- The Washington Times
Thursday, September 21, 2017

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

How do Republicans win in 2018, let alone in 2020, when their president’s approval rating is lower than Hillary Clinton’s self-esteem?

Easy: 5.7 million Americans who live and work abroad are registered and qualified to vote by absentee ballot.


Why’s that a big deal when we already have 194 million registered voters inside our borders, 135 million of whom voted last Nov. 7?

Remember absentee ballots in one state, Florida, won George W. Bush the presidency in 2000.

In some battleground states that clinched the 2016 election. A smatter of voters — fewer than 1,000 in each state — won that state for Donald Trump.

Smatters matter.

So what’s the best way for the GOP to get those voters abroad to feel a Republican spirit clutch their hearts and stir them to dispatch an absentee ballot?

Inform them that President Trump and GOP lawmakers in Congress are putting together sweeping changes in how the government taxes everyone, including Americans abroad.

Right now Washington sets things up so our nationals living overseas get tax-whacked twice. The IRS extracts its pound, and the government of the country where an American works and lives extract its pound. That’s a lot of unfair pounding, and our people working and living outside our borders are sick of it. How do we know that? They gripe to their political organizations abroad — Republicans Overseas and Democrats Abroad.

There’s a lot of room for Republicans to grow themselves here. In 2016 only 12 percent of Americans overseas cast absentee ballots.

Republicans have a built-in advantage in using this issue to inspire more Americans abroad to mail ballots back to the U.S.

At the initiative of pro-Trump activists like Solomon Yue, the Republican National Committee (RNC) has approved a resolution to get Congress to make it so only the government of the country in which Americans abroad live and work could tax their income.

Mr. Yue, who is Republicans Overseas vice chairman as well as an RNC member from Oregon, says the White House has approved the proposed change.

What’s in it for President Trump and Uncle Sam? Fairness, Democrats abroad migrating to the GOP column and more — yes, more — tax revenue to pay for Sammy’s living standard.

Regarding more revenue, Mr. Yue and Hong Kong-based Republicans Overseas Worldwide President Michael DeSombre say they’ve come up with loophole plugs. These would more than make up for revenue by no longer double-taxing Americans overseas. Right now Washington doesn’t tax the profits of a Beijing or London billionaire’s real estate holdings in Cleveland, Palo Alto or anywhere else in the U.S. Also, these and all other foreigners don’t pay Washington a cent in capital gains taxes when they unload their U.S. real estate. Dumb.

But these fine gentlemen will have to kiss their loopy loophole goodbye if Mr. DeSombre, Mr. Yue and their team get the ball across the goal.

Even though this change smacks of common sense, it’s struggling for breath in Washington’s airless partisanship divide. To play it safe, Mr. DeSombe has been mailing pleas for help to fellow Republicans Overseas with this pitch:

“Can you please support our initiative by writing a letter to President Trump and copying your congressman and senator.”

Steepening the hill he, Mr. Yue and their Republicans Overseas group are intent to climb is their counterpart, Democrats Abroad. They are, of course, still Democrats and so are actually split over whether to back the tax breaks the Republicans are promoting.

Tina Johansson is an American in Switzerland and an activist leading one side in the ugly spat among Democrats Abroad members. She’s all for supporting the proposed tax change to benefit Americans working abroad regardless of party affiliation. Democrats Abroad is, as you would guess, tightly tethered to the Democratic National Committee. The DNC isn’t in the mood — not now, not ever — to encourage rank-and-file Democrats to board a train that Republicans are driving, even if it’s bound for tax relief that benefits all Democrats working abroad. Why? Reducing revenue to Washington doesn’t exactly dovetail with dreams of a national health system and a totally unionized U.S. workforce, including all employees of every government at every level everywhere in America.

Or with an even more magnanimous welfare system and a restoration of the teachers union monopoly on public education. These things take money. Endless gobs of it. In Democratic liturgy, there are two sources for endless gobs of money — American taxpayers and the Bank of the People’s Republic of China.

This puts Ms. Johansson at flaming odds with her party’s leadership on legislating away laws that empower Washington to tax Americans abroad, including the hated Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA)

In a Facebook post, Ms. Johansson said of her party’s leadership, “I can tell you, they have done absolutely nothing to ensure law-abiding Americans living abroad are not unfairly penalized. There were hearings held in Congress recently on FATCA, and the attitude towards us by the Dems who testified made me want to reach through my screen and strangle them.”

So would Mr. DeSombre and Mr. Yue.

Ralph Z. Hallow, the chief political correspondent of commentary, served on the Chicago Tribune, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and Washington Times editorial boards, was Ford Foundation Fellow in Urban Journalism at Northwestern University and resident at Columbia University Editorial-Page Editors Seminar.


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