A taxpayer is deported

A friend who is originally from India is coming by this weekend for a farewell-to-the-U.S. visit. He has a Ph.D. from an American university. He has a good job on Wall Street. He owns a condo in the NYC area. He owns a car. He has no wife or kids. His U.S. visa has run out and he and his employer and all of their lawyers can’t figure out how to get it extended. He’s moving to London and will continue his work for this bank from there.

So… even as we welcome uneducated refugees from the world’s trouble spots, we’re deporting a person who consumes virtually no government services. The guy is not in school, is not old enough for Medicare, has no kids to dump off on the state for 6 hours a day, has never been convicted of a crime or imprisoned, and has never collected unemployment insurance. Meanwhile he pays federal income tax, city income tax, state income tax, social security tax, medicare tax, unemployment insurance (tax), tolls, car sales tax, gas tax, car registration fees, property tax on his condo, sales tax, meals tax (those Wall St. guys eat pretty lavishly).

How do we do stuff like this without eventually running out of money?

32 thoughts on “A taxpayer is deported

  1. Deported? Really?

    deport |diˈpôrt|
    verb
    1 [ trans. ] expel (a foreigner) from a country, typically on the grounds of illegal status or for having committed a crime : he was deported for violation of immigration laws.
    • exile (a native) to another country.

    This sounds more like the expiration of a work permit, a Green Card expiration. Lament the fact that he did not complete the process but don’t play the blame game with US policy which is very much favorable to the professional immigrant.

  2. We are out of money. We have been for a long time. We just don’t realize it yet because China and the middle east haven’t cut up the U.S. Treasuries credit card. That day is fast approaching. The U.S. government is in no better position than a McMansion owner with maxed out credit cards just before the economy collapsed.

  3. you are ignoring that most if not all of the NYC “too big to fail banks” are Corporate Welfare Queens, living off the taxpayer. AIG, Goldman, etc would have failed without the various bailouts, TARP, borrowing from the Fed at near 0% interest rate, etc.

    I wish your friend had worked at a non-Welfare Queen company that actually requiring the same occupation/skill, that stays in business by offering a good product/service at a good price such that its relationship with its customers is mutually beneficial & hence it gains/maintains long term customers. This is different than the Welfare Queens aka Corporate Communists (c) Dylan Ratigan aka Conservative Nanny Staters (c) Dr Dean Baker, who make money by maintaining their non-competitive cartel status via paying off politicians.

    For example, if your friend worked at Vanguard Investment Mgt, I’d agree with your comment in this post.

  4. Your friend has no need for the state. There are no advocates for the financially secure. As long as the rest of us are willing to quietly go about our lives paying our taxes and not complaining loudly enough to attract the wrong sort of attention, things won’t change.

  5. If he’s in a job that _requires_ a Ph. D., he can get a green card in pretty short order under a category known as EB-1 (employment first preference). Other categories for countries such as India and China have long waiting lists because no country’s citizens may consume > 7% of the overall quota for that category. Obviously works to the severe disadvantage of countries with large populations (and thus, a large number of potential immigrants). He would likely have had a far easier time if he had been born in Lichtenstein or Switzerland.

  6. Folks: This guy works for one of the largest banks on Wall Street (kept alive with your tax dollars, naturally). They have endless drawers full of lawyers. If it were truly simple to keep him in the U.S. they probably would have figured it out. If your answer is “The immigration laws are really simple and sensible; you just need to be smarter than all of the lawyers and employees at a multi-billion-dollar bank to figure them out” that’s equivalent to saying “the U.S. economy will recover as soon as the average American I.Q. rises by 20 points.”

    His move to London is not a hardship for him. He’s going to enjoy a very comfortable salary there. The people who are going to suffer from this are U.S. taxpayers who will have to cough up whatever he was previously paying.

  7. Yep. We have our collective heads up our asses as far as I can tell. Go to any top engineering school and you’ll find it filled with brilliant, hard-working kids from India and China who’ve come over here to get a Master’s or PhD. When they graduate, they almost all apply for jobs in the US. A few of them get picked up by US companies willing to sponsor them and spend massive amounts of money on immigration lawyers to get their paperwork through. Most of them, we kick out of the country and send home. Exactly the opposite of what it seems like we ought to be doing.

