federal government

Home » federal government

Libertarian Party Mocks Tepid GOP Tax Plan, Calls Instead for Ending the Hated Income Tax

in Liberator Online Archives by James W. Harris Comments are off

(From the Activist Ammunition section in Volume 20, No. 10 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

The Libertarian Party has denounced the latest income tax reform proposal by “fiscal conservative” Libertarian PartySenators Marco Rubio (R- FL) and Mike Lee (R-UT) as far too timid with little or no benefit to most taxpayers. Further, charges the Libertarian Party, the plan “leaves the federal tax burden dangerously high.”

“This is what leaders within the GOP — which now holds majorities in both the U.S. House and Senate — have to offer?” asked Nicholas Sarwark, Chair of the Libertarian National Committee. “The Republican plan would do nothing to reduce federal deficits or federal spending. It keeps the federal tax burden at over $3 trillion and climbing, up from the dangerously high level of $2.1 trillion when Obama took office.”

The irony of “fiscal conservatives” in control of both branches of Congress calling for taxes higher than when Obama came in, and adding trillions of dollars to the national debt, was not lost on the Libertarians.

There’s a far better way, the Libertarian Party said.

“How about doing what many Libertarian candidates propose instead: ending the federal income tax altogether, balancing the budget, and cutting trillions of dollars in wasteful federal spending,” suggested Sarwark.

The Libertarian Party noted the surprising fact that ending the federal income tax entirely — and replacing it with nothing — while also balancing the budget — only requires rolling back federal spending to the level of… 1998.

1998, of course, was near the end of the Clinton administration, routinely denounced by conservatives as epitomizing “Big Government.” Certainly no conservative leaders in 1998 worried that the federal government was too small or lacked funds to perform its constitutional duties. Even President Clinton himself acknowledged that government had become far too big, famously declaring that “the era of Big Government is over” (perhaps unaware that we would soon be in the era of Bigger and Even Bigger Government).

Yet simply returning to funding at the 1998 level, says the Libertarian Party, would not only allow the abolition of the hated income tax. It would allow “more than enough to provide a strong national defense — and dramatically more than enough to fulfill all constitutional functions of the federal government.”

“Ending the income tax, balancing the budget — eliminating wasteful, unneeded and destructive government programs, wars, and bureaucracies — and cutting total federal spending accordingly will put an average of $11,525 back into the budget of every American household,” said Sarwark. “It pours $1.4 trillion into the productive, private sector economy.

“That’s stimulus!” Sarwark said. “Vote Libertarian, end the income tax, and put money back into your budget.”

Vince Vaughn: I’m a Libertarian

in Liberator Online Archives, Libertarian Celebrities by James W. Harris Comments are off

(From the Activist Ammunition section in Volume 20, No. 7 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

Vince VaughnVince Vaughn is one of the world’s most successful actors, screenwriters and producers. Since his breakthrough in the acclaimed 1993 independent comedy Swingers he’s become famous for his roles in some of the most popular comedies of the past decade, including The Wedding Crashers, The Break-Up, Starsky & Hutch, Mr. & Mrs. Smith, Couples Retreat, and Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy. The versatile Vaughn has also played everything from romantic leads to action heroes and psychotic villains.

Vaughn’s sympathy for libertarian ideas has been well-known for several years. In particular he’s been a strong and vocal supporter of Ron Paul.

Now, in a new Playboy magazine interview, Vaughn makes his libertarianism explicit, as these excerpts make clear:

“I would use the term libertarian to describe my politics.

“I’m a very big fan [of Ron Paul]. Ron Paul woke a lot of people up to the fact that government can’t handle everything for you. Once you start playing that game, where does it stop? I like the way it was until 1913 [when the 16th Amendment was ratified, legalizing a federal income tax], when locally you had sales taxes and property taxes. That seems ethical to me, because I can move to a different neighborhood or area if I like the services they provide. To this day, your police department and your fire department are paid for with local taxes, and that makes sense, because you might use those. But the federal government looking into your books to decide what to take from you, that feels wrong.

“Trusting the federal government to know what we need and to run things well feels like a bad idea. You see that in the foreign policy of force, where the United States decides to go into another country to make things turn out a certain way. It doesn’t work. It causes more problems. … I don’t agree with a foreign policy that says you can send troops places without declaring a war and without having a plan to win the war. I would think you would look at Vietnam and suggest it wasn’t the best-laid plan.

