The 1967 CBC Massey Lectures, "Conscience For Change" – Martin Luther King http://t.co/unXKU5LfjZ – Fascinating https://t.co/3E8cBcwga5
— Citizenship Lawyer (@ExpatriationLaw) December 28, 2014
Recent discussions with a friend have me wondering whether Americans abroad are indeed the “property” of the US government. At first I considered this a bit exaggerated but am coming to appreciate that there is a great deal of truth in it. Perhaps reflecting a bit on the past might provide valuable insight on how we might approach this ongoing, changing situation. The idea that a human being could be considered “property” is initially strange to me. The only obvious parallel would be that of being a slave. In spite of growing up in a somewhat racially-tense city, I was largely unaware that the very foundation of the U.S. included slavery. I was 10 years old in 1965 when the riots in Watts occurred. Two years later, there were 159 riots during the “Long Hot Summer of 1967. The next year, following the assassination of Dr Martin Luther King Jr, more riots. By then I was 13 and able to understand some of the reasons: poor schools, lack of employment, overcrowding in filthy ghettos, pollution, discrimination by police, etc. MLK described it as “humiliation for decades, for centuries.” Along with the other assassinations, Vietnam, etc, it did not yet occur to me that the problem was rooted in a very underlying hypocrisy. In spite of the U.S. being the “Land of the Free and the “American Dream” supposedly available to all, the fact was the U.S. was a place where gross abuse of human “rights” was visible in daily life as long as I had been alive.
There are some interesting CBC Radio “Massey Lectures” given by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr that John Richardson wrote about recently on the ADCS wordpress site. As I listened, I was struck by the fact that intellectually, it was obvious enough that “rights” had been violated in a perverse way for so long. But I was more horrified by the immorality of it. I was much too young to really appreciate what he was and am overwhelmed by his intelligence, clarity and devotion to non-violence. The issue of race in America is clearly an ethical issue, no doubt about it. One could go on and on about social, economic and other mitigating factors but at its root, the problem truly is that one group of human beings is denied the basic respect, dignity and consideration others receive due to discrimination of what they are from birth. The recent incidents in Ferguson, Cleveland and other cities show not much has changed in the last 50 years.
I was taught that America was born due to the brave actions of those who left England because of persecution due to religious beliefs; later attempts to tax the colonists who had no representation in the parliament etc. In recent years, having learned my ancestral roots, I have been proud of the fact that my family has played an integral role in that beginning. Yet at the same time, for the last three years, experience of the treatment at the hands of the US government definitely casts a different light on it. Americans abroad (and even people who are not truly “American”) are not given the same respect as those who live in the Homeland. What’s at the root of this? Does the U.S. view us as if they “own” us? Are we their property and are we not free to leave the country? We may be able to buy our way out but fundamentally, what difference is there between that and a slave from the past doing the same? In the modern world there is a tendency to minimalize emotional or mental suffering as if it is not valid since it is not as severe as say, physical torture. That may be true to a certain degree yet I fail to see how that removes the immoral forces that can be responsible for both. In fact, the only way to see it may be to draw parallels between them.
The reality is that slavery was just as much a part of the origin of the U.S. as the more euphemistic ideals. Most of the “Founding Fathers” had slaves. The original Quakers had no qualms about it; William Penn himself owned slaves. Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, George Washington, all had slaves. Though each did begin to change over time, the most basic right, to be treated with dignity as a human being, was denied to those who lived on their land, served them in their homes, etc. The U.S. was a nation based on slavery due to economic need and immoral racial discrimination. Plantation masters “owned” people as if they were property, something to barter, sell, used to populate workers (so as not to have to buy from the international trade, etc.). Ironically, during the Revolutionary War, the British Army recruited rebel slaves to fight and granted them freedom after the war. The Fugitive Slave Act of 1793 was passed by a vote of 48-7 a mere 17 years after the beginning of the Revolution. The Act guaranteed the right of the slaveholder to recover an escaped slave. The South began to develop the perception that Northern States aided slaves and it became a major justification for secession of the Confederate States before the Civil War began in 1861.
Consider the plight of Oney (Ona) Judge Staines. She was “owned” by Martha Washington and escaped in 1796. She married a “free-black” man and had 3 daughters in New Hampshire. Yet, had someone turned her in, she, as well as her family could have been seized and returned to Washington as she literally was part of “the inheritance” of her mistress’ heirs. White abolitionists, free-born blacks, former slaves whether escaped or manumitted and Native Americans came together to set up the “Underground Railroad.” Canada was “Heaven” and the “Promised Land.” The Ohio River, the dividing line between slave and non-slave states, was called “the River Jordan.” The number who escaped is disputed but by 1850 some 100,000 had made their way to freedom. The US census claimed only 6,000 were gone.
The very long process of changing began and continues to this day. Over 200 years later, we still see this depraved treatment of our fellow human beings. It is reflected in the news, books, and movies such as 12 Years a Slave, Selma etc.
Which human rights then, were denied the slaves?
- They could be whipped, branded, raped, imprisoned without trial, and hanged
- The right to be with their families
- The right to move freely, even off the plantation where they lived and worked
- The right to be paid well enough to save for the well-being of themselves and their families when they could no longer work
- No right to representation in the Congress (even later enumerated as only 3/5 of a person)
- unreasonable searches and seizure of property
- no access to the rule of law
- no access to legal representation or use the courts
- make contracts, or own any property
- denied the right to assemble
- denied the right to have guns (under Jim Crow laws)
- right to own property without proof one was “free”
- requirement to have papers to reflect status
- They primarily could not escape their fate due to what they were from birth
It doesn’t require much to know that what is listed above is quite simply, immoral. Would granting the slaves the exact same “rights” have made them equal? Would that have righted the wrong? How long does it take for people to change?
All of the above are things we’ve been taught to think are our “birthrights” because we were Americans. Some of the things listed above do not apply but it is interesting to see some of the ones that do:
- The Reed Amendment & the proposed ExPatriotAct would deny ex-citizens the right to be with families whether for enjoyment, to care for in illness, death, etc. Some believe this is what we deserve and should be punished for
- The same would deny expats mobility if not within the US, connections to flights, etc.
- The same right to save without penalty for retiring that other Americans enjoy ( It is apparently too difficult to see the “sameness” between an RRSP and an IRA; a TFSA and a Roth IRA so the solution is to make it “equal” i.e., no RRSPs, no TFSAs, no foreign mutual funds, RDSPs, RESPs since Homelanders cannot have them)
- No meaningful, realistic right to representation in Congress
- Demands to financial information assuming criminal behaviour; 8938?
- Assembling in front of a consulate or Embassy to protest?
- NICs list would prevent an expat from having a gun (unwanted but similar nonetheless)
- Must have a CLN to prove one is “free”
- Cannot enter the US without a US passport which creates condition of “using” citizenhip benefit and thus nullifying acts of loss of citizenship and attempted re-imposition of tax status (with a lot of help from the compliance community)
- And finally and most importantly, this is our fate because of our birth
Is there really much difference between the Founding Fathers using slaves for the economic advantage and the US suddenly applying tax law and reporting requirements because of the deficit? Is it reasonable of the US to claim that their treatment of expats is equal to Homelanders, that we are not being discriminated against? Is the Exit Tax and 877 and 877A not somewhat equivalent to the Fugitive Slave Act of 1793? FATCA and/or the Whistleblower Act a different consequence than what would have happened to Oney Judge Staines if someone had turned her in? How about the denial of the US government as to the actual number of relinquishments/renunciations and the same with regard to the number of escaped slaves prior to 1865? The mocking tone of those on online forums acting as if losing us doesn’t matter since so many are clambering to get in? And in a positive sense, in the same way different types of people who were anti-slavery came together and formed the Underground Railroad to help those in need, we have border babies, accidentals, duals/former duals and family members coming together at Brock and Sandbox to find a way to help those affected “escape?”
My favorite parallel of all:
While the economic impact was minuscule, the psychological effect on the slaveholders was immense, led to the Civil War and finally, the 13th amendment, passed on Dec 6, 1865.
It seems uncanny:
- the number of us leaving will not have a huge financial effect on the U.S.
- in spite of the abuse given on the forums, it is clear that it does bother the US establishment that this is happening; (the IRS has made changes for the better in the last 3 yrs; others like Shumer want to hit us harder; DS has raised the fee etc)
- at present it does feel like a sort of war what with the ADCS-ADSC Challenge, the Human Rights Complaint and inside the US, the FATCA lawsuit and the Florida/Texas Bankers Appeal
- The only thing yet to become clear is when US legislation will happen to right this situation
Writing this and accepting the fact that the U.S. does indeed consider us as nothing more than property, takes the drama out of feeling angry and all of that. This recognition actually does give me hope that something eventually will lead to a change in American law so this will be resolved. Just like the slaves and the very slow road to equality being experienced by African-Americans, someday we may find a shift in the attitudes and laws and this will end.
But what do you think?
I didn’t forget… that is part of the Republican Overseas… they were all gung ho at the beginning… but it slowly went quiet… they said they would file before the end of 2014…. I see no activity with fund raising other then… donate what u can… how much did they get… how much more do they need… Majority of the talk about the fund raising on other sites are by the posters here… Now they are saying early 2015… when… after all the info is received by the IRS/Treasury… by then… its too late… even if the IRS & Treasury were told to get rid of the info… it will be too late… every letter in the US gov’t would have a copy of it & so would the CRA… and anyone else… who knows who else will have access to it…
Poverty and Racism are never going to be cured as long as the Race and Poverty Pimps control the agenda.
1. Education–100% of them oppose school vouchers for the Poor and Blacks, which in most cases they are both. They have made a good living so long they just won’t give it up and really help the Poor and Black when it plays into their agenda.
2. Impose an agenda on congressmen and Senators and force them to support the FairTax/
This is an excellent post and discussion. I would also suggest that people listen to Martin Luther King’s
“Mountaintop” speech, given in Memphis the day before he was killed:
Some of his comments apply directly to our situation:
6:45 “We want to be free”
11:29 “The issue is injustice”
17:23 “All we say to America is be true to what you said on paper” (ie. don’t violate Constitutional
Happy New Year everyone. As Badger is fond of saying, our cause is just.
I have long held the idea that the US owns its citizens and moving out of the US and becoming an immigrant, seeking citizenship in a country that felt more home than “home” ever did, has only validated this for me.
Of course, the USG considers us property but they are only more obvious about it than other countries. If we were really free, where we lived and to whom we gave our allegiance would be a matter of choice – more or less.
Was I lucky to be born in the US as opposed to a third world country? Yes. But it was never a choice. No one asks to be born. If we could choose, I think a lot of us wouldn’t bother.
But it wasn’t just the land of my birth that made it possible for me to “achieve” whatever I have achieved. I lucked out in socio-economic terms and with skin tone too. The only other “marker” of success I lack is a Y chromosome.
It’s ridiculous to give my former nationality all the credit for who I am. There are a lot of things at play and Uncle Sam – try though he might – doesn’t get credit for all that many of them. After all, there are plenty of people born in the US who aren’t successes at all, so how did that happen, eh?
Citizenship is a politer form of slavery but it’s still a restriction that dictates circumstances and doles out freedoms at the whim of those who control the govt.
