Homelanders are quick to cite the expense of maintaining U.S. embassies overseas as a “great service” provided to all us disloyal traitors living the high life abroad, and the primary reason why all of us tax evaders should shut up and quit whining about paying penalties of $13,000 in response to tax deficiencies of $21 per year.
Well, the State Department put up their 2014 budget a couple of weeks ago. As they emphasise in its introduction:
No investment matches the returns we collect on the down payment we make in our foreign policy. In fact, for just over one percent of our national budget – a single penny on the dollar – we fund our civilian foreign affairs efforts: every embassy, every consulate, and the programs and people that carry out our missions
How much of the $2.8 billion consular services portion of that budget is planned to be spent on “American Citizens Services”? Answer: $8.6 million.
At page 68, we get the detailed breakdown. I’ve selected the most amusing ones:
|Consular Operations||FY 2012 Estimate||FY 2013 CR (1)||FY 2014 Submission||Increase/Decrease from FY 2012|
|Overseas Building Operations (OBO)||205,395||205,395||161,824||(43,571)|
|American Citizens Services||7,639||7,639||8,582||943|
|Repatriation Loans (Repat)||–||–||737||737|
|Total Consular Spending||2,498,821||2,498,821||2,771,691||272,870|
Even after a huge cut in spending on consulate construction, U.S. spending on services to citizens abroad (even including repatriation loans, which are likely far more often made to clueless Homelanders who have got themselves in trouble in a country where they don’t speak the language than to actual emigrants, who do speak the languages of the place where they live and can rely on local government support) is outstripped more than seventeen times by expenditures on building imperial fortresses in places like Iraq and Afghanistan where there are almost no U.S. civilians. This should make it obvious: the purpose of the State Department is not to help the diaspora, but to advance the military and commercial interests of the Homeland.
You might think that the amount spent on passports is a big example of a service to Americans abroad. But as the State Department’s own figures make clear, 13 million passports are issued each year. There’s perhaps 6 million Americans residing abroad, passport validity is ten years (meaning that you’d expect only around six hundred thousand Americans abroad to be renewing U.S. passports in any given year), and many citizens abroad are dual citizens and far prefer to use their other, lower-profile passport. (As the joke goes, no terrorist has ever hijacked an airplane and threatened to shoot all the Uruguayans.) So out of the $250 million spent on passport services, perhaps $10 million actually benefits Americans abroad — but of course, we pay for that through the nose with fees for passports and even more fees for adding pages.
To put that ACS spending number in further perspective, it’s one-four-hundred-thousandths of the projected $3.77 trillion 2014 Federal budget. Thanks for all the services!
Overall I appreciate the services of our local US consulate. This however is tempered a bit when USC’s get treated like children and herded, scolded, or commanded by a bunch of local guards who can barely speak English. Maybe they can use some of that penalty money to give some local Americans the work, rather than get off cheap by hiring locally.
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I have a question about the officials that oversee expatriations: are they paid for under “passport services”? Or does the $450 renunciation cover their expenses?
To an expat, United States citizenship is worth less than a bucket of warm spit.
I don’t think US citizenship-based tax policy is even intended to provide services to non-residents in return for taxation. Instead, it’s a way of exploiting expat citizens by making them pay annually to renew their options-to-return to that World’s Greatest Country :). Those options, plus bragging rights of US citizenship, are about all that citizenship-based tax-reporting really buys for non-residents. For many expats the cost has become too high.
Additional perspective: U.S. spends more than twice as much on Hamid Karzai’s slush funds as on State Department ACS budget
I wonder if those “some relatives” included ex-U.S. citizen Mahmud Karzai, or any of the other ex-U.S. citizens in the Afghan government (like all three of their ambassadors to Washington since 2002: Ishaq Shahryar, Said Jawad, and Eklil Hakimi whose name never appeared in the Federal Register and was only revealed as an ex-American thanks to Wikileaks),
As I’ve written before, not only are consular services an insignificant part of the US budget, but they are paid by fees, not taxes. The Bureau of Consular Affairs itself declares that it “is almost entirely fee funded“. And the Department of State’s financial report (pages 116 and 119) confirms that Consular Affairs earns slightly more revenue from fees than its cost of operation.
@AnonAnon, agreed. The US government figures that Americans living abroad are grateful and feel lucky that they are allowed to pay for US citizenship with an annual subscription fee.
State spent US$630,000 on Facebook likes since March 2011
To put that in perspective, they spend about $1 per overseas American per year on “American Citizens Services”
More “great embassy services”! $400,000 for a statue of a camel at the $700 million U.S. embassy in Islamabad
On top of another $1 million for a pile of granite blocks at the U.S. embassy in London:
American embassy services in Moscow during the 1930s:
And who can really blame them for not being able to do any better? It’s plain old reality: the embassy cannot protect you from the government of your host country, least of all when it knows that the US government is not powerful enough to use violent retaliation in order to protect you.
But of course I’m sure most Homelanders will read this same BBC anecdote and think nothing more than “serves those damn commies right!”
Breaking news: State Department repeals regulations that are 37 years out of date
(As you can tell, it’s that time of the year where I start reading the Federal Register more closely again. Always lots of hilarious stories from the U.S. Government. Some of them are even true!)
Are those great embassy services a little less great than you expected? Too bad for you! Seems like there was lots of stuff like this in the Carter-era Foreign Relations Authorizations Acts, making the government more powerful & less accountable. E.g. the FRAA for the following year extended to peacetime the formerly-wartime-only requirement that all US citizens must bear a US passport when entering the US:
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State Department building billion-dollar palaces for themselves:
While screwing us with $2350 protection fees for exercising what their own laws say is a fundamental right
and then there’s this: