Facebook, patriotism, taxes and fair play

Eduardo Saverin, who became a billionaire as a co-founder of Facebook, has renounced his American citizenship and instead become a citizen of low-tax Singapore.

The decision means that Saverin will save at least $67 million in federal taxes; by some accounts, his long-term tax savings may be several times that much. Naturally, that decision has brought harsh criticism both of Saverin’s opportunism and of existing law that encourages such tax-driven citizenship transfers.

Maybe I’m old-fashioned, but I don’t think of citizenship as something that ought to be so fungible. Just as you don’t run off to Canada to avoid the draft, you don’t run to Singapore to avoid your taxes. You meet your obligations.

But even if that doesn’t bother you, even if you want to judge the situation in strictly business terms, Saverin and others in his situation are taking financial advantage of this country and its citizens. Out of our sense of self-interest, we ought to take steps to defend ourselves.

Under the current system, you can come to the United States and take advantage of all it offers — its legal system, its education system, its markets, its infrastructure, its creativity — and become rich, then flee elsewhere when it comes time to pay taxes on that wealth. In Saverin’s case, he could not have helped to create Facebook had he lived in Singapore at the time, or in his native Brazil. The hugely successful company is an American creation that could only have happened here, on American soil.

Mark Zuckerberg, Saverin’s co-founder and the man with the vision, did not live in Singapore. He grew up in White Plains, N.Y.

Harvard University, where Saverin and Zuckerberg met, does not exist in Singapore, nor does its educational equivalent. Singapore has no history of innovation in software comparable to that of the United States. Singapore did not have the hundreds of thousands of Internet-connected college students who became Facebook’s initial customer base. Perhaps most importantly, with its strict censorship of media outlets, including bloggers and others posting on the Internet, Singapore lacks the free-wheeling creative American spirit that made Facebook possible.

In fact, in its most recent rankings of countries by competitiveness in the IT industry, the Business Software Alliance again ranks the United States as the best place in the world to do business, expanding its large lead from the 2009 rankings. In that ranking, the United States easily outpaces Singapore in every category, from human capital to best business environment to government support for IT industry development.

What Singapore offers, on the other hand, is a haven for capital that is earned elsewhere but transferred to Singapore. It’s a sweet little niche for the city-state of 5.1 million, which is roughly the size of metro Atlanta. The question is whether U.S. law ought to continue to tolerate that arrangement.

Two Democratic senators, Charles Schumer of New York and Bob Casey of Pennsylvania, have proposed legislation to discourage citizenship-shopping for tax purposes. Those who choose that course would pay higher taxes and be barred from returning to this country. House Speaker John Boehner has also expressed support in a general sense, saying it is “absolutely outrageous that somebody would renounce their citizenship to avoid paying taxes.”

However, I have a suspicion that Boehner will soon be backing away from what ought to be a common-sense, patriotic position. The Wall Street Journal editorial board has already come out against Schumer proposal, and many of Boehner’s fellow conservatives are in effect arguing that the United States is simply getting what it deserves for not cutting taxes on the wealthy even lower than they are today. In some eyes, Saverin has even been hailed as a hero for his decision.

And then there’s Grover Norquist, who likened Schumer’s proposal to laws that were passed by Nazi Germany in the 1930s that stripped German Jews of their wealth if they dared to flee the persecution and concentration camps.

“(Schumer) probably just plagiarized it and translated it from the original German,” Norquist told The Hill.

Two final points:

– The caricature of the United States that many conservatives like to draw is simply false. We cannot be a country in which it is possible to create a behemoth such as Facebook and also be a country in which regulation and overtaxation have made it impossible to succeed. Both things cannot be true.

This country continues to draw more foreign investment than any other country on the planet because they know that it is a great place to live and to do business. Last year alone, 3,800 rich foreign investors in effect “bought” their way into the United States by agreeing to invest at least $500,000 in a project that creates American jobs. In return, they got a much-treasured green card.

And according to at least two surveys, more than half of Chinese millionaires are planning to or have already taken steps to leave that country and take up residence elsewhere, with the United States the most popular destination. It was cited almost three times more often than Singapore. None of that supports the conservative condemnation of this country’s business environment.

– We already live in a system in which money flows freely across borders and in which international corporations feel no loyalty to or civic responsibility toward communities or nations. As former ExxonMobil CEO Lee Raymond memorably put it, “I’m not a U.S. company, and I don’t make decisions based on what’s good for the U.S.”