  8. The US immigration laws don’t necessarily favor skilled workers. Every so often there is amnesty for illegal workers that allows them to file for permanent residency through various (questionable) means. These people continue to work off the books even after becoming permanent residents which means they don’t pay much in terms of taxes but can qualify for medicaid and their kids go to public school for free. Meanwhile, if you came to the US as a student and stay here to work in a field that requires highly skilled people you are looking at a 6-8 year wait to become a permanent resident with no guarantees of the outcome. I still think the US is a country looked upon favorably by skilled workers every where but that is slowly changing. It is in the country’s favor to retain these people who are well educated, pay a lot in local and federal taxes and often contribute to innovation at their workplaces.

  9. GB: Do you think the guy really wants to stay here? I mean, as Phil is so amazing at pointing out on an almost daily basis…this country spectacularly broken. He is single, smart, and presumably makes more than the average US medical doctor…I’d take a free move to London over staying here…any day.

  10. Wait a second: if he was working for a bank which is “kept alive with your tax dollars, naturally” this means a good chunk of your friend’s salary was also paid with our tax dollars (naturally). So him not working for that bank, in US, would actually be a good thing if the bank didn’t hire a replacement.

    But except for this detail I can totally relate to this person. Yours sincerely plus the spouse were kept in limbo by the US of A’s immigration service for SEVEN YEARS AND A HALF. A work permit was granted to the husband. The wife was not allowed to work legally for these seven years and a half, until the incompetents who are now taking care of Aunt Zeituni finally approved the husband’s greencard application.

  11. It’s fine his position won’t be lost, and therefor tax would be still paid. There is 10% unemployment in NYC official a lot more unofficial, there are plenty of bright smart people who have US citizenship that look for jobs.

  12. Could you clarify the difference in his legal status versus your favorite Aunt Zeituni?
    Is she in the same boat, but didn’t leave, and/or is you friend actually being rounded up and put on a plane?

    (I get that his company doesn’t want to participate in a crime by continuing to employ him and that neither does he. I am not advocating that he move into public housing and make illegal campaign contribution like Aunt Zeituni, either, I am just curious the difference, if any, in their deportation status.)

  13. The oversized financial sector is a huge private tax on the US economy. Wall Street needs to slim down to at least half it’s current size, and the Ph.D.’s working there need to find jobs in the productive economy.

    This is probably one of the biggest issues this country is facing. Attracted by the outsized pay and bonuses offered by Wall Street, there is a huge drain of top talent in this country towards the unproductive financial sector. This is a major reason why the U.S. economy is falling behind. Making matters worse, the earnings of Wall Street are a complete illusion – the banking sector lost more money in the last few years than the combined profits of the last 50 years.

    So, while I agree that it is beneficial to the U.S. to keep immigrants that contribute to the economy, your example is not a good one.

  14. Actually, in my experience the large banks are remarkably incompetent in this area. US immigration law is a true labyrinth, and a private specialist could likely find a solution.
    That said, London is now the better place to be for many areas of finance; lacking deep ties to this country, he may find the move to his advantage.

  15. Michael: The differences between this guy and Barack Obama’s Aunt Zeituni are the following: (1) he has never been ordered deported by a federal judge; she was ordered deported twice but did not leave [I used the term “deported” for a dramatic headline; he has not overstayed his visa or otherwise violated U.S. law], (2) he pays for his housing and, by doing so, incurs a substantial tax liability that he also pays whereas Aunt Zeituni lives in housing built and maintained at Massachusetts taxpayers’ expense.

    JP: I do think that this guy would have stayed and paid taxes here. Living in New York City is not a hardship if one is well paid. Plus there is the inertia factor. He owns a house, a car. He has friends.

    Fabian: I would tend to agree with you that his working for an industry that we might be better off without makes the example less effective (perhaps we’d all have been better off if we’d done our banking with Chinese, Japanese, and European banks). But he is the only person I know right now who is leaving due to immigration problems!