I don’t believe that citizenship is an innate form of slavery, only governments make them that way, and some more than others. For example, it’s when a government uses its power to create different classes of citizens does it create slavery in its citizens that wouldn’t otherwise exist. The whole concept of citizenship is quite interesting, and depending on how you look at it, it can be either empowering or quite restrictive – which results in some citizenships being perceived as better than others. A US immigrant has a completely different opinion from what an emigrant has about US citizenship because he might feel that paying for the services he receives as a resident is part of what a citizens does. He also probably wouldn’t expect the government of the country where he no longer lives to continue taxing him.
A government that makes citizenship about doing things a citizen shouldn’t reasonably be expected to do makes slaves of its citizens, don’t you think?
Just came across this article — the USD $200K hospital fee is just the beginning of the problems this family and new born will face – another accidental American
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@Tricia. This is an excellent topic and post. What a fine “mini ambassador” you are thanks to American policy treating you as property of the USA.
My thoughts about US citizens overseas treated as property are this: I don’t believe the US has gone out of its way to think of US citizens living overseas as property. I believe the result is more about not considering at all US persons living overseas. The US is just extending its tax laws treating US residents and nonUS residents the same. The laws harshly impacting on US citizens overseas are more about the US planning to shut down tax evasion from US citizens living in the US, without a thought about the case of US persons living in other countries.
In the US there is the that saying that certainties in life are ‘death and taxes.’ There is value for freedom and liberty but these are suspended with obligation to pay tax. There is a deaf ear if there is complaining about paying taxes. Meanwhile, it is ok because it is the law for GE to make billions in the US but pay $0 federal income tax.
I have used this description “property” as in taking/demanding compliance and tax while providing no services in return for this – as getting treated as property. However, I think of property as a term for something that may be brought and sold and traded which the US does not do.
I am thinking that perhaps a better label than property would be treated as “royal subjects.” A subject is someone “under the dominion of a monarch”, says the Oxford English Dictionary.
The subject has no say in how they are treated. A citizen however is someone who does have rights. A subject does what s/he is told – but a citizen has the right to be effectively heard.
In terms of US persons abroad, we get treated more like “subjects” or “royal subjects” than citizens, unless we decide to move back to the US.
Was it in a comment above about a quote from Lincoln about following laws even unjust ones to support society. Of course in such statement is the implication that if a law is unjust that it may be changed from within the system. However, for US persons abroad getting any vote split among 50 states, and without any representatives specifically representing the interests of those living overseas, then there is little latitude to changing laws from within the system – certainly not within any reasonable measure of time.
Thanks for your kind comment!
I get your point about “royal subject” but since we aren’t British, unlikely to garner a reaction from Homelanders, etc, who are the ones we are trying to educate on this subject.You are technically correct that we are not bought and sold however, there are other levels of using words to describe “layers” of a quality or characteristic of a situation. I believe these are as equally valid as a semantically correct use of a word. “Slave labor for example, can mean no actual pay received for work done. But it can also be appplied to people who are not paid fairly in places like Bangaladesh and India. Or it can be used by a spouse in response to the significant other’s job list for the weekend,
It is my feeling that “slave” is applicable here because taxation is being applied outside the norm as a condition that is outside one’s control (birth). In fact, of all the “rights” I can think of (gender, color, nationality, etc), birth trumps all. You cannot have any of the others without “birth.”
Bringing Tricia’s post, “Is An American a Piece of U.S. Property?”, forward to today with this …
Martin Luther King:
Help! Would appreciate input.
I have the opportunity to make a short written pitch to an influential EU official. Need to keep it brief and to the point.
I was thinking something like follows. Any criticism, suggestions, welcome.
“Recent implementation of FATCA via intergovernmental agreements has made life extremely difficult for thousands of Europeans who are considered to be US persons by the USA. US citizens living in the EU, dual EU-US citizens and even EU citizens with just a US birthplace are being rejected by their banks, refused new bank accounts, or forced to fill in forms certifying compliance with the US tax code. Those who cannot prove that they are not US persons must obtain a certificate of loss of nationality from a US consulate at the exorbitant fee of $2350 AND file 3 years of tax forms and 6 years of bank account information and an additional form detailing their assets. Even if they haven’t lived, worked, or dealt with the US in many years.
