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You May Not Believe But You Can't Leave

marvinwolf1It is standard for totalitarian countries to pass laws to prevent its people from leaving. For example, after 1941, Jews in Hitler’s Germany were prevented from leaving Germany or other Eastern European countries under Nazi control. Modern Iran works the same way.

And soon, so will the U.S.

I remember a time when the U.S. used to brag about America’s freedom of travel and complained about other countries restricting that right. I think that time was as long ago as last week, when some officials were talking smack about North Korea.


Unfortunately, that will be one less thing to brag about soon.

There’s a bill that’s already halfway through Congress. The Senate already passed it by a large margin and it’s headed for the House of Representatives. It’s called the “Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act.” Ironically, it’s a transportation bill.

Don’t count on Democrats to stop it. Democrats introduced it and pushed it through.

On the surface, it’s an Obama style jobs bill. It provides money to fix roads. Hey, sounds great, we can use jobs. But it also gives a federal agency the power to stop you from leaving the country. What federal agency? The Department of Homeland Security? No. FBI? No. CIA? No. Actually, it has nothing to do with national security at all.

The bill gives the power to stop you from leaving the country to the Internal Revenue Service. That’s right. The tax people.

If you are alleged to owe $50,000 or more to the IRS, even if you dispute it, even if you haven’t had a day in court, just because the IRS simply makes a claim that you owe that much, the IRS can tell the State Department to revoke or deny a passport and you are stuck in the U.S.  The entire country becomes a giant debtor’s prison. The IRS can (H&R) Block you from leaving the U.S.

Let’s put this in perspective - if you are a Communist, you can get a passport. If you served time for a felony, you can usually get a passport. They might stop you if you actually took up arms against the U.S., or if you had a heavy drug trafficking conviction. Those at least make some sense. That’s about criminality.

But owe back taxes, which is generally a civil matter? They treat you worse than a criminal.

A while back, there was an earlier bill passed providing travel restrictions if you owed child support. Now there’s this. The problem is: What about tomorrow? I see a slippery slope here.

Why haven’t you heard about this before? Because that is how Congress does things. They hide the nasty things in bills having nothing to do with the nasty things so you don’t know to complain.

It doesn’t really take too much to owe $50,000 to the IRS. One year missed a while back, or a computer mistake or an audit disallowing a deduction you took every year. Add interest and penalties and recomputing a few years around that time. It adds up pretty fast. Plus, what about after the election? Another bill lowering the $50,000 threshold to, say, $2,000? Easy. Hide it in another bill, like military appropriations or the budget. It’s not like Congress actually reads the stuff they pass.

Sure, there are a few exceptions drafted into the law, but that’s not the point. It’s about a more important document than a 1040 form. It’s called the Constitution.

We’re losing it. Step by step and law by law, we are becoming a different country.

I’m not saying the U.S. is becoming Nazi Germany. This is less obvious but certainly dangerous. The Jews felt the change coming the late 1930’s. But they didn’t believe it; they thought it was inconceivable, so they didn’t fight against it.

Hitler didn’t take power in a coup d’état. He was legally elected. His restrictions went through his legislature legally. His evil was that he did it legally. He got away with it because no one wanted to believe it. Because their legislature didn’t read the bills they passed and just rubber stamped them. Just like here.

There’s a lesson there. Will we learn it?

By the way, Timothy Franz Geithner, Secretary of the Treasury - who heads the agency that controls the IRS - didn’t pay his taxes. I’ll bet he has no problem travelling. Oh wait, I heard a couple of months ago that maybe he was arrested, released and told not to leave the country because of the AIG scandal. But - no - that was over a criminal thing, not back taxes.

Today, the IRS. Tomorrow - Motor Vehicles? The Post Office? A health care agency? The Department of Weights and Measures? Failure to renew your EZPass? If it’s constitutional for one, it’s constitutional for all those agencies.

The House will be voting on it soon. Maybe you want to have some say about that with your local representative before the vote. While you still can. After all, there is an election coming up. And if you are a Congressman, maybe you should read the bill first before you vote.  All of it, not just a staffer’s summary. Especially that part.

Or you can just deny that things are changing. That strategy didn’t work too well for Germany’s Jews. But, hey, maybe you’ll have better luck.

Or maybe Canada should start budgeting to build a fence. A really long one.


Marvin Wolf is a satirical columnist for Local Talk News.

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