Residents of Washington D. C. have no representation in Congress but must pay Federal taxes. United States persons abroad may vote–Doesn’t that make the folks in Washington the greater victims of the injustice of “taxation without representation”?
I got wind of some complaints about my claim that US persons abroad are victims of taxation without representation. I am told basically that US persons abroad can vote for a representative–“It’s mainly people like me, who live in DC, who have ‘taxation without representation'”, opined someone to me in an e-mail. Furthermore, there are apparently lawyers and other residents of the United States who don’t accept my belief that the extraterritorial taxation of US persons abroad is without representation, though no one has yet bothered to refute the points of my arguments (here and here).
As for Washington, The U.S. Supreme Court has determined that the taxation of residents of D. C. is constitutional; Chief Justice Marshall wrote:
The difference between requiring a continent with an immense population to submit to be taxed by a government having no common interest with it, separated from it by a vast ocean, restrained by no principle of apportionment, and associated with it by no common feelings, and permitting the representatives of the American people, under the restrictions of our Constitution, to tax a part of the society which is either in a state of infancy advancing to manhood, looking forward to complete equality so soon as that state of manhood shall be attained, as is the case with the territories, or which has voluntarily relinquished the right of representation and has adopted the whole body of Congress for its legitimate government, as is the case with the District, is too obvious not to present itself to the minds of all. Although in theory it might be more congenial to the spirit of our institutions to admit a representative from the District, it may be doubted whether, in fact, its interests would be rendered thereby the more secure, and certainly the Constitution does not consider their want of a representative in Congress as exempting it from equal taxation.
While it is regrettable that D. C. residents have no representative, it is nevertheless mitigated by several circumstances: (1) The residents of D. C. benefit from the Federal taxes in general as most of the jobs in the city are there either to serve the Federal government or to serve those who serve the Federal government. More than any other place in the United States, these residents benefit from the Federal government expenditures, so it would be too ironic for them to complain that they have taxation without representation. (2) The U.S. Constitution provides for the creation of the D. C. and therefore created a place whose residents did not benefit from representation. (3) Most residents of D. C. could live outside in one of the border states and commute to their jobs. Of course, then they would have to pay state taxes (but we are digressing). (4) The residents of D. C. are in no wise ineligible for the the social benefits of the federal government (welfare, food stamps, etc.).
Actually, the Internal Revenue Code (§ 7701) treats United States persons abroad as residents of Washington D.C.:
(39) Persons residing outside United StatesIf any citizen or resident of the United States does not reside in (and is not found in) any United States judicial district, such citizen or resident shall be treated as residing in the District of Columbia for purposes of any provision of this title [i.e. title 26 the Internal Revenue Code] relating to—(A) jurisdiction of courts, or(B) enforcement of summons.
To be precise: the Canadians rescued 6 American embassy staffers that had escaped capture by the Iranians. The remaining 52 hostages who had been held for 444 days were released on the first day of Ronald Reagan’s presidency after months of negotiations between the US and Iran.
Correct, foxyladyhawk. My main point was that this hostage crisis was illustrative of the fact that America cannot just “rush” in an rescue its citizens when there is trouble. When they needed to be able to perform a rescue they couldn’t even rescue their own diplomats.
Poor Daniel Pearl couldn’t be helped by the Americans and he was even held hostage and killed in a country, Pakistan, that is suppose to be a U.S. ally – http://articles.cnn.com/2002-02-21/world/missing.reporter_1_pakistani-province-pakistani-men-pakistani-officials?_s=PM:asiapcf.
As is often the case when there is a cult of hero worship there is a yawning gap between what the U.S. military can actually do and what popular myth and institutional self promotion believes they can do.
Just being an American is actually enough to get you in trouble so when it comes to international travel it is often wise to keep your mouth shut and carry different nation’s passport.
This link has a list terrorist attacks since 1920, where Americans have been targeted.
Even the successful raid last year that killed Osama Bin Laden suffered the malfunction of an expensive stealth helicopter which almost doomed the operation. The Americans can also give partial credit for their success to an inept Pakistani military force.
All US citizens have the right to vote in federal elections regardless of where they live. States, however, have been a bit lax in complying with this so they passed the MOVE act in 2009 to make it easier. That said it’s still a mess with people abroad having to request and re-request absentee ballots every year.
And, of course, this doesn’t address the issue of effective representation. I live in France and have been expatriated with my French husband to other parts of the world and the French diaspora has actual representatives in the Assemblee (http://www.expatries.senat.fr/) and a minister who goes around and visits the various French expat communities from time to time. As an American emigrant I can only look on this with envy and this horrible sense that when I left the US my country ceased to have any interest in me whatsoever except as a potential cash cow. They can come up with all kinds of arguments telling me that I shouldn’t feel that way but I do and it makes me so damn sad.
We are simply a cash cow. The government spends no money on us, you can’t count embassies and counslates because they aren’t there for specifically to serve U.S. citizens but rather to serve business and national interests. Nor can you say that we should pay for them because they serve us. Over half of resident Americans don’t pay any income taxes whatsoever and yet this does not bar them from receiving any government services. Rather it sometimes does just the opposite by entitling them to more government services.
One thing that you don’t point out is that even though the French government goes abroad and speaks to its expat community is whether or not the French government believes that this action gives it the right to demand taxes from their expats? It would be interesting to know the answer to that question.
To answer the question about France my sense is “no” – they don’t expect taxes from their expats. I base this on my experience in Tokyo when I was expatriated with my French husband. He only paid French taxes on what was in France and Japanese taxes on what was in Japan. I wish it were that simple for me 🙂 Early last year I delved into the French system of representation for its expats and was quite jealous. I remember the French Embassy personnel in Tokyo to be very helpful and my husband got all sort of help including voting assistance. So I looked into it and wrote this short piece http://thefranco-americanflophouse.blogspot.com/2011/10/representation-for-overseas-citizens.html
If you follow one of the links you will be taken to a video with the Senator Christian Cointat. In this video “il donne son point de vue et expose sa conception de la représentation des Français établis hors de France. S’il est favorable à la contribution de tout citoyen au budget de l’Etat français, il réaffirme son attachement au principe de non double imposition des Français expatriés.”
(He gives his point of view and his take on the representation of French citizens abroad. If he is favorable to the idea that all citizens must contribute to the state budget, he reaffirms his attachment to the principle of not double-taxing expatriate French citizens.)
Have a look – its’ worth watching.
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As far as my foreign earned dollars funding the many services the US government provides for us as non-residents:
On the subject of evacuation,
“Departure assistance is expensive. U.S. law 22 U.S.C. 2671(b) (2) (A) requires that any departure assistance be provided “on a reimbursable basis to the maximum extent practicable.” This means that evacuation costs are ultimately your responsibility; you will be asked to sign a form promising to repay the U.S. government. We charge you the equivalent of a full coach fare on commercial air at the time that commercial options cease to be a viable option. You will be taken to a nearby safe location, where the traveler will need to make his or her own onward travel arrangements. If you are destitute, and private resources are not available to cover the cost of onward travel, you may be eligible for emergency financial assistance.”
And services provided by our consulates or embassies? I don’t recall any service I’ve received from them that I didn’t have to pay for. In fact, their final kick in my ass will cost me $450, the cost of freedom from the land of the free.
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