People considered US Persons under US law, even if they are, say, French citizens living in France, will have their private bank account information transmitted to the US Internal Revenue Service. The US will soon have more information on European Citizens’ bank accounts than do their own governments.
Double taxation treaties that the US has with various European countries do not protect from double taxation, as they all contain exceptions to allow for worldwide “citizen-based taxation” a uniquely American concept. Many basic financial dealings such as sale of real estate, mutual funds, retirement planning, may be untaxed in one’s home country but subject to taxation by the US, even if the double taxation treaty suggests otherwise, because of citizen-based taxation. This is the case even if the income tax paid in the EU home country is much higher than what would be due in the US.
The EU should defend its citizens who are victimised by excessive US financial control. An EU-level discussion should be started to ensure that law-abiding taxpaying EU citizens and residents be totally protected from double taxation and from the divulgation of their bank information to the IRS.”
All good points Fred. If you were to slip in the fact that the money that the U.S. is taking off these people is also being removed from the local economy, you might reach them on a separate level. Good luck
I would suggest you add to the sentence ‘even if the haven’t lived, worked or dealt with the U.S. in many years – or in some cases for those born in the EU never!
Or something similar. Some people the U.S. deems US persons have never set foot in that country.
Thanks ProudAussie and Old English!
I like both how and what you say.
If you can slip something in about wanting the EU to follow the rule of of Dominant Nationality, that might be helpful– an EU citizen resident in the EU should only be considered an EU citizen. Not EU-American, EU-Iranian, EU-North Korean, etc. There are no EU-“American persons” living in the EU– the “American person” aspect should and must be ignored. EU banks should not be allowed to discriminate against an EU citizen. EU governments should not be allowed to pass account info onto the IRS on an EU citizen who is resident of an EU country.
Good luck and thank you!
thanks! If I’d given it any thought I would have posted this later…………
@ Fred Well written, just one correction: filing 3 years of US taxes and 6 years of FBARS only gets you into the US Streamlined tax program, 5 years of filing US tax returns is required for renouncement and 1 more for the partial year of renouncement.
@Fred, I also really like your statement. Maybe you could also mention the burdensome compliance costs. My annual accounting fees would have cost me about 15% of my salary, which is ridiculous.
@MonaLisa1776, “Maybe you could also mention the burdensome compliance costs. My annual accounting fees would have cost me about 15% of my salary, which is ridiculous.”
My income is very modest, so modest that my family qualifies for various income top up benefits from HMG.
It would be insane to be using benefit payments from HMG to pay for us centric accountants!!
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Though this thread has basically closed, there is an interesting Op-ed in the NYT today that demonstrates the hypocrisy of our first President’s actions versus the founding concept of freedom for all persons. February is Black History Month and President’s Day is February 22, presumably the reasons the author chose to write on this subject.
It is interesting that GW managed to circumvent Pennsylvania’s “Gradual Abolition Act of 1780.”
The article also raises the issue of Washington’s use of the “Fugitive Slave Act” to pursue Ona Judge (discussed in this post).
George Washington died on Dec. 14, 1799. At the time of his death, 318 enslaved people lived at Mount Vernon and fewer than half of them belonged to the former president. Washington’s will called for the emancipation of his slaves following the death of his wife. He completed in death what he had been unwilling to do while living, an act made easier because he had no biological children expecting an inheritance. Martha Washington lived until 1802 and upon her death all of her human property went to her inheritors. She emancipated no one.
Even though we are all familiar with the fact America allowed slavery (and for far too long), it is still incredible to imagine that human beings were subjected to it with all its cruelties, unfairness and violation of human rights in “The Land of the Free and Home of the Brave.”
The article can be read here.