By Elizabeth Gonzalez
April 21, 2012
For the last year, I have been following the blog of an Expat living in the Deep South from Hungry. I had originally planned to write an expose´ about how expats come here to the United States, be it by marrying an American woman or man or due to better employment opportunities – not to mention better living conditions in some instances. However, I realized like the good blogger I used to be that I just could not write my opinions based on one expats distorted views of the United States or Americans. After all, she learned very quickly that in America, we have the freedom to speak our minds and she was quick to remind her readers that her opinions were not up for debate. I found it rather arrogant, but at the same time, I understood that many American’s have that very same attitude, so, I dropped the issue I had with it. It just was not worth going there.
To continue, I began exploring my options and decided I would research expats and their views and how this is affecting Americans and the United States as a whole. I found that there was a lot of positive information in this arena. Expats from around the world founded a blog, Expat Blog, where unlike the woman I speak of above - come together to share their positive experiences and try to help enrich other peoples experiences be it here in the United States or abroad.
Now to the juicy side of all this – what I did not expect to come across or find was the increasing number of American expats that have given up their American citizenship. This really should not have shocked me, but to be honest with you all, it really did. I have always been a realist and I have never denied that the United States has undeniable problems systemically Obama or no Obama. Nevertheless, having lived abroad myself - I enjoyed it immensely by the way - still I would never dream of ever giving up my American citizenship. No matter how bad it is stateside, this just never entered my mind, but apparently, it has entered the minds of many American expats. According to an article written in New York Times by author Brian Knowlton, “Amid mounting frustration over taxation and banking problems, small but growing numbers of overseas Americans are taking the weighty step of renouncing their citizenship.
“What we have seen is a substantial change in mentality among the overseas community in the past two years,” said Jackie Bugnion, director of American Citizens Abroad, an advocacy group based in Geneva. “Before, no one would dare mention to other Americans that they were even thinking of renouncing their U.S. nationality. Now, it is an openly discussed issue.”
The Federal Register, the government publication that records such decisions, shows that 502 expatriates gave up their U.S. citizenship or permanent residency status in the last quarter of 2009. That is a tiny portion of the 5.2 million Americans estimated by the State Department to be living abroad.” (Knowlton, 2010)
It may be tiny a number of Americans defecting by comparison to other American’s living abroad, but it is still disturbing to say the least. Most foreigners come to America because this is where they can work their way up from poverty to by most standards a well-developed standard of living middle-class to upper-middle class. Many of these expats receive government loans most Americans are not entitled to because these loans and gratitude’s are meant for the exapts only. There are many in roads for foreigners in this nation to make their way and bypass a lot of the hard work many American’s put in on a daily basis just to make ends meet. Nothing in this life is fair, not even our government – so it is what it is.
However, are taxes the sole reason one would give up their citizenry? I do not believe so and neither does Knowles who notes, “The Americans Abroad Caucus, headed by Representative Carolyn B. Maloney, Democrat of New York, and Representative Joe Wilson, Republican of South Carolina, has made repeated entreaties to the Treasury Department.
In response, Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner wrote Ms. Maloney on Feb. 24 that “nothing in U.S. financial law and regulation should make it impossible for Americans living abroad to access financial services here in the United States.”
But banks, Treasury officials note, are free to ignore that advice.
“That Americans living overseas are being denied banking services in U.S. banks, and increasingly in foreign banks, is unacceptable,” Ms. Maloney said in a letter Friday to leaders of the House Financial Services Committee, requesting a hearing on the question.” (Knowlton, 2010)
As always, everything at the end of the day comes down to money. People are obsessed with their pocket books and bank accounts. People who do not have money worry about money and the people who do have money also worry about money. Money, money, money…remember that song by the O’Jays? “For the Love of Money”…and so it continues, “Some people got to have it, Hey, Hey, Hey - some people really need it…” and for money, many an expat gives up citizenship to the only nation in the world that gave them the right to complain about never having enough? Like my Jewish mama, Honey, used to say when she was alive, “Ouy!”
I never cease to be amazed by my fellow citizens and those expats that have drifted away from American values because they believe the grass is greener on the other side. I wish it were really greener on the other side, because I would be the first one to be there, but not without my citizenship. No expat here!
Expat Blog. (2012). The latest articles in the participative living abroad guide. Retrieved on April 20, 2012 from, http://www.expat-blog.com/
Knowlton, B. (April 25, 2010). More American Expatriates Give Up Citizenship. Retrieved on April 20, 2012 from, http://www.nytimes.com/2010/04/26/us/26expat.html?_r=1
The 70’s Project. (N.D.) Lyrics For The Love Of Money Ojays. Retrieved on April 20, 2012 from, http://www.the70sproject.com/lyrics/song-lyrics.php?song=for-love-of-money- ojays