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
William Congreve, in The Mourning Bride, 1697
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)
Petros, this is comparing apples to oranges. Draft dodgers (maybe not all of them) made a *willful* decision to pick up and run to Canada. I assume most of them actually lived in America during that time.
People with FBAR issues are people who *unknowingly* didn’t declare the information. Technically, an American can still stuff money in an “undeclared” account to ANY country, but about 10.000x harder now than it was 10 years ago.
The only situation where you could possibly make a correlation to draft dogers and people with FBAR issues is if an American was high in the mountains of another country during the Vietnam war and he simply didn’t know about it. Is it his fault he didn’t know there was a war going on? I think there’s a big difference between willful action and simply not knowing.
Apples and oranges are both fruit, and in that respect they have a lot in common.
My main point of comparison is: A solution towards national unity to a nightmare can be found not in repeal of laws by Congress, but a presidential pardon.
I intentionally do not go into the points that you mention, which would not weaken my post, but strengthen it a fortiori. If a pardon was necessary for those who knowingly dodged the draft, how much more is it necessary to pardon those who violated an unjust law that no one knew about. The reason I did not do this is I am very aware that the Viet Nam War is a polarizing issue (within the ranks of the Isaac Brock Society itself), and I don’t want to get into Red Herring discussions about whether the draft dodgers really did commit a crime or not. Suffice it to say that the pardon was a national solution to a problem of the law enforcement that would have made things worse for America, if the Federal government had continued to pursue its policy of prosecutions.
Well, I can definitely say that I don’t agree with US Foreign Policy, which is yet another good reason to renounce. They didn’t like Vietnam, so they funded Pol Pot, who turned around and killed millions of people. Amazing!
Petros, I usually agree with you on most of your points but the one thing that I do take issue with is the idea of a “pardon”. Pardons are for those who commit crimes and I do not believe that by living outside of the U.S. and refusing to subject myself to double taxation that I have committed a crime. People from every country around the world do the very same thing that I have done and yet no one is prosecuting them. The only reason that I am being prosecuted is because America believes that it is “exceptional” and has the right to live above the rules that everyone else abides by. It is my most unfortunate circumstance to have been born in a country that feels it is at war with its citizens, and non-citizens, who refuse to live within its borders.
I do agree with you on the issue that the U.S. should compensate us for the expense and stress that we have undergone as a result of this unjust law. But it is for that very reason, compensation, that the U.S. will not admit that it is wrong. There is no way in the world that it wants to pay us for the harm that has been done to us financially and emotionally. Personally I wish that I could get back the money, lost sleep and the hours that I have spent on trying to comply with this stupidity.
The people in the U.S. population and the government must acknowledge that when it comes to expats filling out tax forms that the game is rigged. If as a result of filling out the form the expat should come to a negative value, meaning a refund owed, that you cannot fill in anything but “0” on the final line. This is because the U.S. government realizes that any refund owed is a pure fiction and they will not grant it since no actual taxes were ever paid directly to the IRS. What they won’t do though is to give full acknowledgement to for the taxes that we have paid to our country of residence. Instead all that they will give us is a partial credit and they won’t play ball with the tax allowances that we make use of in our countries of residence. The whole thing is rigged from start to finish with the U.S. always coming out the winner. This even though they provide us with not a single worthwhile service and neither do we ask for or need any services from them.
I see that the U.S. Navy has rescued some Iranian fisherman who were being held hostage by pirates. I wonder if they will send them a bill, like they want to send us, for their heroically rendered services?
I like very much your comment. Excellent words and true. However, I remain undaunted in my quest for a presidential pardon and the reason is simply this: government inertia. It is much easier for the President to cut through all the crap of the bureaucracy and the interpretations of the law, and just simply wave the magic wand provided by the United States constitution and say, “You are pardoned. We are not going to hold this stupid law against you.” That gets the stupid bureaucrats off our backs immediately, and we can get back to our lives.
