It Sucks to Be an American

As someone who came of age during the Go-Go Eighties and the Even Go-Go-er Nineties, I could never have imagined myself writing "It sucks to be an American." That's the kind of thing progressives say, or at least think very loudly -- but it certainly isn't the kind of thing to ever enter the mind of a liberty-loving conservative or libertarian. But the news allows -- the numbers allow -- no other conclusion, so now it must be said.

It sucks to be an American.

Let's start with the record numbers of Americans who have decided it sucks so badly to be one that they have to stop doing it. Robert Wood reports for Forbes that last quarter 630 Americans renounced their citizenship, which "brings the total number to 2,999 for all of 2013":

The previous record high for a year was 1,781 set in 2011. It’s a 221% increase over the 932 who left in 2012. You can call it a shaming or a public record, but the Treasury Department is required to publish a quarterly list of Americans who renounced their U.S. Citizenship or terminated their long-term U.S. residency. The public outing puts Americans on notice who relinquished their rights.

But it wasn't their rights they were renouncing -- it was onerous tax duties they were abandoning. Somebody has to pay for all the Obamacare benefits, and Uncle Sam's reach extends to foreign earnings for which our expatriate American friends already pay foreign taxes. Enough, said a record 2,999 people, is enough.

Many of the 317,493,212 of us who remain either have, or soon will have, come to the same conclusion that it sucks to be an American. Gallup reported late last week that their estimate of the country's unemployment rate in January is far more dire than Washington's rosy 6.6% figure. That's up four tenths of a point since December. Worse, though, is Gallup's estimate of the underemployment rate, which now stands at 18.6%. The payroll to population rate fell almost a full point from December, to 42.0% from 42.9%. That's the lowest ratio of Americans with paychecks to those without since March of 2011. Nice work if you can get it, but increasingly we can't. And for all those without, it does indeed suck to be an American.

What might be most remarkable of all is that in this era of hope and change, we consider 6.6% unemployment to be pretty good. Welcome to the New Normal, comrades.