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article imageOp-Ed: America the Once Beautiful

By Donald Quinn     May 25, 2013 in Politics
As Americans we have become hardened to the realities of our life, making the most of a bad situation and accepting that there can be very little change in the situation in Washington DC.
We have come to expect our leaders to lie to us, accept when they do, and quickly turn back to the familiar platitudes that help us remember an America which was once the greatest, and freest, nation on earth.
Scandals have exploded all over the Obama administration this month, cascading from the Fast and Furious debacle to the death of an American Ambassador and a rampant abuse of power by the Internal Revenue Service. Conservative groups have been frothing at the mouth at the incompetence and often lack of caring, about the rule of law, exhibited by the administration, while liberal groups have been quietly (and some not quite so quietly) alternately defending, deriding, or trying to change the subject on the current scandals.
America is in deep trouble, and it has nothing to do with an egotistical president, an unengaged public, or a fevered group of Fox New contributors. Rather it has everything to do with the gradual erosion of America’s rights and freedoms, the very things that made us (past tense) the greatest nation on earth. While there certainly is no nation on earth that is quite as magnificent as America, we are a waning power and there are many countries that are far better off - in many regards. As someone who loves this country immensely, what on earth am I talking about? Let’s take a look.
In July 1862, President Lincoln and the congress formed the office of the Commissioner of Internal Revenue in order to levy a tax against American citizens so that they could pay for the Civil War. The first taxes on American citizens were passed into law that same year and at a rate of 3% - 5%, almost 21% of the entire bill for the Civil War was paid for by Union households. When the war ended, after a brief period of reconstruction (seven years to be precise), the temporary tax was ended in 1872. The country went even further and in 1894, the Supreme Court declared Income Tax unconstitutional.
It was not until the presidency of Theodore Roosevelt that income tax made a return. In 1913, Congress voted to ratify the 16th Amendment and thereby made it constitutional for the government to lay and collect taxes from the population. It should be noted that Connecticut, Rhode Island, and Utah out and out rejected this Amendment, while Florida, Pennsylvania and Virginia never formally voted on it. Still the IRS was given a formal mandate and a huge government bureaucracy was built with the sole aim of collecting taxes. A tax which America’s own Supreme Court had ruled unconstitutional in the not too distant past. Today the IRS is perhaps the most powerful organization in the country with the power to jail, smear reputations, and cause fear in the hearts of millions of Americans and businesses just with the power of an audit. Americans are genuinely afraid of their own government, and rightfully so when it comes to the IRS.
Recent events have shown that rather than being the harbingers of the law, the IRS is also given to political partisanship. The ability of the IRS to restrict conservative groups from gaining tax exempt status (thereby protecting their donors), the prying into private and sensitive information with little or no relevance to taxes, and the mighty sword of a tax audit as a weapon have raised again the specter of a citizenry with little power dominated by a hungry organization that answers to no one. Remember Lois Lerner, the IRS director in charge of the discrimination against the conservative groups, pleaded the 5th before congress and refused to answer questions. Thereby she showed that she, as a member of the IRS, is answerable to no one, certainly not the elected representatives of the American people.
The IRS is simply one strike in a long list. Here is number two, and for this one we have former President Bush to thank, since the rot of American freedom can equally be laid at the feet of either party.
It is perhaps the second most controversial of the acts, The Affordable Care act I believe is more controversial, ever passed by the American congress and has been subject to many debates and arguments so I will not linger on the Patriot Act for long. Instead one might find it is more relevant to focus on the effects of the Patriot Act, and the lingering ripple one act of terrorism has had on the American freedoms.
While the more sinister provisions within the Patriot Act are well known, having been played out over and over again, what we have chosen to do is ignore the daily freedoms that are taken away from Americans by this and other “acts”. As the country that is "the most free in the world", it takes merely one visit to an American airport to find that we are in fact not quite as free as we would like to believe. Leading the charge against basic freedoms – the Transportation Security Agency (TSA).
The TSA was created in response to the September 11th attacks of 2001, and signed in to existence by President Bush on November 19th, 2001. The agency was tasked with keeping the nation safe by having all airport security, and indeed all travel security, controlled by a single federal agency. The organization was then given the role of designing policies to protect US transportation without having to run these policies by any elected officials or watch dog agencies. As a result of the ability of the agency to create policies and police the travel of Americans we now cannot board a plane with any liquid over 3.4 ounces, to include babe formula or prescribed medication. Additionally Americans may not fly with most sports gear, any sharp objects, liquids or gels (since your toothpaste might be radio-active), or printer cartridges to name a few (Goodness knows we travel with those everyday). But the TSA was just getting started.
