Facebook on Thursday priced the IPO it expects to launch Friday at $38 a share, valuing the social media company at $104 billion. But so much for that welcome sign of confidence in American entrepreneurship and capital markets. This being the age of envy, the bigger story in some circles seems to be the decision by Facebook co-founder Eduardo Saverin to renounce his U.S. citizenship in favor of Singapore.
Democratic Senators Chuck Schumer and Bob Casey, a pair of envy specialists, pounced on the news by announcing Thursday that they will introduce a plan to tax capital gains at 30% for any wealthy Americans who try to escape from U.S. shores. No doubt they hope to score political points by punishing the fleeing rich who will strike most Americans as unpatriotic, but the Senators are doing far more harm than Mr. Saverin is to the U.S. and its global reputation.
Not that we have any sympathy for Mr. Saverin, whose citizenship decision is a remarkable act of ingratitude toward the country that welcomed him as a child from Brazil. America's rule of law and relatively open markets have allowed him to take $30,000 in savings and turn it into Facebook shares that after Friday may be worth more than $2 billion. ...
Singapore has no capital gains tax, while President Obama wants to raise America's rate to nearly 24%—and 30% if his Buffett Rule becomes law. Then there is Mr. Obama's plan for a 44% dividend tax and 45% estate tax.
Whatever Mr. Saverin's motivation, the more important point is that it is his decision, however misguided. America was built on millions of similar individual decisions to come to our shores. It is precisely that ability to decide for oneself that has made America such a magnet for two centuries.
The way to continue to be a magnet for the best and brightest is not to impose Soviet-style exit taxes to punish people who want to leave the country. That is what oppressive and demagogic regimes do, and it's humiliating to see U.S. Senators posture in such fashion. The way to punish Mr. Saverin is to make the U.S. so appealing and dynamic again that he'll be sorry he ever left.