Government is out of control.
This statement sadly seems to require no additional explanation or defense. Whether one is conservative or liberal, progressive or libertarian, Americans increasingly regard this proclamation as a self-evident truth.
But perhaps some Rip Van, catatonic through previous decades, just now awakening, might seek further details and elucidation.
For decades were been warned about the dangers of high and rising levels of national debt in the United States of America — now an accumulated $18.1 trillion dollars. Moreover, under just the last two presidents the Feds have added two-thirds of this massive debt — $4.9 trillion by the conservative George W. Bush and $7.5 trillion (and counting) courtesy of President Barack Obama.
But such gargantuan numbers can be so mind-numbing that citizens disinclined to economics simply set them aside. It might be easier to digest the distress felt by freedom-lovers in more people-oriented stories. Here are three quick examples of federal abuse of people and our constitutional liberties:
(1) The Social Security Administration has been caught secretly stealing the tax returns of citizens without any notification, much less due process, in an effort to recover overpayments the SSA made to the parents of these citizens back when they were kids — as long as three decades earlier. When news of this outrageous behavior broke, the government officials responsible said they would discontinue this completely illegal collection effort.
But they lied. Later, it was discovered the SSA was continuing to try to collect the supposed debts of parents from the children. In court filings, the Social Security Administration claims that, since Congress authorized the collection of such ancient debts, government officials can go about that task by hook or by crook.
(2) The Director of National Intelligence, James Clapper, told Congress a bald-faced lie, in public and on tape. Clapper claimed that the National Security Agency was not gathering phone and internet and other records on American citizens other than rarely and, then, only by mistake. Edward Snowdens release of classified NSA documents revealed Clappers dishonesty.
Snowden has been charged with espionage. But it is also a crime to lie to Congress. Why hasnt Clapper been charged?
And when was the Fourth Amendments prohibition on unwarranted searches of innocent Americans repealed? Interestingly, polls show that clear majorities of both those identifying with the Tea Party and those who self-identify as liberals believe Mr. Snowden performed an important public service by breaking the law.
(3) The Internal Revenue Service purposely violated the rights of a number of conservatives by blocking them from forming groups to speak out and organize and educate on public policy issues. The IRS lied about this for years before admitting it. Lois Lerner, the person responsible for the department that so abused the political rights of people, then refused to testify before Congress, asserting her Fifth Amendment right not to testify when such testimony might cause her to be criminally prosecuted. Her emails were lost and declared by IRS officials to be unrecoverable. Until recently, when someone actually looked for the emails and quickly found them.
Through all this we have learned that most of the media — the journalistic establishment — cares not one whit about a liberal administration violating the rights of conservatives. To them, its not news. No one at IRS has been held accountable and, years after the scandal broke, some groups are still waiting for fair and equal treatment by the IRS. Lois Lerner? She has retired with a six-figure annual pension.
Okay, okay, of course, I know youre thinking, But why didnt he mention this or that or any number of other criminal or unconstitutional or just outrageous actions by the federal government?
I can answer in one word: space. Its not for want of examples.
Further, the most frightening aspect of uncontrolled and unlimited government today is that it isnt confined to Washington, D.C., or to the federal government. Its spreading to the state level and to Everytown, USA.
For example, governments at all levels — federal, state and local — regularly cooperate in confiscating (stealing) money and boats and cars from citizens never charged with (much less convicted of) any crime. In a reversal of centuries of common law in which a person was presumed innocent until proven guilty, todays civil asset forfeiture rules treat citizens (and our property) as guilty until proven innocent.
But the most telling abuse of all is an ongoing controversy in Silver Spring, Maryland, where Danielle and Alexander Meitivs two kids, Rafi and Dvora, were recently picked up by police on their way home from a neighborhood park.
A two-month Montgomery County Child Protective Services (MCCPS) investigation followed.
You might think that, since theres no law against youngsters walking in public by themselves, this investigation would exonerate the parents. Even government policy sides with the parents: local public schools dont provide bus service for kids within a mile of the school, deeming that close enough to walk.
Nevertheless, last week, authorities announced that the Meitivs were found responsible for unsubstantiated child neglect.
The good news is that the neglect charge is completely unsubstantiated. The bad news is that official Free State busybodies seem to have not one clue as to what that word means.
MCCPS will keep a file on the suspicious family for five years.
We dont know if we will get caught in this Kafkaesque loop again, says Mrs. Meitiv, noting that the agency left unanswered the question of what might happen if they ever again dare allow their kids to walk outside the house without adult supervision.
So, the problem isnt confined to federal agencies knowing every phone call weve made and every email weve sent and every comment weve posted on Facebook or Google+, or the ugly abuse of due process and other fundamental rights by federal agencies so that can steal our money or our political freedoms. It is also that we no longer know whether we have a right to allow our children to walk home from a park without being arrested or having our kids taken away.
The family is appealing the nonsensical MCCPS finding. In the meantime, the Meitiv children will continue to walk in public as if its a free country.
Paul Jacob, March 8, 2015
This column first appeared at Townhall.com.