In 2010 new devices, that the American Civil Liberties Union opposes calling them “virtual strip search” machines, were installed which take away all dignity and privacy from passengers intending to travel . The fully body scanner creates an image of a person, basically in the nude which is viewed by a TSA agent. Women are often “randomly selected” and investigations have revealed that there is anything but random scanning going on. Passengers who do not want to be scanned can subject themselves to a full body “pat down” where an agent can put their hands all over the passengers including the inner thigh, waistband and other sensitive areas, unrestricted by either law or decency. When the State of Texas tried to ban the TSA from touching people’s genital during pat downs in 2011, the Obama administration responded by threatening to make Texas a “no fly zone”, and the State backed down. In other words if you want to fly in America you have to be okay with being seen naked, akin to a strip search, or have no problem with somebody touching you inappropriately. Freedom indeed!
But what of our vaunted freedom of speech? Isn’t that at least sacrosanct?
In May of 2013 it has come to light that the current administration has been spying, on the Associated Press because they believe, or now claim to believe, that the reporters were a national security risk. By subpoenaing the records of journalists the Obama administration is sending a clear message to the journalistic community, “stay in your lane and do not attempt to uncover anything that we do not want you to uncover”. Isn’t that exactly why we have a free press in the United States, to hold government accountable to the will and pleasure of the people. Isn’t that why Hitler hired Goebbels to run the German propaganda machine which permitted only their point of view to be printed, burning other books and materials that did not fit a particular world view?
Fox news has also been targeted by the administration for special scrutiny because of its conservative leaning and tendency to be cynical of the current administration. One Fox News correspondent was labeled a criminal co-conspirator in a successful attempt to seize his personal email correspondence. The president had this to say
"As Commander-in Chief, I believe we must keep information secret that protects our operations and our people in the field. To do so, we must enforce consequences for those who break the law and breach their commitment to protect classified information,"
While there is little doubt that we must protect our soldiers in the field and spies everywhere, no administration should have the authority to pick and choose what a reporter may report on, unless there are direct security risks which there were none in these cases.
The point of this article is simple, we have given up our basic freedoms in the name of “freedom” and security. There are few societies that are as restrictive in its governance as America today. The government has a say in everything we do, allowing us to do what they find healthy, safe, and legal. For example –
People are no longer allowed to smoke cigarettes in most circumstances. American smokers cannot smoke in bars, restaurants, parks, plaza’s or beaches in most cities. While this is certainly in the best interest of non-smokers, no accommodations have been made for smokers, like having a separate smoking area at the park – instead the government simply ignores personal choice because it is “healthier”. Now, the untested electronic cigarette industry faces the same restrictions - without even getting the benefit of research.
Major Bloomberg of New York is perhaps one of the most effective proponents of taking away personal freedoms. Under his watch New York passed a ban on sugary drinks, including sweetened coffee, in sizes greater than 16 ounces. Luckily for personal liberty a judge struck down this law, but mark my words that fight isn’t over. Said Bloomberg
"We think the judge is totally in error in the way he interpreted the law," he said after the ruling was issued Monday. "Being the first to do something is never easy. When we began this, we knew we would face lawsuits.... We’re confident today’s decision will ultimately be reversed”
Americans cannot drive with insurance, government legislation forces us to pay money to private companies and then fails to protect us when they gouge or pay back the money in our time of need, using clever rules to get out of actually "protecting" anyone. In a short period of time Americans will no longer have the ability to decide for themselves whether or not they want to have health insurance – the government decided we must all have health insurance and will fine anyone who makes the personal choice to disagree. To make things even cozier – the IRS will be in charge of enforcing the ObamaCare mandate, now all we have to do is get the TSA to force everyone to undergo medical testing and we will truly have become a safer, healthier, and freer America. Oh, and for those that do not like where the government is going, there is always the option of the Federal Government using unmanned drones to strike our own citizens.
Ladies and Gentlemen, America is 75% of the way there; to become a full blown police state with unlimited Federal authority and no voice, other than perfunctory, for the citizenry. Platitudes and slogans will not help and will not reverse the tide – the wolves are certainly in charge.
America the beautiful is dying, ravaged by people desperate for control and power, unprotected by a citizenry that is too consumed with the latest Twilight Saga to care that their precious freedoms have been compromised – it isn’t happen now, it has already happened. Only the voice of the people standing up and rebuking the government with a complete overhaul of the system can help, or maybe it is even too late for that? You tell me.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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