    Separately, I had coffee with a guy from Sri Lanka this evening (he is smart and well educated and was welcomed into Canada, but is visiting Boston on business). We were talking about the small scale corruption prevalent in Sri Lanka. I said that in a lot of ways we might be better off if we had some of that here. Imagine if you could just pay $500 or $1000 to a U.S. government official and cut through the red tape. It would be much more efficient. (We have large scale corruption in the U.S. that seems to be getting worse, e.g., transferring all of our wealth to Wall Street, GM/Chrysler, and other cronies of the rulers; why can’t we have small-scale corruption that might prove useful?)

  16. I recommend to listen Google CEO Eric Schmidt’s comments at Stanford Roundtable on immigration.
    He says” this is brilliant strategy, bring smartest people to Standford, educated them and kick them out of the country…this is brilliant strategy great for America”

    again he says “dont you think Stanford graduate education is reasonable education to becoming a US citizen?…just unbelievable”

  17. Notwithstanding the evil of large-scale corruption, small-scale corruption is nothing to desire: it is particularly crippling for the poor and middle-class and

    The bribe sounds like a good idea here because it’s a special case: We want employer-sponsored visas to go to people who REALLY are the “best and the brightest,” rather than to simply to lower the wages of the entry-level programming and engineering jobs needed by unemployed and recently-graduated Americans.

    So why not use the market: set an H1-B quota and auction the slots off to the highest bidder. Even better, the government could collect a “labor import duty” equal to some percentage of the employee’s pay, rank applicants by gross income, and let in the top X applicants per year. Then your friend, David Beckham, Linus Torvalds, Einstein, would easily get their visas and American students could still get jobs.

  18. Your comment on small-scale corruption is interesting. To the extent that it would allow smaller players a chance in the game, it makes more sense than our current crony capitalism scheme (if you were willing to accept the classical definition, our current “privatize profit, socialize risk” scheme really is fascism, but that is such a politically charged word, it becomes ineffective).

    The way I see it, though, you don’t even need to use a term like “corruption” to describe the manner in which large enterprises shut out entrepreneurs.

    Phillip Morris, for example, LOVES the idea of the FDA regulating tobacco sales. They know that, with the number of lawyers they have on staff, they will be able to comply with any regulatory requirements and still maintain a profit. However, a 100-person firm that manufactures specialty cloves or something similar will not be able to comply with the regulatory overhead, and thus will have to go out of business. Econ 101: Fewer competitors -> more pricing inefficiency -> more profit for those still in the game, in this example, Phillip Morris.

    This in turn leads to the discussion of “too big to fail” especially with respect to financial institutions. In the tobacco example, there is a point in a company’s size where it goes from being hurt by regulatory requirements (forced out of business) to being helped (forcing competitors out of business). Likewise, with banks, at some point, an institution reaches a size at which it can hold the government hostage (“bail us out, or the economy, and thus your tax revenues, disappear”). Could a purely technocratic ruler draw the line and say that any bank that becomes bigger than that too-big-to-fail point must be broken up? Is it moral to say that if an institution is TOO successful then it must be illegal?

  19. To anyone whining that the US are ‘broken’ and that moving to London is such a good change, please move here for a bit. I’d like to time how long it takes you to revert your opinion of the UK in general and London in particular.

  20. The ability to attract highly educated hard working and creative immigrants should be one of the competitive advantages of this country. That said, I wonder how many of the advocates of limiting the numbers of uneducated immigrants are themselves the descendants of people who arrived to America to get a doctorate at Harvard and start a successful multibillion company.

  21. Joshua: “Is it moral to say that if an institution is TOO successful then it must be illegal?”

    If the definition of successful includes becoming very fragile, and that
    the subsequent failure has large negative repercussions, then perhaps
    yes it is moral to limit it. It may depend on how well you can measure
    successful.

  22. Here’s another question that I think is only a little OT. Why do banks hire Ph.D.s? Isn’t a Ph.D. supposed to be working in academia or research somewhere?

