourth Decree of the Reich President on the Protection of the Economy and Finance and on the Defense of Civil Peace” (“Vierten [Not-]Verordnung des Reichspräsidenten zur Sicherung von Wirtschaft und Finanzen und zum Schutze des inneren Friedens”), as published in the Reichsgesetzblatt 1931 I, pp. 699-745. The Reichsfluchtsteuer was assessed upon departure from the individual’s German domicile, provided that the individual had assets exceeding 200,000 RM or had a yearly income over 20,000 RM. The tax rate was set at 25 percent.

During the Third Reich, the use of the Reichsfluchtsteuer shifted away from dissuading wealthy citizens from moving overseas. Rather, the departure of Jewish citizens was desired and permitted by the Nazi government — even after the Invasion of Poland — until a decree from Heinrich Himmler forbade Jewish emigration on 23 October 1941. The Reichsfluchtsteuer was used as a “partial expropriation” of the assets of Jewish refugees who were persecuted and driven to flee their homeland.

In other words, the German law was initially passed before the Nazis came to power and, at least initially, targeted people of wealth rather than race.

Senator Schumer also goes on to say

I know a thing or two about what the Nazis did. Some of my relatives were killed by them. And saying that a person who made their fortune specifically because of the positive elements in American society, in turn, has a responsibility to do right by America is not even on the same planet as comparing to what Nazis did to Jews.

Basically Senator Schumer is trying to claim his proposed legislation is nothing like the Reichsfluchtsteuer because he is not doing what the Nazis did to he Jews. Yes, no one is claiming Senator Schumer or Senator Bob Casey (the cosponsor of the bill) are out to kill people who are renouncing their U.S. citizenship. That does not mean, however, that the proposed legislation bears no resemblance to the Reichsfluchtsteuer. And the fact that Senators Schumer and Casey are being more egalitarian in who they seek to punish does not mean this law is patriotic or a good idea.

But the good senator was not finished. In the video he also says:

Mr. Saverin is, in essence, an economic tax dodger. And once upon a time, the right-wing castigated draft dodgers for failing to heed their nation’s call. Those who fled the country were vilified as cowards, as self-absorbed traitors. Yet in this case, the same exact kind of unpatriotic, un-American behavior is actually being defended by the right-wing. It’s off the deep end.

Wow. Several objections immediately come to mind. The left once lauded draft dodgers. They also have tended to disprove of criticism of draft dodgers. And no, a person renouncing U.S. citizenship to avoid taxes (if that was Mr. Saverin’s intent) is not exactly like avoiding conscription by leaving the country. Obviously just leaving the country is not the same as renouncing U.S. citizenship. What is telling in this is that the senator wants to equate conscription, something we stopped doing in the U.S., with his notion that people who are economically successful in the U.S. automatically owe the U.S. government anything the U.S. government says they do. Which is does not put a favorable light on the proposed legislation.

But wait, there’s more.

According to the article:

Schumer added that he found it troubling that conservatives would lionize someone like Saverin, who was called an American hero on Forbes’ website.

“Can you believe it? An American hero? Renouncing your citizenship now qualifies as heroic for the hard right wing?” Schumer said.

[…]

“This has gone so far, this idolatry they have taken to such an extreme end, [that] they make Eduardo Saverin into their patron saint,” Schumer said. “In the name of low taxes for the wealthy, they have lionized an inherently unpatriotic person.”

“It is scary. It is a scary, absurd place where even a tax dodger who renounces America for his own 30 pieces of silver is celebrated as a patriot and an American hero. It is perverse,” said the senator. “I am appalled by making heroic a man who renounces citizenship to escape a tax rate of capital gains of 15 percent.”

Whoa there, senator. You are the one clearly going off the deep end. Thirty pieces of silver? What is scary is a U.S. senator trying to equate Mr. Saverin’s renunciation of U.S. citizenship with the betrayal of Jesus. People should be appalled by the senator’s serious lack of perspective. His comments are absurd and border on the asinine.

Mr. Saverin dropping his U.S. citizenship (for which he turned in the paper work in January of 2011 let us not forget) is not a betrayal. The man will still be paying taxes to the U.S. government. That Senators Schumer and Casey are having a hissy fit over the fact that Mr. Saverin managed to escape merely the capital gains tax is ridiculous. And if Mr. Saverin renounced his U.S. citizenship to avoid taxes, I wish he would take this opportunity to throw this back in the faces of the senators and claim his expatriation as a protest against unfair taxation. Which would be a protest with a great American tradition. (Boston Tea Party ring any bells?)

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