“I feel the same way domestically. … [Adults] should be allowed to decide what’s in their interest, what makes sense for them, unless they commit fraud or physical force or take someone’s property. …

“I think history has proven without a doubt that the proper role of government is to protect individuals’ rights and liberties. That has always been the most prosperous, freest society for people to live in. And when government gets too involved, society turns into a place that gets very, very ugly. …

“America today is not capitalistic. The problem is corporatism. The government has too much authority, and it’s dangerous. It stifles productivity and freedom and prosperity and peace. …

“The Patriot Act? Let’s get rid of it. Undeclared wars, doing away with personal liberties — let’s understand how that has worked out historically to see that it has led to some horrible things. Once our personal liberties are gone, when an American citizen can be pulled out of his house and detained for six months without a trial, where is our country? Once those rights are gone, how do you get them back?”

Read the rest of the interview for more.

Government Recording Your Driving Habits, Tracking Your Phone Calls, and Looking Through the Walls of Your House

in Criminal Justice, Liberator Online Archives by James W. Harris Comments are off

(From the Activist Ammunition section in Volume 20, No. 4 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

The federal government is gathering information about your driving habits — when, where and why you drive. Government Recording Your Driving Habits, Tracking Your Phone Calls, and Looking Through the Walls of Your House

That’s the latest in a seemingly endless flood of revelations about secret, sinister, invasive government spy programs conducted against innocent American citizens, often without court approval, suspicion, or oversight.

Reports the Wall Street Journal, in an article by Devlin Barrett entitled “Justice Department Spying on ‘Millions of Drivers’”:

“The Justice Department has been building a national database to track in real time the movement of vehicles around the U.S., a secret domestic intelligence-gathering program that scans and stores hundreds of millions of records about motorists, according to current and former officials and government documents.

“The primary goal of the license-plate tracking program, run by the Drug Enforcement Administration, is to seize cars, cash and other assets to combat drug trafficking, according to one government document. But the database’s use has expanded to hunt for vehicles associated with numerous other potential crimes, from kidnappings to killings to rape suspects, say people familiar with the matter. …

“What hasn’t been previously disclosed is that the DEA has spent years working to expand the database ‘throughout the United States,’ according to one email reviewed by The Wall Street Journal. …

“The database raises new questions about privacy and the scope of government surveillance. … It is unclear if any court oversees or approves the intelligence-gathering.

“The DEA program collects data about vehicle movements, including time, direction and location, from high-tech cameras placed strategically on major highways. Many devices also record visual images of drivers and passengers, which are sometimes clear enough for investigators to confirm identities, according to DEA documents and people familiar with the program.

“The documents show that the DEA also uses license-plate readers operated by state, local and federal law-enforcement agencies to feed into its own network and create a far-reaching, constantly updating database of electronic eyes scanning traffic on the roads to steer police toward suspects. …

The DEA database, named EPIC, “allows any police agency that participates to quickly search records of many states for information about a vehicle. One May 2010 redacted email says: ‘Anyone can request information from our [license-plate reader] program, federal, state, or local, just need to be a vetted EPIC user.…’”

The Wall Street Journal notes that is just the latest in a stream of such revelations.

In November 2014, The Wall Street Journal reported that U.S. Marshals Service planes carried devices that mimicked cellphone towers, enabling them to scan the identifying information of Americans’ phones.

Earlier this month the DEA revealed that for nearly 15 years it had created and operated a secret law enforcement database that collected virtually all data relating to Americans’ outbound overseas telephone calls, without judicial oversight, which was sifted to search for possible drug law violators. Astoundingly, according to Reuters, federal agents were trained to conceal the role of the database when presenting cases to defense lawyers, prosecutors, and judges.

And on January 15, USA TODAY wrote: “At least 50 U.S. law enforcement agencies have secretly equipped their officers with radar devices that allow them to effectively peer through the walls of houses to see whether anyone is inside, a practice raising new concerns about the extent of government surveillance. Those agencies, including the FBI and the U.S. Marshals Service, began deploying the radar systems more than two years ago with little notice to the courts and no public disclosure of when or how they would be used.”

Renowned libertarian Judge Andrew P. Napolitano says of this crisis:

“None of these flagrant violations of privacy, dignity and basic American constitutional values was enacted by a majority vote of any representative body of lawmakers — and yet none has been stopped by those lawmakers. That’s because we have a deep state system in American government, whereby certain law enforcement, military, intelligence and diplomatic personnel can do as they wish, no matter which party controls the legislative and executive branches and in hair-splitting defiance of the courts. … Who will keep us safe from the government? Who will keep our personal liberties safe? What representative government splits hairs in order to defy the Constitution, rather than complying with its oath to protect it?”

Rand Paul: “I’ll Do Everything to End the War on Drugs”

in Liberator Online Archives by James W. Harris Comments are off

(From the Intellectual Ammunition section in Volume 19, No. 21 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

On his HBO show last Friday (Nov. 14), Bill Maher asked Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) about remarks Rand Paulhe made in 2000 concerning the War on Drugs:

BILL MAHER: “You said in 2000, ‘The War on Drugs is an abysmal failure and a waste of money.’ Are you still on that page?”

