‘Leaving the country’ not as easy as it sounds

Published 11:00 pm Saturday, November 3, 2012

OXFORD — We live in an era of instant global communication. But that doesn’t mean all communication is either instant or global. Some of us — columnists, specifically — must remember that hours and often days pass before anyone reads what we write.

Much can happen between the time an article is finished and submitted to editors and presses roll (or uploads are complete).

This column is a straddle — a time straddle, if you will.

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And what it straddles is Election Day.

I am writing before a single vote is counted. You may be reading before, during or well after all tallies are complete.

That means any column predicting the results, analyzing the results or (worse) pretending to explain the results would be useless — too soon or too late.

What I can do, however, is try to offer perspective, regardless of how the presidential election turns out.

My comments are in two parts.

First, leaving the country isn’t as delectable an option as it might seem.

If you haven’t heard someone say, “If Obama wins, I’m leaving,” you haven’t been listening. People have also been saying, “I can’t live in this country if Romney wins.” Some might be packing right now.

Rhetoric along these lines is as predictable as having to write a time-straddling column once every four years.

People become emotionally wrought; they fear the nation can’t survive if the wrong person wins.

But the problem with actually homesteading under another flag is that most nations are not really amenable to “foreigners.”

Don’t believe it? Pick one. Visit its government website. It will usually encourage Americans (and their dollars) to visit. If you want to put down roots … well, that’s different.

Mexico, for example, has pretty strict restrictions on owning real estate. And proof of steady income from a reliable source is required, too. Mexico, it seems, feels it has a sufficient number of poor people.

So, go north. Surely the friendly people of Canada welcome American immigrants.

Actually, not so much.

In addition to many of the same restrictions as Mexico, Canada, remember, got a head start on “free health care for everybody.” It didn’t take long for Canadians to realize this would make Canada a desirable place to set up housekeeping. Their remedy? One has to be healthy — certified by medical exams — to be approved as a permanent resident.

Many nations, including beautiful Belize, do allow recurring renewal of visitor permits. One program even encourages people to “retire” in the tropical paradise. But to qualify, one has to be at least 45, pass a medical screening, including an HIV test, provide proof of a clean (noncriminal) record and deposit at least $2,000 per month into a Belizean bank. (Oh, and should any retiree choose to exit the retirement program, say after the next election, anything purchased in Belize is forfeited to the government.)

For a real change of scenery, there is always Russia. There is one pretty serious requirement: No American may gain permanent resident status in Moscow without marrying a Russian.

Part two: Assuming all these preconditions make leaving the country sound less appealing, know this: The presidency, in reality, isn’t nearly as powerful or important an office as the press and popular culture make it out to be.

Yes, presidents get to fly on Air Force One and make important speeches. They make important appointments, focus our attention where they think it needs to be and serve as the public face of America to the world.

But with the exception of executive orders (which the last two presidents have pushed to the limit), they have no real power to do the main two things governments do: tax and spend.

Abortion has been a big issue, again, in this campaign. The judiciary granted women the power of choice 40 years ago. The president, nor Congress, can do anything about that.

Debt and the deficit has been a big issue, again, in this campaign. The president cannot impose a penny of taxation and spending powers are largely nondiscretionary, too. The minions of Congress (too often nameless and faceless) were awarded the power of the purse in 1979. Maybe it has been reduced some since, but not much.

So, whether miserable that your guy lost (or soon will) or elated that your guy won (or soon will) keep your balance. Be glad presidents aren’t dictators (yet) and stay here. Feel loved by your fellow Americans — because you’re more welcome here than you will be anywhere else.

Charlie Mitchell is a Mississippi journalist. Write to him at Box 1, University, MS 38677, or e-mail cmitchell43@yahoo.com.