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.
Some of our friends on the left have admitted that the Congressional Budget Office has it exactly right when it says that Obamacare will destroy the work-hour equivalent of up to 2.5 million jobs -- all by 2017. I'll spare you my back-of-the-envelope math, but using Gallup's figures, already 24.8 million Americans are underemployed. Obamacare will increase that figure by nearly 10 percent. And that's just in the law's first three years.
For those who will see their work hours and their paychecks shrink due to Washington's beneficence, there's no doubt that it sucks to be an American.
Let's not forget the lucky ones, the ones who manage to keep their full-time jobs. There will be fewer of them working in an economy growing more slowly trying to pay for expanded benefits. Health insurance subsidies, food stamps, the growing Social Security and Medicare rolls -- all of these things will require increasing the tax burden on America's producing class even further. They'll enjoy the privilege of taking home less so that others might have slightly more, all in the name of fairness. They might not think so yet, but there will come a day when they, too, decide it sucks to be an American.
Washington, I might add, continues to do just fine. The politicians vote for their own perks and pay raises. The lobbyists get their fat paychecks for getting the politicians to write the loopholes benefitting America's "connected class" of big banks, financiers, particular tech companies, Hollywood, and of course the legal profession.
For them, it's pretty good to be an American -- if we can still really call them that.