There were some excellent comments on this post and I encourage you to read them. One of the latest is a story that is more common than many know: a former American married to a foreign national who is a stay-at-home mother. Her choice came down to her marriage/family or her citizenship. Honestly I would make the same choice: there is nothing more precious and irreplaceable than one's family, one's health and one's peace of mind.
To those who react rather bitterly to U.S. citizens who have renounced and those who are thinking about it, I have to ask them what they would do in the same situation? Given a choice between U.S. nationality (and that pretty blue passport) or your spouse and children, which one would you give up?
Homeland Americans, I and many other Americans abroad are waiting to hear your answer.
In her comment, this former American asked a very good question:
Would the Schumer amendment apply to people who have renounced in the past, or only those going forward. What if the person becomes "covered" at one point in their life ( or if they lower the limit, if the dollar crashed, etc...)
Can the Schumer amendment be applied retroactively to those who "got out before"? And can they re-evaluate your covered status later in your life?
This is something that has us all scared. We've seen three attempts already to exile the expatriates: the Reed Amendment, the Ex-Patriot Act and now the Reed-Schumer Amendment. Remember, folks, that the first, the Reed Amendment, actually passed and is U.S. law. However the way it was written made it unenforceable so the law exists but there are no regulations to implement it. I believe that they will keep trying until they can make it stick. I speculate that if the number of renunciants skyrockets, they will succeed.
Could they make it retroactive? They could try. However, (and take this with a grain of salt because I am not a lawyer) for those who renounced or relinquished under the prevailing laws at the time, any attempt by the U.S. government to go back and punish them further would certainly go straight to the courts. And could you imagine the headlines if these people were denied entry into the U.S. to care for aging or sick family members? What if some of those homeland Americans with exiled sons and daughters end up as burdens on the American social welfare system? Something tells me that this would get everyone's attention. I honestly don't think they would go there. If anyone disagrees, please give me your take on it in the comments section.
In my original post I quoted Phil Hodgen. His blog is really extraordinary and well worth the read. This post, in particular, is very pertinent to our discussion: Why people expatriate? It's a sober, dispassionate look at how expatriation from the U.S. works and why people are doing it. He also offers his unvarnished opinion about where he thinks all this is going. Clearly, the messages that are coming from Washington are leading many of us to think it might be best to, "Get out while the going is semi-good". Hodgen concurs:
I expect the future to be more of the same. Expect the same exit tax rules, but more of them, and worse. Expect more expatriations. The floggings will continue until morale improves.
Can anything stop the trend? I don't know. Yes, it's discouraging to see American emigration framed entirely as a story about "evil rich tax evaders." On the other hand my impression is that the media in the U.S. is starting to pick up these stories and some are being reframed to introduce homeland Americans to the idea that people do give up U.S. citizenship for reasons that are related to the citizenship-based taxation/FATCA dilemma but not in the way most homelanders think it is.
Is that going to be enough? I don't think so. Fundamentally, I see the problem as one of recognition/legitimacy. Very few homeland Americans are aware that there 6-7 million of their compatriots living outside the U.S. Myths about us abound: we are only "temporarily" abroad, we always come "home" after a few years of fun, we are all rich, and so on. Those of us who are long-term residents of other countries are viewed with suspicion by homelanders by just about every group along the U.S. political spectrum, from the Right-wingers to the Progressives. What we need, in my humble opinion, is recognition that we are simply the U.S. "Domestic Abroad" - America's very own Diaspora. Look, living outside the U.S. doesn't make us any better or any worse than Americans in the homeland. We aren't necessarily smarter, skinnier, prettier, richer or happier than our counterparts in Wisconsin or Nevada. We're just people doing all the things that other Americans do - we're just not doing them on U.S. soil.
Americans on the East Coast of the U.S. are not punished if they move to California. So why punish Americans who want to move to Canada or Mexico or Europe or Asia? The former doesn't cause anyone to blink twice - the latter is subject to all kinds of judgements and misconceptions.
We have a serious PR problems, folks, and I'm open to any ideas about how to fix it.
Off to the garden to clear my head.