In looking back to President Carter’s amnesty of Viet Nam War draft dodgers, I have a profound sense that he made the right decision. His presidential pardon set free hundreds of thousands from the fear of prosecution. Andrew Glass at the Politico wrote the following:
For its part, the U.S. government continued to prosecute draft evaders after the Vietnam War ended. A total of 209,517 men were accused of violating draft laws, while another 360,000 were never formally charged.
Those who had fled to Canada faced prison sentences if they chose to return home. In the end, an estimated 50,000 draft dodgers settled permanently in Canada.
President Carter’s pardon meant that the United States could move on after a most regrettable episode. There was never national unity with regard to the Viet Nam War. So many young men died, only for the United States to retreat and for the Viet Cong to take Saigon. A few years ago, I walked along the Viet Nam War Memorial and saw name after name of those who died–only to sense deep sadness and despair that they died for a mission that ultimately failed–and millions died in South Asia. Then, the United States was in danger of criminalizing 500,000 more and continuing a fight that divided us. President Carter put an end to it, and these young men, who protested and dodged the draft, could enter back into the mainstream, and life could move forward once again in America. It was a rare moment of reconciliation. Bravo President Carter!
So the young men could return home. They could get jobs, and they could marry and have families. For once, we did not sacrifice our own people and waste so much effort trying to enforce laws that in retrospective no longer made any sense. What if President Carter hadn’t extended the pardon? The United States would have remained divided, billions would have been spent prosecuting and defending these young men, and the country would be much worse off today as a result.
Once again, there is a need for national reconciliation. America, you have criminalized your citizens abroad. Your IRS has threatened them with 5 years in prison and with fines that could exceed 600% of their financial wealth. But for what? For doing what all people in free countries do–for opening up bank accounts and saving and investing their money. That is no crime. But the failure to report these accounts, according to an ill-conceived and ineffective part of the Bank Secrecy Act, is a crime. But so few of us knew of the requirement, and besides, FBAR is a violation of our Constitutional right of privacy (Fourth Amendment) and an unjust burden to place upon the backs of a free people.
How many people are now afraid for their future? An estimated six million “Americans” live outside the United States. Because of this nightmare, many have become haters of their America, ashamed to have been born in America or to have American parents. Many have renounced their US citizenship to escape; many others are contemplating the option. United States citizenship is now toxic, a problem to be solved, not an asset but a liability. There is as many as 1 million people in Canada who are affected by this madness. Everyone of them has relatives and friends who agree with them not with you. Your extra-territorial tax grab and FBAR insanity will not help Canada-USA relations, two countries which have been at peace for two hundred years to the mutual benefit of both. Why jeopardize that long-standing peace? So it is time to make it right and to try, if possible, to restore your credibility in the world.
So Mr. President of the United States of America, here is what you can do to make it right. The US constitution gives you this power. You can cut through all the bureaucratic nightmare called FBAR and all the Kafkaesque filing requirements, and just simply extend a universal FBAR pardon to all United States persons overseas (and while your at it, pardon the residents of the United States from other countries who are caught up in this same nightmare). This is quickest and safest solution to the injustice that your bureaucracies have created, with grannies in Canada (to whom your Ambassador has already promised relief), disabled children, and normal working class people whose savings are now the object of your government’s greed.
The presidential pardon would be a good start. But if you really want to fix things, here is my list of other chores, to work towards after the presidential pardon:
(1) Fire the incompetents: Timothy Geithner, Secretary of Treasury and Douglas Shulman, Commissioner of the IRS. Someone has to take the fall. The Tax Advocate Service has already sanctioned the FBAR policy of these two men.
(2) Return the FBAR fines that you have exacted from innocent Americans living abroad and pay their lawyer fees and their accountant fees that they had to pay to protect themselves from you.
(3) Repeal FATCA, FBAR, extra-territorial taxation, and the exit taxes for those wishing to expatriate.
(4) Offer citizenship back to those who have relinquished their citizenship to escape your tyranny and return the $450 that you have charged them for renouncing.
If you fail to do these steps as I have laid out to you, you will lose many of these Americans and their descendants forever. You have made us your enemies. If you want us and our good will back, you must now woo us. We were once your mission in the world; we were once your ambassadors of good will, bragging to the world how great you were. But you have bashed us, unjustly calling us tax cheats and telling us to come clean. We have only intense indignation at this treatment. ”Heav’n has no Rage, like Love to Hatred turn’d, Nor Hell a Fury, like a Woman scorn’d.”
“When you gonna wake up and strengthen the things that remain?”
Addendum: poems cited
As you’ll answer it, take heed
This Slave commit no Violence upon
Himself. I’ve been deceiv’d. The Publick Safety
Requires he should be more confin’d; and none,
No not the Princes self, permitted to
Confer with him. I’ll quit you to the King.
Vile and ingrate! too late thou shalt repent
The base Injustice thou hast done my Love:
Yes, thou shalt know, spite of thy past Distress,
And all those Ills which thou so long hast mourn’d;
Heav’n has no Rage, like Love to Hatred turn’d,
Nor Hell a Fury, like a Woman scorn’d.
You got innocent men in jail, your insane asylums are filled
You got unrighteous doctors dealing drugs that’ll never cure your ills.
When you gonna wake up, when you gonna wake up
When you gonna wake up strengthen the things that remain ?
(cf. Revelation 3.2)