What we’re seeing now is the natural extension of that sentiment, with private citizens placing greater value on money than on country. From a strictly financial and selfish point of view, that’s perhaps understandable. What is less understandable are supposedly patriotic Americans who applaud and celebrate people who chose money over citizenship.

– Jay Bookman

933 comments Add your comment

Butch Cassidy

May 22nd, 2012
10:37 am

MIghty Righty – “It just never occurred to us that the people of this coiuntry was so stupid as to elect someone who knew so little, had no experience, gave up his Bar Membership rather than submit to an investigation, campaigned as a socialist and whose main campaign theme was just dumb. We still can’t believe it.”

Great, add inept and lacking vision. You’re really not helping the Republican Party my friend.

G Mare 71( got the living' the red state BLUES!)

May 22nd, 2012
10:39 am

Jm@7:32, citation or link, please? Thanks.

Joe Hussein Mama

May 22nd, 2012
10:41 am

R. W. Troll — “It’s nice to know the great state of Arizona has the funds to send some PI’s on an all expenses paid trip to the islands.”

And April-May is the time to do it, before summer vacationers start pouring in.

October’s also a good time; if you ever plan to go, and if it’s likely to be a once-in-a-lifetime thing, schedule your trip in October. All the kids (local, mainland US, Asian tourists, etc) are back in school, all the moms and dads have gone back home and the beaches are largely deserted — but it’s still 85F every day. Don’t go in the winter; the rainy season lasts from Thanksgiving to Easter and you could wind up with a week spent watching local TV in a very, very expensive hotel room.

Mighty Righty

May 22nd, 2012
10:42 am

Brosephus and others who are having trouble understanding the meaning of “facts”

Home » News » USForty-three Catholic organizations file lawsuits against HHS mandate
By Michelle Bauman

Forty-three Catholic dioceses and organizations across the country have announced religious liberty lawsuits against the federal government to challenge the Obama administration’s contraception mandate.

The announcement was applauded by Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York, who called it “a compelling display of the unity of the Church in defense of religious liberty.”

“We have tried negotiation with the Administration and legislation with the Congress – and we’ll keep at it – but there’s still no fix,” said Cardinal Dolan, who is the president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

“Time is running out, and our valuable ministries and fundamental rights hang in the balance, so we have to resort to the courts now,” he explained in a May 21 statement.

Tundra Dude

May 22nd, 2012
10:43 am

Susan wrote, in part:

Where is any mention of the US having the highest corporate tax rate in the world

In the US it doesn’t seem to matter, few companies actually pay the the going rate. Take GE, for example; they earned $14 billion in profits last year, but paid Zero in taxes. They now invested $2 bn in China, moving their health care division.
trivia: The head of GE is Obamas Jobs(for China)Czar

Joe Hussein Mama

May 22nd, 2012
10:44 am

M. Righty — “Brosephus and others who are having trouble understanding the meaning of “facts”

So do you.

Bringing a suit doesn’t guarantee you’re going to win anything. It doesn’t even mean that you’re going to win at all.

Normal Free...Pro Human Rights Thug...And liking it!

May 22nd, 2012
10:47 am

The Catholic Religion is losing its base and is attempting to solidify its power by appealing to the far right Christian nuts out there. This is nothing more than politics as usual by the Catholic “Leadership”.

Brosephus™

May 22nd, 2012
10:50 am

Mighty Righty

Facts still elude you. The fact that somebody has brought a suit means nothing beyond the fact that they’ve filed suit. The rights granted by the Constitution are I-N-D-I-V-I-D-U-A-L rights. Religions don’t get rights from the Constitution. People have the right to freely express their religion upheld by the Constitution. There is a big difference between the two, but obviously someone of your cognitive skills can’t quite grasp that F-A-C-T.

Jm

May 22nd, 2012
10:51 am

Gmare 71 politico. The news. Google

They BOTH suck

May 22nd, 2012
10:51 am

Mighty Righty

Did you vote for Bush?

Mighty Righty

May 22nd, 2012
10:54 am

Joe Hussein Mama

You are a Johnny Come Lately to a discussion that was well underway when you joined in without having the “facts”. The discussion began when I had previously posted we must rid ourselves of the Obama Administration to protect our freedom and liberty. I was challenged by some uninformed indivicual to produce facts. So I picked the most obvious which is the Supreme Court is reviewing the Affordable Health Care Act for it’s consitutional compliance. That is a fact which is beyond dispute unless you think that is not happening. The decision of the court does not invalidate the fact hey are hearing a challenge to an Obama/Democrat imposed law that the majority of us oppose.

