Why the Republicans’ “Fourteenth Amendment” Campaign is a Waste of Time

There’s been a great deal of press about the campaign by certain Republican leaders to either amend or redefine the Fourteenth Amendment to exclude the children of illegal immigrants from American citizenship.  I don’t think it’s a winning issue politically, but on a more profound level it’s based on the a priori assumption that American citizenship is an unalloyed benefit.

As was the case with Roman citizenship, whose value deteriorated from the time when the apostle Paul invoked it for his own legal protection until the Late Roman taxes and politics inspired the Britons to cut loose from the Empire, our isn’t getting better either.  An example of this come from Rubin on Tax:

While ostensibly limited to “reporting” requirements to address offshore tax evasion by U.S. persons, at some point U.S. investors will balk at the level of reporting and forego profitable investments in the world at large, and foreign investors will simply move on to greener pastures and avoid the U.S. in making capital available…

For example, U.S. persons that purchase stock of a U.S. corporation from a foreign entity are required to obtain certification regarding “substantial” U.S. ownership (or nonownership) of the foreign entity. If the U.S. person does not obtain the required certification, the U.S. buyer is obligated to withhold 30% of the purchase price from the foreign seller (at least that is how I read the new statute). If the U.S. buyer is not aware of these rules, the IRS can come after it for the 30% withholding even if the buyer has already fully paid the foreign seller.

We also have the spectacle of foreign banks turning away American citizens/persons because of the onerous requirements our government places on banks which do business with our citizens/persons.  And, of course, one must never forget the double taxation that we impose on those who work abroad, frequently for American companies.

That’s why we’re seeing an increase in people renouncing their American citizenship.  For someone who comes to this country with the idea of achieving economic success, the possibility of their American citizenship trapping them in an economic bubble (and I mean that in several senses) should give pause.

It’s unlikely that most of those who come to this soil to have their children are thinking that far ahead, but if our government continues to punish people for success and ties economic activities in kilometres of red tape, they need to start.  And the Republicans need to stick to making American citizenship worthwhile for everyone rather than obsessing with denying it for a few.

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