Lynnley Browning (Twitter: @LynnleyBrowning) brings us the two-and-a-half-month old news that songwriter Denise Rich, the ex-wife of Marc Rich, had her name published in the Federal Register back in April due to her renunciation of U.S. citizenship in November 2011. Her editors at Reuters seem to have decided that a neutral statement of the aforesaid fact wasn’t good enough for the headline, so they pushed it out over the wires it as the inflammatory “Socialite Denise Rich dumps U.S. passport”. The story has also been picked up by HuffPost and MSNBC.
It seems that Denise Rich indeed put down the US$450 and renounced rather than relinquished U.S. citizenship; she didn’t acquire any new passports or government jobs recently, and she probably learned a thing or two from her ex-husband’s failed attempts back in the 1980s and 1990s to argue that he had relinquished U.S. citizenship by naturalising in Spain.
The article features the same old U.S. mainstream media sensationalism about renunciation we’ve all come to
love hate love: a Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous-style recounting of the renunciant’s possessions and travels, every item of dirt that can be dug up about the renunciant’s financial situation, and a description of the renunciant as part of a “wave of wealthy people” who “leave” the U.S. — even though no public figures are available about the financial situations of the former citizens and green card holders, or about the timing of their departure from the U.S. relative to their relinquishment or renunciation of U.S. Personhood. But this article has something new, too — this item of hilarious spin on the U.S. tax system:
While Austria, like the United States, generally taxes its citizens on their worldwide income, it has generous tax breaks for citizens who spend half the year abroad.
Of course, Austria — like every other civilised country on earth — taxes people who live or invest there, and doesn’t tax people who don’t live or invest there. Describing the non-taxation of people who don’t live or invest in your country as “a generous tax break” is an amusing new way of trying to justify the U.S.’ citizenship-based taxation system, so I’m sure we’ll be seeing that line repeated in the American media in the future.
And finally, when reading the news these days, you have to go one step beyond looking at the truth or falsehood of the statements in the story itself, and ask: why this story? Why now? Denise Rich’s name was published in the April 30th “name-and-shame” list, alongside Eduardo Saverin. It took Bloomberg Businessweek a grand total of ten days to notice, fact-check, and publish the Saverin story, and another week for the demagogues to introduce their
Allow Schumer to Sermonize and Harangue on American Television Act Expatriation Prevention by Blah Blah Blah Act in response. What took Reuters seven times as long? Perhaps it just took that long to get Rich’s spokesperson to return phone calls?
Coincidentally, the story about Denise Rich comes out just as interest in the last Evil Unpatriotic Tax Cheat has died down. The number of people viewing Eduardo Saverin’s Wikipedia article has fallen from 40,000 people per day at the height of the frenzy in mid-May down to just one-fifth that number. Similarly, traffic to Ex-PATRIOT Act article dropped by almost the same proportion, from 1,500 per day to a few hundred. Indeed, barely any noise has been heard all month about the Ex-PATRIOT Act. What better to put it back front and centre in front of American television viewers than a rerun of the events that led up to its introduction? (I guess it wasn’t an option to wait around another month as the IRS busts through its 30-day publication deadline for the second quarter list, which will no doubt have even more names both famous and utterly unknown in it).
Update: In the comments, Shadow Raider points out a gross error in Browning’s article which I hadn’t noticed:
Rich, who wrote songs recorded by Aretha Franklin, Mary J. Blige and Jessica Simpson, is the latest bold-faced name to join a wave of wealthy people renouncing their American citizenship. Facebook co-founder Eduardo Saverin gave up his U.S. passport to become a citizen of Singapore, an offshore tax haven, before the company’s initial public offering in May.
Apparently Reuters did not make use of the past two-and-a-half months to fact-check the snarky asides in this story. As even Wikipedia manages to get right, Saverin is a citizen of Brazil, not of Singapore, and he has explicitly stated to Singaporean media that he has no plans to become a Singaporean citizen. Naturalising in Singapore would require Saverin to give up his existing Brazilian passport, to make CPF contributions on his salary, and to send all his future sons off to Lee Kuan Yew’s army, so it’s unsurprising that he’s not interested in it — but Homelanders seem to have a very hard time grasping the fact that you do not have to be a citizen of the place where you live in, that other countries let foreigners live within their borders too, and that as a result people of other nationalities live all over the world outside of their respective countries of citizenship.