  23. Luke: This guy has a Ph.D. in economics, so his years in graduate school were not completely wasted in terms of qualifying him for a Wall Street job. Wall Street firms have had some good experience with PhDs in physics and math, so they keep hiring them. Why do the PhDs take the jobs, instead of staying in academia? They might not have been smart enough to go to medical school, but after 5 or 6 years of graduate school slavery some have wised up to the poor career prospects (see http://philip.greenspun.com/careers/women-in-science for more on this topic).

    People live a long time nowadays. There shouldn’t be anything wrong with a person studying for curiosity and then working in an unrelated field…. and then going to school and then switching careers. Especially when you consider that a person might earn millions of dollars during just a few years working on Wall Street. He or she could easily afford to go back to academia at age 40, but this time without having to drive a 15-year-old Volvo.

  24. No slur on your friend specifically, but the country would be in much better economic shape if we deported a great many bankers and Wall Street types, especially the ones with PhDs.

  25. One minute you complain about immigration as negative job growth and underreporting, then complain someone taking a prime job from someone born here is being deported. In his case it is a global operation but really most everything that can be outsourced, has been. Yet due to the ‘labor shortage’ IT workers, nurses, doctors, etc. all come from other countries. Most of them not speaking english particularly well, some of them quite skilled in their area but ultimately brought in merely to cheapen the labor supply and if you’ve set foot in a hospital in 30 years you will see how much the quality has improved since this insourcing. Anyone saying otherwise is deluding themselves. After seeing all the competent medical staff leave the industry or go to work in administration I can be pretty sure how much this has helped our country.

    The attitude that he is somehow elite and adds more to the community being a banker is also delusional. The truth is, many people can do his job, and even in the top tiers of science no one is irreplacable, not einstein (hilbert solved equations he struggled with for years in mere weeks) or even newton (half a dozen others nearly simutaneously invented calculus). To think it’s otherwise for a bank manager, lawyer, or IT clone is laughable, but that is always the usual attitude. Somehow *I* am irreplacable and important, along with those I like. Yet somewhere there was a candidate nearly as good squeezed out of a great opportunity – which you can call competition but when our nation of lawyers and shopkeepers can’t even choose to be a lawyer or shopkeeper any more than it is nothing.

  26. Oh Boy: I’m not sure where you got most of the information to which you are responding. My original posting said nothing about the deportee being “elite” or “adding to the community” in some nebulous fashion. I observed that he pays far more in tax than the average American and consumes far less in services. If we got rid of all of the people who meet those criteria, the U.S. economy and government would collapse, due to simple arithmetic.

  27. Actually I think Oh Boy misses the point – at least if I understand the post. This gentleman is not going to be replaced. The job will be accompanying him to the UK. He can do the same job there, but will pay his taxes to the UK now, not the US. Given our deficit it seems to me that we should want to retain as many taxpayers as possible.

    Phil, could you indicate if that understanding is correct?

  28. Phil –

    I am of a similar profile to the guy you mentioned, and also was sent to my London office to work there for 2 years before I was sent back to NYC to work for the wall street firm I was working in the first place. But on my return journey I was tagged as a “Multinational Manager” and got a “Green Card” relatively fast (5 months). What is strange is that I was managing a big team of traders before I went to London.

    The company incurred more costs because of this drama, but they found me useful so accommodated me.

    What I learnt from this episode was that Law firms (typically huge ones) which these big banks employ are useless. Instead, if my company employed an immigration lawyer that advertised in small ethnic newspapers they would have been better off. Twice, it was I who clued the big lawyers (400$ an hour) about a prerequisite for one of the application forms.

    And the companies that employ these big firms themselves are clueless (the immigration function is nestled within HR), if only because they themselves did not have to go through this. How many immigrants have you seen in a big Bank’s HR division? So they do the safest thing which is to hire a big name law firm.

    If one gets past all this please note that some of my friends that are truly “Multinational Managers” are still stuck in “Green Card” queue just because they filed their forms a few months after I did – That was 5 years ago !!

    Another issue is the absolute lack of transparency at the Immigration department. It is impossible to get a time line on any application.

    All this translates to this – Immigration in the USA is a roulette and one has to put their life on hold for 6-9 years while it is played out.

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