Some Americans, feeling overtaxed and discouraged by the direction of their country, are thinking about renouncing their U.S. citizenship.
That came up during small talk after a luncheon hosted Thursday by the Maine Heritage Policy Center at a Portland restaurant.
High-income Americans, including some in Maine, are so fed up they are exploring the possibility of renouncing something most hold dear, their official attachment to their native land.
Some places, like Hong Kong, cap income taxes at much lower rates and, generally, don't poke around so much in the affairs of their wealthy citizens. Others like the Netherlands, have even higher taxes than we do, on the order of 68 percent.
There has been a small surge in people renouncing their citizenship for tax purposes, according to an Aug. 12 Wall Street Journal article.
Most of them are already living overseas, where they have made a lot of money and resent the U.S. government's new crackdown on foreign banks and tax havens.
A new law requires a mound of paperwork for people living outside the country and holding U.S. citizenship, and the U.S. is pressuring foreign banks to turn over their records on the accounts of U.S. citizens.
Thus, about 1,000 Americans in the second quarter of the year dumped their citizenship, but that's among the 6 million living overseas.
The idea of an American rejecting their citizenship is shocking and sad. It's been done, but often by Americans taking a job in a foreign government or protesting some political stand of the United States.
The simple argument is that our taxes are too high, making other places more attractive.
The highest marginal tax rate in the U.S. is 39.6 percent on money earned over $450,000, up from the 35 percent rate that has been in effect since 2003.
But the highest rate 40 years ago was 70 percent on income over $200,000, which pales next to the 1963 rate of 91 percent on more than $400,000 in income.
So, taxes may seem high, but they are not as high as they have been for long periods in U.S. history.
Perhaps what's really high is disgust with government, and that seems mainly to revolve around the level of support we give to people who can't or won't take care of themselves.
Too generous, some say. Not generous enough, say others.
Our guess is that liberals have this mental picture in their heads of the average poor person: down on their luck but good-hearted; willing to work and get ahead if given some help getting back on their feet.
Like Tanya Caron, a woman Sun Journal readers met last week in a story and video.
Caron, 30, grew up in Lewiston and got her diploma through Lewiston Adult Education. Three years ago, she and her husband lost their jobs, collected unemployment until that ran out and ended up at Hope Haven.
There they noticed an ad in the Sun Journal for newspaper carriers. Today, Caron and her boyfriend rise before dawn to hand-deliver 210 newspapers to customers on four routes in New Auburn and one around Barker Mills.
That's sometimes in the rain. It's mainly in the dark and it's one door at a time. Seven days a week.
But she's pulling herself up by her bootstraps and now has, with some government help, an apartment.
Few would resent her getting the assistance she needs, so long as she is helping herself. We respect hard work, thrift and honesty.
A conservative would likely recognize and applaud that person, but likely consider her an exception rather than the rule.
To a conservative, the typical poor person more closely resembles a fellow readers met last Sunday on these pages, Charles "Scooter" Epps.
In court and police records, Epps describes himself as a criminal and liar who has not held a regular job since he was 16. He is now 31.
He has told police his apartment was a "safe haven" for criminals, and evidence indicates a murder was planned there.
A haven, perhaps, but not very safe. Lewiston police have visited the apartment 24 times in 10 months. Epps had been arrested more than 20 times in Florida before moving here.
Until recently he was living with a woman who received government benefits for her four children, which he lists as his income.
Working does not appeal to him, although he seems healthy. He says he would rather do drugs, hustle on the streets and play games with his children.
That's where our money goes, many conservatives would argue: to people who are lazy, undeserving and scoff at accepted American values like honesty and hard work.
We all envision where our tax money goes, which really means how our income and wealth is distributed for government services and benefits to others.
Correctly and positively. Or poorly and wastefully.
And the more income a person has, generally the more tax they pay. Some, like billionaire Warren Buffett, do so happily. Others, many others, do it resentfully, like conservative libertarian Grover Norquist.
And that is the great divide in this country, between people who mainly think government is a beneficial force in society, and those who believe it exists largely to transfer wealth to selfish bureaucrats and the undeserving poor.
Gov. Paul LePage is definitely in that latter camp.
Are liberals just naive to the reality of the greedy "takers," that reputed 47 percent of Americans getting some form of government benefit.
Are conservatives just greedy and unwilling to share with people who, for the most part, need and deserve help?
We have two halves of a nation each seeing alternate realities.
We may be divided over how to treat Egypt, Wall Street, farm subsidies and the environment.
But the issue of poverty and wealth, and our concepts of need and greed, is larger than all others.