Man is an animal suspended in webs of significance that he himself has spun...

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Confusing Politicians with Archangels

In my last post I made a comment about how lovely it would be if American politicians had as much interest as French politicians in their "domestic abroad."  The author of another excellent blog, Overseas Exile, drew my attention to this statement made by our cher president, Barack Obama, back in 2008 when he was trolling for votes and was interested in convincing the 6 million Americans abroad that he was the man for them.  Four years later (an eternity for a politician) it is illuminating to read what he was saying back in 2008:
"Obama understands the special concerns and issues of Americans living abroad and will seek to address these as president."
"Barack Obama believes that the U.S. government should pay close attention to how American citizens are treated in the private sector while they live and work abroad. Our government must work to ensure that overseas Americans have every chance to compete on a level playing field...."
"Obama will work with members of the Americans abroad community and the U.S. embassies to determine how the U.S. government can be responsive to the concerns of overseas Americans.  As a U.S. Senator, Obama has taken seriously the concerns of all Illinoisans, whether they are currently in Illinois or not.  As president, Obama will work to establish a direct dialogue with Americans abroad."
"Americans living abroad have little access to basic information about U.S. government services and affairs.  Barack Obama believes that U.S. embassies and consulates, which are the main U.S. government contact points for Americans abroad, should develop and implement concrete plans on how to communicate basic information to Americans living abroad."
Between 2008 and 2012 Mr. Obama seems to have had a change of heart.  Of all that he promised in 2008, only his commitment to making voting easier for overseas Americans has been realized.  In this policy statement he demonstrated that he had a very good grasp of the facts and of the concerns of the 6-7 million Americans abroad, so the contention of some of my fellow expatriates that he is blissfully unaware of the impact of his recent policies on Americans abroad simply does not stand up to serious scrutiny.

Ah well, Obama is not the first politician to weasel out of his campaign promises and he certainly won't be the last.  In his defense, this situation is not entirely his fault - in the euphoria over his election too many of us forgot to heed the immortal words of  H.L. Mencken on the basic nature of politicians:
Their primary error lies in making the false assumption that some politicians are better than others... I propose that it be renounced and contend that its renunciation would greatly rationalize and improve our politics. I do not argue that there would be any improvement in our politicians; on the contrary, I believe that would remain substantially as they are today, and perhaps grow even worse. But what I do argue is that recognizing them frankly for what they are would instantly and automatically dissipate the indignation caused by their present abominations, and that the disappearance of this indignation would promote the public contentment and happiness. Under my scheme there would be no more false assumptions and no more false hopes, and hence no more painful surprises, no more bitter resentment of fraud, no more despair.
Politicians, in so far as they remained necessary, would be kept at work - but not with any insane notion that they were archangels.
And maybe that is why I have a grudging respect for Marine Le Pen (Front National).  Her politics may make me shudder but I don't think anyone (even her supporters) has ever taken her for a Celestial Being

7 comments:

Tim said...

I'll have to think about this more but in general I think the blame has to be placed to some degree on both Obama and the largely Democratic Congress. My sense is they are at some level aware of what is going on but paralysed to do anything about it. The issue is the problem is going to get worse not better. People in countries such as Canada simply aren't going to take it. It is no longer becoming a debate between the US Treasury Dept and the Canadian Dept of Finance it is become a test of will between the US Congress and the Parliament of Canada.

Victoria FERAUGE said...

Exactly, Tim. This is an international issue and the repercussions are just starting to be known.

Steven Mopsick wrote a very good piece about this topic here:
http://mopsicktaxlaw.blogspot.fr/2012/04/fbar-penalty-administration-good.html

And here are a few good quotations:

"The current IRS international FBAR enforcement program is soon to present a major challenge to the leadership of the IRS. There is a pipeline of IRS tax controversy matters starting to work its way through the system. These are taxpayer challenges to the way the IRS chooses to use its vast discretionary power granted to it by Congress, to administer FATCA, and the FBAR penalties."

"The hardest cases for the IRS will come from American ex-patriates, seven million strong, and recent immigrants to the United States with family back in their home countries and bank accounts as well, some of which they have held since childhood."

Tim said...

I have actually heard after a dual US UK Citizen flight attendant living in Paris(who apparently works for a US Airline) approached the French Ministry of Finance over some tax issues with the US the French Ministry of Finance has had some high level meetings with the US Treasury over taxation of US citizens living in France. Supposedly at first the US was very unhappy as they saw it that France was butting into to what the US considers domestic law however, they have accepted they are going to have to have further discussions with France on this issue.

Victoria FERAUGE said...

Hi Tim, that sounds like a fascinating story. Do you have any sources where we could learn more? I just have to know how it turns out...:-)

Victoria

Victoria FERAUGE said...

Oh and jsut for fun I'm reading a really good book called Taming Globalization: International Law, the U.S. Constitution and the New World Order by Julian Ku and John Woo. Really good explanations about how international law and domestic law intersect. They seem to think that the EU is going to be the model in the future. A really good read.

Tim said...

On this subject again. Democrats Abroad is going to present at the upcoming FATCA hearing on May 15th. I liked to their briefing notes below:

http://bsmlegal.com/PDFs/DemocratsAbroad.pdf

Victoria FERAUGE said...

Hi Tim,

Good to see that the Democrats Abroad are finally getting on the ball.

Victoria