Facebook co-founder Eduardo Saverin renounced his United States citizenship back in September in order to take up permanent residence closer to the bamboo curtain, in Singapore. Although he has officially left Facebook, he still owns about a four percent share of the company, which at the time he left the country was worth roughly 2.44 billion dollars, and which is still projected to grow at a terrific rate after its initial public offering.
A spokesperson for Saverin insists that his decision to leave the country and abandon US citizenship was about nothing other than his earnest desire to live and work abroad. That may be true; who’s to say other than Saverin himself what his motivations were? But the claim is awfully difficult to believe, and at the very least this move is suspiciously convenient for Saverin, who stands to save at least 67 million dollars in taxes that he would otherwise have owed to the United States government.
Under current US tax law, Saverin will be obligated to pay a fifteen percent capital gains tax on the value of his stocks as of September, but by renouncing citizenship he avoids owing anything on the future value of his stock, which has already been calculated at 448 million dollars greater than it was when he jumped ship. Furthermore, he avoids the impact of a forthcoming increase of capital gains tax to twenty percent, as well as any other upper-class tax increases that might yet happen as Americans grow increasingly frustrated with the broadening economic disparities in their country.
I acknowledge that Eduardo Saverin might just really love Singapore. He might be absolutely certain that it’s the only place he wants to live for the rest of his life, and he might have made that decision purely on the basis of their culture, food, and climate, without regard for the fact that they have no capital gains tax whatsoever. But accounting for that possibility, Saverin’s actions were obtuse at best, and calculatingly, cruelly avaricious at worst.
As such, his renunciation of United States citizenship is a remarkably clear synecdoche representing the damaging greed of the worst elements of American society and culture. Such greed does not fall along strict class lines, as there are plenty of wealthy individuals who demonstrate genuine interest in helping their society and their fellow citizens, and plenty of lower class individuals who make no secret of the fact that they wish to be rich purely for their own selfish gain.
But every person who demonstrates such greed contributes to a steady poisoning of American culture. And every person who shirks the solemn responsibilities he has to a nation and culture that helped him to acquire his tremendous wealth makes it clear that he values every base desire more than any genuine solution to the problems that nation faces.
The investment capital is available for us to solve these problems – to feed the twenty percent of children in the United States who are malnourished, to find technological solutions to curtail global warming, to effectively train the modern workforce, to normalize sustainable resources, install renewable energy infrastructure, plant bamboo for domestic use.
It takes political will to accomplish these things, and the clearest indicator of that political will is the willingness of individuals to sacrifice what they damned well can afford. The responsibility falls more heavily upon the wealthiest Americans, or as the case may be, former Americans, even though the responsibility is ultimately shared universally.
Every billionaire who dodges his responsibility to the country that birthed his wealth strips that country of economic solutions that it could have had right in hand. It doesn’t matter if such greed is deliberate or merely a consequence of not caring enough to realize one is making out like a bandit; the effect is the same. And so, in essence, is the cause.