“There is no way in the world that it wants to pay us for the harm that has been done to us financially and emotionally. Personally I wish that I could get back the money, lost sleep and the hours that I have spent on trying to comply with this stupidity.”
In civil law, damages may be awarded for “pain and suffering”. But still, it would be impossible to get back what is lost in terms of LCUs (Just Me refers to these), Life Credit Units.
That is a great comment recalcitrantexpat and reading your words I realized why, even though I have gone to great effort to comply, I still can’t sleep at night. Yes sir, the game is rigged and I will never ever win, will I?.
@recalcitrantexpat. Great comment. My sentiments indeed.
But you only cover 1 aspect, as an employee. If you have a *business*, then the filing requirements are about 100x worse. The business is in my father-in-law’s name for this reason. I already pay an accountant where I live; I don’t want to pay another, especially after hearing that “many tax professionals were unaware of the rules”.
Taxes paid in a foreign country are never considered, like the VATs that pay, which I think is a slap in the face. We are already paying much more than Americans, so why make it sooo difficult!
Those who went to Canada to oppose the war were exercising their right of dissent. A friend of mine took that step. After a discussion he decided that his conscience would not allow him to remain in the US. He made a brave and honourably decision, and I admire him for it. I returned to my military base and continued to serve in the USAF.
As my term of service was ending, I met another kind of draft-dodger, who used gimmicks to evade service. They were very pro-war, and profited greatly from the war, they wanted “stupid” folks like me to fight it for them, I applied to emmigrate to Canada, while still on active duty. When word got out that I was “going to Canada” which had a very negative meaning in the military, I was repeated asked to justify why a USAF captain could make such a decision (treason was often implied) Sadly many Americans see returning veterans as toxic citizens who might have a post-traumatic stess episode
Petros, a presidential pardon is a great idea, but how realistic is it? I have wondered if there was a way to get the message across to US lawmakers about the unnecessary and very real pain and suffering the laws of the country are causing millions of Americans living abroad. Unfortunately, I doubt it would generate much sympathy in the US even though the laws are discriminatory and generate real pain and suffering. Furthermore, interest groups like ACA and/or Congressmen representing Americans abroad have no real clout. So I wonder what kind of legal action could be take to change these laws, if any? Could some kind of suit be filed on behalf of the millions of Americans abroad? Something under the banner “taxation without representation.” Obviously, I’m no lawyer and have the slightest understanding of this could work.
Yes, I know–lots of questions, few answers.
coming to think of it, a whole lot of expat americans and immigrants voted for Obama.
@suresh- President Obama has been a huge disappointment when it comes to the protections of personal liberties. He never has closed Gitmo, as he fervently promised to do when he was running for office. He has signed the NDAA act even though he said that he would not do so, because of its denial of constitutional rights to Americans. He wasn’t out front in opposing SOPA. And in the end he only ended up removing American troops from Iraq, because he couldn’t come to agreement with the Iraqi government, over the issue of liability. Not exactly a principled decision.
If anything is ever going to be done to bring justice to Americans abroad it will have to probably come as a result of one of us moving back to America and running for office. The other way may be if a human rights complaint is brought before the U.N.
Americans themselves are either incapable or else unwilling to acknowledge that anything unjust is being done. We are trying to fight an irrational policy with rationality and that, my friend, is a losing war when you hold no leverage.
I agree, Obama should take the lead. You know, there is nothing in the Constitution that says that the Supreme Court is the only body that can declare a law unconstitutional. The Constitution only states that the Supreme Court is the body in which the judicial power is vested. The Court gave itself the right to declare laws unconstitutional in Marbury vs Madison
When I go to the grocery store, I see if the fruit and vegis come from the US. If they are from Mexico or Ontario or New Zealand, I buy; if from the US, I tend to pass. This is because the president hasn’t pardoned me. I will not pardon him.
“When I go to the grocery store,…….if from the US, I tend to pass.”
