I am not Comic Book Guy, though I could pass for him at dusk, I suppose. But “I hear there’s rumors…on the…uh, internets” that Superman has declared that he is going to renounce his United States citizenship. He claims that “truth, justice and the American way” aren’t enough anymore.
In reality, I suspect his tax burden is too high for his comfort. Saving lives, thwarting criminals, preventing world destruction would almost certainly bring the temptation to garner and hide hordes of cash. Tax treatment is the reason most U.S. expatriates give up their citizenship. His official explanation indicates that Superman’s super powers apparently include the ability to spin impenetrable P.C. bluster.
But I don’t think Superman really knows what he’s getting into. He is about to face his toughest opponent yet– the bureaucracies of the State Department, Department of Homeland Security (DHS), and the IRS.
First of all, because Superman is not seeking to become the citizen of any other country, he has to physically leave the United States to renounce his citizenship. The relevant section of the Immigration and Nationality Act provides that Superman must:
(5) mak[e] a formal renunciation of nationality before a diplomatic or consular officer of the United States in a foreign state, in such form as may be prescribed by the Secretary of State…
Superman doesn’t need to be molested by the TSA to board a plane– he can fly. No armed surveillance drones could stop him due to his legendary indestructibility. No, his test only really begins when he lines up in the queue at the U.S. Embassy in, say, London.
After waiting in line all morning, he will have mere seconds in front of the British national working at the front window to state his case. Unless he has exceptionally good luck, he will be told that the Embassy only processes renunciations of citizenship on Wednesdays, so come back next week. For five tortuous days, Superman’s strength is sapped by eating British food and and dodging traffic in a steady drizzle.
Returning to the Embassy, he will be informed he needs to prove he does not owe any U.S. income taxes. Proving a negative can be tough, even for a Superhero, so Superman reverses the rotation of the Earth to make photocopies of his last 10 years of returns. Finally, he is passed along to a consular officer.
He takes the oath renouncing his U.S. citizenship– it is irrevocable– and is given a Certificate of Loss of Nationality. The consul sneers, telling him to get out of his sight. Now Superman is stateless.
Without realizing the full consequences of what he has done, he illegally enters the United States to engage in unauthorized work at the Daily Planet, using a false identity. An intersection camera monitored by DHS catches him changing into civilian clothes in a phone booth, and Immigration and Customs Enforcement raids the Daily Planet. Superman is arrested and found to possess a fake birth certificate, passport and driver’s license, all in the alias of “Clark Kent”.
DHS then charges the man of steel with document fraud, false claim to U.S. citizenship (ironically because of the fake documents), unauthorized work, and being present in the United States without being admitted or paroled; he is put into removal proceedings and held without bond as a flight risk in a special DHS kryptonite-barred cell.
Janet Napolitano calls a press conference to anounce the arrest as proof of the administration’s strong effort to crack down on the employment of illegal aliens and to protect union jobs.
After several months, Superman has his hearing before the Immigration Judge. It lasts about an hour. The judge orders him deported. He appeals the case all the way up, and after another two years in detention, he ultimately loses his case.
The problems then continue for our former hero. Because his renunciation left him legally stateless, he cannot be physically deported. Further, because he is a potential threat to the community, the DHS decides to detain him indefinitely. He will learn, just as the Mariel Cubans learned, that U.S. Courts will uphold this detention, even should it continue for more than three decades.
Adding insult to injury, the IRS begins to levy on all his assets.
Only now, in the midst of his sorrows, does Superman realize that the bureaucracy is a foe of far greater malice and strength than Lex Luthor.
Superman has just experienced what today passes for the American way.