Mighty Righty

May 22nd, 2012
10:56 am

They BOTH suck

Yesw. I havn’t voted for a Democrat since Jimmy Carter for president.

barking frog

May 22nd, 2012
11:00 am

They BOTH suck

May 22nd, 2012
11:01 am

MR

Thanks for the reply. You might want to reread your own where you spoke of “stupid people” voting…….

Your words not mine

Good day

They BOTH suck

May 22nd, 2012
11:02 am

Reread it in the mirror and do some reflection when you get to the “stupid” part

Mighty Righty

May 22nd, 2012
11:05 am

Brosephus™

Mighty Righty

The rights granted by the Constitution are I-N-D-I-V-I-D-U-A-L rights. Religions don’t get rights from the Constitution. People have the right to freely express their religion upheld by the Constitution. There is a big difference between the two, but obviously someone of your cognitive skills can’t quite grasp that F-A-C-T.

What part of “Congress shall make no law…..”do you not understand? Seriously? No law means no law. Please point out where in the constituton only individual religious beliefs are protected. BTW, you do know that the suit to which we are referring is certain states suing the federal government and not individuals. If your statement were true the Supreme Court would not have heard the case. I guess you got your “FACTS” wrong.

Mighty Righty

May 22nd, 2012
11:13 am

Let us review the brilliant Democrats in recent history who were nominted by the party of socialists.

Just going in reverse. Barack (57 State) Obama, John (I was scratched give me a purple Heart)Kerry, Al( Inventor of the internet) Gore, Bill (I did not have sex with that woman) Clinton, Walter (We are going to tax their as-es off) Mondale, The Tank Commander Dukakis, George Mc Govern, H Cubed, I can’t go on I am laughing too hard.

They BOTH suck

May 22nd, 2012
11:15 am

Mighty Righty

You may have mentioned it before, what branch did you serve in?

They BOTH suck

May 22nd, 2012
11:16 am

MR

50. “I promise you I will listen to what has been said here, even though I wasn’t here.” –at the President’s Economic Forum in Waco, Texas, Aug. 13, 2002

49. “We spent a lot of time talking about Africa, as we should. Africa is a nation that suffers from incredible disease.” –Gothenburg, Sweden, June 14, 2001

48. “You teach a child to read, and he or her will be able to pass a literacy test.” -Townsend, Tenn., Feb. 21, 2001

47. “I am here to make an announcement that this Thursday, ticket counters and airplanes will fly out of Ronald Reagan Airport.” –Washington, D.C., Oct. 3, 2001

46. “Tribal sovereignty means that; it’s sovereign. I mean, you’re a — you’ve been given sovereignty, and you’re viewed as a sovereign entity. And therefore the relationship between the federal government and tribes is one between sovereign entities.” –Washington, D.C., Aug. 6, 2004 (Watch video clip)

45. “I couldn’t imagine somebody like Osama bin Laden understanding the joy of Hanukkah.” –at a White House menorah lighting ceremony, Washington, D.C., Dec. 10, 2001 (Listen to audio clip)

44. “You know, one of the hardest parts of my job is to connect Iraq to the war on terror.” –interview with CBS News’ Katie Couric, Sept. 6, 2006

They BOTH suck

May 22nd, 2012
11:16 am

MR: you voted for this guy?

43. “The same folks that are bombing innocent people in Iraq were the ones who attacked us in America on September the 11th.” –Washington, D.C., July 12, 2007

42. “I’m the commander — see, I don’t need to explain — I do not need to explain why I say things. That’s the interesting thing about being president.” –as quoted in Bob Woodward’s Bush at War

41. “Oh, no, we’re not going to have any casualties.” –discussing the Iraq war with Christian Coalition founder Pat Robertson in 2003, as quoted by Robertson

40. 3. “I think I was unprepared for war.” –on the biggest regret of his presidency, ABC News interview, Dec. 1, 2008

39. “I will not withdraw, even if Laura and Barney are the only ones supporting me.” –talking to key Republicans about Iraq, as quoted by Bob Woodward

38. “I hear there’s rumors on the Internets that we’re going to have a draft.” –presidential debate, St. Louis, Mo., Oct. 8, 2004 (Watch video clip)

37. “I know how hard it is for you to put food on your family.” –Greater Nashua, N.H., Chamber of Commerce, Jan. 27, 2000 (Listen to audio clip)

36. “Do you have blacks, too?” –to Brazilian President Fernando Cardoso, Washington, D.C., Nov. 8, 2001

35. “This foreign policy stuff is a little frustrating.” –as quoted by the New York Daily News, April 23, 2002

Mighty Righty

May 22nd, 2012
11:17 am

They BOTH suck

May 22nd, 2012
11:19 am

MR

Thanks for the reply. I thought you mentioned it before, but I forgot

I’m out for awhile

have a good one

Mighty Righty

May 22nd, 2012
11:22 am

They BOTH suck

I could and have just as many stupid quotes from our current commander in chief. Remeber the “Marine Corpes” just one of many.

