New Tax Law Chases Americans Away
By Jeff D. Opdyke, Editor of Profit Seeker
Dear Sovereign Investor,
How do you divorce your country?
I don’t mean the physical process of renouncing your citizenship to live the life of an expatriate. That’s simple enough; just a bunch of bureaucratic paperwork. No, I mean the emotional process of severing ties with the nation that bore you, that raised you up, that provided you the opportunity to succeed.
Expatriation happens all the time, all over the world, every day. And I understand the universal rationale — people following their dreams of a better life somewhere other than the country stamped on their passport. Most commonly, that’s people from foreign lands, roughly 1.1 million a year, flocking to America. Because as I’m routinely told on my trips abroad, America still maintains its image — however anachronistic — as the shining beacon on the hill, where the greatest symbol of freedom beseeches the world: “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me; I lift my lamp beside the golden door.”
But when the flow reverses noticeably, when Americans feeling tempest-tossed themselves are heading out through the “in” door, you’re left with my initial question: How do you divorce your country?
Between January and March of this year, a record 1,001 Americans terminated their relationship with America. They divorced their country.
Their reasons are varied. Some married a foreign national and decided to make a new life in the spouse’s homeland. Some are — or, were — hyphenated-Americans going home again for family or, given the booming economies in emerging nations, to pursue greater opportunities in faster-growing markets.
But many quit America because they feel America has quit them.
And I have to imagine they made their choice with the same sense of ambivalence I feel toward expatriation: Love of country, but hatred of how politicians, lobbyists and the legal system are warping or simply eradicating the ideals that made her so great.
People I know — people I’ve talked to many times — will say the solution is to vote those politicians out. That’s naïve. You can dress a donkey to look like a show pony, but it’s still an ass underneath — by which I mean that the American political culture is now so corrupted by money and influence that changing political flavors does nothing to alter the underlying reality of America’s political decay. It’s that decay that’s leading increasing numbers of Americans to abandon America.
We’re now at a run-rate that will see more than 4,000 Americans relinquish their U.S. citizenship — and that dramatically undercounts the real number. Certain types of expatriations, ones in which the expat is not required to file exit-tax forms, aren’t reported. Given that the exit tax kicks in when net worth tops $2 million, or average annual income exceeds $155,000 for five years running, it’s easy to see how the real number of expats is higher than the official numbers indicate.
Rise of the American Expatriate
Those escaping America for political reasons are a unique version of refugee — the American refugee. They’re fleeing because of financial persecution — or, at least, fears of its impending emergence. There’s no developed country in the world quite as desperate financially as our own. By now, we all know about the $17 trillion in debt, and the $125 trillion in on- and off-balance-sheet obligations that are of such enormity that the International Monetary Fund sees no way for that debt to go away through normal measures of economic growth or taxation. It — along with a growing chorus of other voices — sees some form of wealth confiscation as the only viable option.
Expats are seeking divorce because they sense this option is all that America really has left. When it will be executed, no one knows. But the expats are the visionaries. They see a dismal future for their wealth — potentially even society — here at home. They see government moves such as America’s taxation on global wealth or the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA) as desperate moves by a desperate government groping for any cash to keep the beast fed until the beast’s own gluttony brings about a violent death.
So, how do you divorce your country?
Reluctantly? With heavy heart? With a melancholy sense of fait accompli, begrudgingly accepting that our future has already been cast and that, while this situation will change in the future — possibly though a violent separation of the union — we are powerless in the near term to change anything of importance?
The 1,001 new expats are sending us a message: As frustrated, angry, sad Americans, we have just two honest choices: Stay and try to arrange our lives as best we can to protect our family and our wealth from the ravages so clearly on the horizon … or pack up our memories, divorce our country and pump a little Green Day into your earbuds as we jet off to a new homeland … I hope you had the time of your life.
Until next time, stay Sovereign …
Jeff D. Opdyke
Editor, Profit Seeker
The Sovereign Investor Daily
55 NE 5th Avenue, Suite 200
Delray Beach, FL 33483
Income Inequality Institute Will Pay Paul Krugman $25,000 Per Month
In late February, the City University of New York announced that it had tapped Princeton economist and New York Times blogger Paul Krugman for a distinguished professorship at CUNY’s Graduate Center and its Luxembourg Income Study Center, a research arm devoted to studying income patterns and their effect on inequality.
About that. According to a formal offer letter obtained under New York’s Freedom of Information Law, CUNY intends to pay Krugman $225,000, or $25,000 per month (over two semesters), to “play a modest role in our public events” and “contribute to the build-up” of a new “inequality initiative.” It is not clear, and neither CUNY nor Krugman was able to explain, what “contribute to the build-up” entails.
It’s certainly not teaching. “You will not be expected to teach or supervise students,” the letter informs Professor Krugman, who replies: “I admit that I had to read it several times to be clear … it’s remarkably generous.” (After his first year, Krugman will be required to host a single seminar.)
CUNY, which is publicly funded, pays adjunct professors approximately $3,000 per course. The annual salaries of tenured (but undistinguished) professors, meanwhile, top out at $116,364, according to the most recent salary schedule negotiated by the university system’s faculty union. And those professors are expected to teach and publish. Even David Petraeus, whom CUNY initially offered $150,000, conducted a weekly 3-hour seminar.
Along with the offer letter, CUNY released dozens of emails between Krugman and university officials. “Perhaps I’m being premature or forward,” the Graduate Center’s President, Chase Robinson, tells Krugman in one of them, “but I wanted you to have no doubt that we can provide not just a platform for public interventions and a stimulating academic community—especially, as you will know, because of our investments in the study of inequality—but also a relatively comfortable perch.”
Which is undeniably true: $225,000 is more than quadruple New York City’s median household income.
Krugman did not respond to requests for comment. When contacted, a CUNY spokesperson told Gawker, “We’ll get back to you by early next week.”
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