The idea is great! How many US expats are there, 5-6 million? If we just boycotted ALL US products how hard would that hit the US??? Anybody have any rough ideas, must be more than we would think!
@UncleTell, That is so funny I do the same thing…
@Petros, I, too, have been passing up US fruit and veggies – however, when I really started investigation, it seemed to me that about 75% of the products in my local grocery store were US-based. That’s not a real statistic, of course, just my impression. How about if we stopped buying from HP, Dell, Ford, Apple? As much as I like to think about what a strong statement that would make, I know it’s not feasible – those products are entrenched in our society. I’ve been issued an iPhone through work, for example. I’ve also been wondering if there would be any effect at all if we started writing these companies about the potential economic impact of a world-wide boycott on US products if the US gov’t doesn’t stop what they’re doing. I suspect, though, that I’m being naive..
Boycotting US products is going to be as successful as trying to get people to stop shopping at Walmart.
However, investing only in Canadian companies listed on Canadian stock exchanges might be a good idea.
The world is taking notice of Canada due to how well it survived the financial crisis and foreigners have already increased their investments in our great country. We should do the same.
I have an iPhone and an iPad. It’s made in China, as far as I know.
But I now drive a Toyota instead of GM (the last GM van, Pontiac Montana gave up the ghost–coolant leaking into the oil) so instead of American car built in Canada, I have a Japanese car built in Canada.
A total boycott isn’t possible. My wife’s company, for example, sells hundreds of goods that are still made in the US.
@omg Yeah, everything I have in my self-direct portfolio is Canada.
Everything at Walmart is from China.
It is hard to resist buying some US made products though when they’re selling at bargain basement prices.
In 2009 I purchased a car which normally sells for $53K for only $33K. It’s a Chrysler. It drinks gas but I hardly drive since I work at home so it doesn’t really matter. That year I also purchased a house full of American made furniture at 30 to 50% discount from Ethan Allen. The quality is hard to beat especially when you consider the savings. I don’t expect to ever get deals like that again.
*A Presidential pardon won’t happen anytime soon, not while President “Robbin’ Hood” Obama is in power. After all…he wants to tax expatriates and give it to the poor and the illegal immigrants. Absolutely disgusting.
I fail to understand why I should be pleading for a presidential pardon when I have done nothing wrong. If moving to Canada to be with my wife is such a crime to these people, then why would I even want to return to the US anyway?
Okay. If you had an FBAR to file, and you chose not to do it, then you’re in quite a bind. However, I highly doubt this would even happen in the first place without citizenship based taxation.
As for Americans fleeing the Vietnam War draft, I’m surprised that they were even given a presidential pardon in the first place. But if I was in that situation, I would’ve told them to stuff it anyway. rivka88 made a valid point when he said that the draft dodgers that fled to Canada were exercising their right to dissent. Meanwhile, the ones that were, and still are pro war, while getting deferments from the draft, because they had ‘better things to do’, they are the types that now infest the US government. Why would anyone ask for a pardon from such dishonourable people?
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>>Boycotting US products is going to be as successful as trying to get people to stop shopping at Walmart.<<
Its not the actual boycott that would work…its the 'intention' that would grab the media's attention…and gives voice!
'Look at how Fox News commentator Bill O’Reilly announced on the air he was boycotting French products and Capitol Hill cafeterias famously renamed French fries as “freedom fries,” in an edible admonishment of the French government.'
It is arguable whether O'Reilly's call for a boycott actually had any affect? But it did receive national attention…and wake up the average American to an Allies lack of commitment.
In regard the plight of the 8 million of us living abroad…it would give us a voice…that we've never had…and awaken American residents to the unethical, burdensome and draconian tax penalties imposed on their fellow citizens living abroad.
What we need is a co-ordinated comprehensive campaign that gets the message across to both American residents and 'their' representatives that, 'what you reap is what you sow.'
Believe me I'm working on it…