They BOTH suck

May 22nd, 2012
11:27 am

MR

I was just showing you that your quotes from Dems really means nothing when anyone can counter the other way

Joe Hussein Mama

May 22nd, 2012
11:30 am

Righty — “You are a Johnny Come Lately to a discussion that was well underway when”

Too bad for you that I chose to join in.

“you joined in without having the “facts”.

Given your demonstrated difficulty in distinguishing between your opinion and an actual fact, I’m not going to be able to take you at your word on that.

“The discussion began when I had previously posted we must rid ourselves of the Obama Administration to protect our freedom and liberty.”

And of course, you can’t actually *specify* how anyone’s freedom or liberty are being negatively impacted by President Obama’s policies, let alone our collective national freedom and liberty. :roll:

“I was challenged by some uninformed indivicual to produce facts.”

While you’re at it, let’s see some of your ‘President-is-a-stealh-Kenyan’ “facts,” pal.

“So I picked the most obvious which is the Supreme Court is reviewing the Affordable Health Care Act for it’s consitutional compliance. That is a fact which is beyond dispute unless you think that is not happening.”

The fact that it’s being reviewed doesn’t mean that it isn’t in compliance, Righty. The SCOTUS makes plenty of decisions in which does not intervene at all.

“The decision of the court does not invalidate the fact hey are hearing a challenge to an Obama/Democrat imposed law that the majority of us oppose.”

Not a fact. The majority do NOT oppose it.

http://fdlaction.firedoglake.com/2012/03/26/support-for-affordable-care-act-little-changed-in-past-two-years/

Joe Hussein Mama

May 22nd, 2012
11:35 am

Righty — “What part of “Congress shall make no law…..”do you not understand? Seriously? No law means no law.”

There are MANY cases in which the SCOTUS has upheld laws that impact on First Amendment freedoms, so don’t even try. Furthermore, the SCOTUS has repeatedly found that “Time, Manner and Place” restrictions on FA freedoms ARE Constitutional, so don’t even try to play lawyer here, Righty. You’re not equipped for it.

“Please point out where in the constituton only individual religious beliefs are protected.”

Please point out where in the Constitution any freedoms OTHER than individual freedoms are guaranteed.

[...] Facebook, patriotism, taxes and fair play (blogs.ajc.com) [...]

Mighty Righty

May 22nd, 2012
12:24 pm

“Fair” to a liberal means some one else is to pay for the liberals freebies. It does not mean every one is equal or that every one is to be treated the same way. It means use the power of government to seize the wealth of some one who earned it and give it to some one who didn’t earn it. It is Marxist ideaology pure and simple. It is wealth envy. It is a liberal politicians way of getting votes when his/her record does not justify the vote. It attracts the simple minded and stupid moocher class.

Joe Hussein Mama

May 22nd, 2012
12:26 pm

Your concession has been noted and is appreciated, Righty.

Brosephus™

May 22nd, 2012
12:28 pm

Mighty Righty

Why not complete the entire phrase… “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof;”?

Congress can’t make any law that champions an establishment of any particular religion. At the same time they can not prohibit the free exercise of that religion. A religion can not exercise itself. A person can. Think for once dude. You give non-thinking an entirely new definition.

BTW, you do know that the suit to which we are referring is certain states suing the federal government and not individuals.

Are the states suing for themselves or on behalf of others????? Got text to show proof…

[...] of media outlets, including bloggers and others posting on the Internet,” notes columnist Jay Bookman, means it “lacks the free-wheeling creative American spirit that made Facebook possible.” Only [...]

[...] Facebook, patriotism, taxes and fair play | Jay Bookman. [...]

[...] of media outlets, including bloggers and others posting on the Internet,” notes columnist Jay Bookman, means it “lacks the free-wheeling creative American spirit that made Facebook possible.” Only [...]