The Dumbest Thing I Heard This Week

There were so many good options this week. I had already begun to expose Mitt Romney’s bizarre claim that the deficit is the cause of the economic downturn when The New Republic beat me to it. I encourage everyone to read their piece because it’s pretty dead on.

So I went with my second choice, which is anyone defending Facebook co-founder Eduardo Saverin. This morning, Facebook went public earning its founders billions. Saverin, who was famously forced out of the business and sued to get his due is set to make roughly $2.6 billion today. Saverin renounced his U.S. citizenship last year to move to Singapore. While Saverin explains that he had a deep interest in living and working in Singapore, few believe renouncing his U.S. citizenship was motivated by anything other than avoiding U.S. taxes.

Enter Saverin’s conservative defenders. FrontPageMag tells the story:

Eduardo Saverin came to the United States as a boy because his name had been on a list of potential targets by kidnappers in his native Brazil. The ransom that he evaded paying to lawbreakers in Brazil has been demanded by lawmakers in America. Saverin and his money have again evaded capture. The tech billionaire and his billions are safe in Singapore.

Oh boy. Yes, being violently kidnapped and ransomed is the same as being asked to pay for being afforded the opportunities of American society, the right to live in a country defended from threats foreign and domestic, to pursue an education at elite private institutions, to build a business, and — most importantly — with a competent legal system to allow you to recapture your business when you felt aggrieved.

This is the extensive delusion of conservatives and libertarians in this country — failing to recognize that U.S. citizenship and the American opportunity that comes with it comes at a price. A thousand third world nations have failed governments that would allow an aspiring entrepreneur to do pursue their goals without government oversight, but none of these people would go to the Congo to start their business. They come to the United States to enjoy the peace and security that American taxes buy and then bitch and moan about them — call them “theft” or a “ransom” — while trying to avoid paying them at every turn.

“But wait,” a more reasoned conservative might say, “I have no problem with paying for a stable society, but I’m opposed to ‘hand-outs’ to those who don’t work for it.” Putting aside whether or not that’s a fair characterization, it ignores that the social safety net was originally conceived as a means of social stability. Despite all the humanist language of the modern progressive movement, Otto von Bismarck constructed the modern social safety net that forms the basis of the American system as a means of quelling social unrest and preventing the flight of human capital. Imagine an America where the poor and lower middle class cannot eat on a daily basis. Imagine the poor and lower middle class lacked the spending money to purchase the multitude of products that the American economy depends on selling. Imagine the elderly had no health insurance and had to work longer, taking jobs from younger employees, while at the same time becoming an anchor on potential entrepreneurs who have to make massive sacrifices to care for the older generation. This America would not only fall apart, it would probably prompt armed rebellion. The social safety net is not a “hand-out” that benefits some other group, it is the foundation of a functional market economy.

Does this article say anything else stupid? Oh yes! When discussing a proposed law barring those who renounce citizenship for tax reasons from re-entering the U.S.:

What does it say about a politician who supports rewarding with citizenship immigrants who enter the country illegally but seeks to ban one of America’s most productive immigrants from ever stepping foot in the United States for the crime of legally leaving?

What does it say? Nothing controversial, that’s for sure. People should be able to come to this country to pursue their dream, seek U.S. citizenship, and enhance the social fabric of the nation. Someone like Saverin trying to “take the money and run” is the exact opposite of that American dream.

Could not the Facebook founder just as easily slam the patriotism of politicians, whose sponging off the capitalists they slam inevitably results in capital flight?

And this brings us full-circle. The imagery of hostage-taking is the conservative argument writ large. Give us the ransom we want (even lower taxes than our already lowest in 70 years taxes on the wealthy) or we might use the wealth we earned off the back of the society built by American taxes to renounce our U.S. citizenship and relocate to an off-shore tax haven. If there is “class warfare” in America, it’s coming from the top-down.

Leave a Reply