WASHINGTON -- After being compared to the Nazis for targeting people like the Facebook co-founder who renounced his U.S. citizenship and thereby avoided taxes, Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) hit back Thursday. He said it was appalling to make such a comparison, and appalling that conservatives would turn a "tax dodger" into a "hero."
Schumer and Sen. Bob Casey (D-Pa.) offered legislation last week that would bar people like Eduardo Saverin -- who renounced his citizenship as he faced the prospect of a $4 billion windfall from the Facebook IPO -- from returning to the United States.
That brought howls of outrage from anti-tax conservatives who saw the abandonment of U.S. citizenship as a rational choice for people facing a 15 percent capital gains tax.
Grover Norquist, the head of Americans for Tax Reform, said Schumer and Casey's legislation was similar to laws the Nazis wrote before World War II to make Jews pay to leave the country. "He probably just plagiarized it and translated it from the original German," said Norquist, according to The Hill.
Schumer, taking to the Senate floor, called the comparison outrageous.
"I know a thing or two about what the Nazis did. Some of my relatives were killed by them," he said. "Saying that a person who made their fortune specifically because of the positive elements in American society, in turn, has a responsibility to do right by America is not even on the same planet as comparing to what Nazis did to Jews."
Schumer added that he found it troubling that conservatives would lionize someone like Saverin, who was called an American hero on Forbes' website.
"Can you believe it? An American hero? Renouncing your citizenship now qualifies as heroic for the hard right wing?" Schumer said.
He argued that most Americans consider supporting their country to be more patriotic than renouncing it and that people who grow rich in America are helped along the way by schools, police and other public investments, all supported by taxpayers.
"No one gets rich in America on their own," Schumer said. "And when people do well in America, they should do well by America. I believe the vast majority of Americans believe this too."
Saverin has moved to Singapore, a country that does not tax capital gains.
Schumer argued that right wing support for Saverin's move is a bad sign for the nation, suggesting that it will be all but impossible to agree on debt and deficit reduction if the right now places tax rates above everything else, including citizenship.
"This has gone so far, this idolatry they have taken to such an extreme end, [that] they make Eduardo Saverin into their patron saint," Schumer said. "In the name of low taxes for the wealthy, they have lionized an inherently unpatriotic person."
"It is scary. It is a scary, absurd place where even a tax dodger who renounces America for his own 30 pieces of silver is celebrated as a patriot and an American hero. It is perverse," said the senator. "I am appalled by making heroic a man who renounces citizenship to escape a tax rate of capital gains of 15 percent."
UPDATE: 5:03 p.m. -- Grover Norquist took exception to Schumer's characterization, saying he did not call the senator a Nazi. He was referring to a law passed first during the Weimar Republic, Norquist said.
"He [Schumer] didn't go to high school. The Nazis didn't come to power until 1933. This law was passed in 1931," Norquist said, although he allowed, "The Nazis didn't get rid of the law. They did it too."
"I didn't call him a Nazi," Norquist added. "He yells Nazi to hide from the fact that what he's doing is a bad idea."
Norquist argued that his bigger point was not about name-calling, but about the bad idea. "The thrust of what we ought to be doing is figuring out how to make this country so attractive that people want to come, not figuring out a way to grab people on the way out," he said, throwing in a dis for the senator's home state. "He's from New York. People leave New York because they think New York is ill-governed and provides poor government at a high price."
In his speech, Schumer had accused Republicans of being so extreme that they would favor no capital gains tax, which Norquist, at least, agreed with.
"At the end of the day, we should tax income one time at one rate," he said. "Capital gains tax should be zero. That's the Republican Party position for some time. It's where [Rep. Paul] Ryan's road map takes you to. We tax income at one time at one rate. You earn a dollar, they steal some, you go away."
Asked if he really meant that levying taxes equaled stealing, Norquist amended, "OK, taking it. Taking by force."
Michael McAuliff covers politics and Congress for The Huffington Post. Talk to him on Facebook.
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