Sen. Chuck Schumer issued a fiery rebuke Thursday to conservatives who have criticized his legislation, inspired by Facebook’s Eduardo Saverin, aimed at cracking down on Americans who renounce their citizenship to duck taxes.
The New York Democrat took to the Senate floor to declare he’s “appalled” that conservatives would “rush to the defense of a man who is turning his back on America.” He said he’s seen a “torrent of vitriol” in response to his bill, calling the nature of the pushback “absurd,” “off the deep end,” “baffling” and “odious.”
The criticism from conservatives has been fierce. Anti-tax activist Grover Norquist likened the bill to actions taken by Nazi Germany, while the Wall Street Journal compared it to “Soviet-style exit taxes.” Similarly over-the-top attacks have been voiced by conservative commentators, who have argued that Saverin was chased away by progressive tax policies in the U.S.
“Grover Norquist says our bill is like fascist Nazi Germany,” said Schumer, who is Jewish. “I know a thing or two about what Nazis did. Some of my relatives were killed by them.” Punishing Americans who ditch U.S. citizenship to avoid legal obligations, he said, is “not even on the same planet as what the Nazis did to the Jews.”
“I am really appalled by the reaction,” he continued. “I’m not appalled by a debate on tax policy — I’m appalled by making heroic a man who renounced his citizenship to escape a tax rate, capital gains, of 15 percent.” The senator emphasized that the Brazilian-born Saverin and his family immigrated to the United States out of fear for their safety while he was a young boy, and said it’s immoral to dodge his responsibilities after having benefited tremendously.
The legislation, sponsored by Schumer and Sen. Bob Casey (D-PA), would force citizenship-renouncing tax-dodgers to pay a 30 percent tax rate on all future U.S. investments and ban them from ever setting foot in the country again.
Schumer, the Democrats’ top messaging man, called the conservative reaction a logical but “scary” result of the movement’s broader anti-tax rigidity, describing it as the central cause of gridlock on Capitol Hill on budgetary matters.
Sensible governance, he declared, has taken a “back seat to the far right’s idolatry on taxes. And now this has gone so far — this idolatry, they have taken to such an extreme end, they make Eduardo Saverin into their patron saint. In the name of low taxes for the wealthy, they have lionized an inherently unpatriotic person.”
Update: Grover Norquist responds, tells TPM he never actually compared Schumer to Nazis.
Sahil Kapur is a congressional reporter for TPM. He previously covered politics and public policy for numerous publications including The Guardian and The Huffington Post. He can be reached at sahil [at] talkingpointsmemo.com.