RAND PAUL: “I’m absolutely there, and I’ll do everything to end the War on Drugs….

“The War on Drugs has become the most racially disparate outcome that you have in the entire country. Our prisons are full of black and brown kids. Three-fourths of the people in prison are black or brown, and white kids are using drugs, Bill, as you know…at the same rate as these other kids. But kids who have less means, less money, kids who are in areas where police are patrolling… Police are given monetary incentives to make arrests, monetary incentives for their own departments…

“So I want to end the War on Drugs because it’s wrong for everybody, but particularly because poor people are caught up in this, and their lives are ruined by it.”

Paul also strongly defended sentencing reform and restoring voting rights to non-violent former felons.

Paul further indicated his opposition to the federal War on Drugs during an early November discussion on the Washington, D.C. marijuana legalization vote. Paul told Roll Call that he strongly favors getting the federal government out of such matters:

“I’m not for having the federal government get involved. I really haven’t taken a stand on … the actual legalization. I haven’t really taken a stand on that, but I’m against the federal government telling [Washington, DC] they can’t,” Paul said.

“I think there should be a certain amount of discretion for both states and territories and the District. I think really that when we set up our country, we intended that most crime or not crime, things that we determined to be crime or not crimes, was really intended to be determined by localities.”

His father Ron Paul sometimes has taken that position or one similar to it, calling for ending the federal War on Drugs and leaving it up to states to decide whether or not they want to pursue drug prohibition.

This let-the-states-decide position is also the premise upon which alcohol Prohibition was repealed in the 1930s.

Halloween: Share Some Scary Facts About… Government

in Communicating Liberty, Liberator Online Archives by Sharon Harris Comments are off

(From the One-Minute Liberty Tip section in Volume 19, No. 18 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

HalloweenThe scariest holiday of the year is fast approaching. Bloodsuckers, devils, demons and creeps will roam the streets, demanding we hand over our goodies — or face nasty consequences.

No, not the elections — Halloween!

Holidays can be a great time to share libertarian ideas with family and friends. We recommend libertarians gather liberty-themed facts, figures and stories specific for each holiday and share them if and when appropriate. (We try to share such info in the Liberator Online as major holidays near.)

Below is a fun and startling report from Americans for Tax Reform (ATR) that gives some genuinely shocking figures about how much government is adding to the cost of your family’s Halloween celebration this year.

Unfortunately, ATR first posted this in 2011, and they haven’t updated it as we go to press. It’s still very usable, though. Just point out the date by saying something like “as Americans for Tax Reform noted a few Halloweens back…”)

So, if the opportunity arises, scare your family and friends with some of this truly terrifying information. You can share it online, too, by linking here.

You’ll surely open some minds about the creepiest House of Horrors of them all— the federal government! Happy Halloween!

The Frightening Cost of Halloween — Thanks to Government
(from Americans for Tax Reform)

Think Halloween is scary? Ha! It’s nothing compared to the Frightfest of taxes and hidden costs government adds to this beloved holiday.

Each year, parents spend $1 billion on kid costumes for Halloween. On average, for the estimated 41 million trick-or-treaters, each kid wears a costume costing almost $25 — a hefty sum for parents who know this annual investment is only going to get a few hours of use.

Taxes make up a shocking amount of that cost.

Kids’ costumes are almost all made of heavily taxed synthetic fibers. On top of the state sales tax paid at the register, the government increases the cost of buying these costumes by imposing a 17 percent tariff on many of these imported costumes. Businesses not only have to absorb these costs, but also those imposed by income taxes, payroll taxes, corporate taxes, property taxes, capital gains taxes, unemployment insurance taxes, workmen’s compensation taxes, and other payments to federal, state, and local forms of government.

When all is said and done, government taxes compose a terrifying 47.82 percent of the cost of the average kid’s costume — $11.66 of the average price. Boo!

But the government’s tricks don’t end there. The Halloween season brings with it $2 billion in candy purchases. Due to excise taxation on sweets in addition to the burden of taxes placed on the confectionery industry, the government takes a 30.81 percent bite out of the average trick-or-treaters’ candy haul. Ouch!

Altogether, the cost of celebrating our scariest holiday is made all the more frightening by the costs imposed by government: hidden taxes and other costs constitute 40.91 percent of your Halloween celebration. 

This amounts to a burden of $688 million — or $16.80 per kid. The remaining $1.3 billion of candy not distributed during trick-or-treating represents another $406 million in taxes. Finally, after including taxes on adults for decorations and costumes the total Halloween tax bite comes to… a bloody and bruising $2.7 billion.

And the cost is even higher if you attend a spooky party with alcoholic beverages. Wine, distilled spirits and beer are all subject to more hidden taxes. Going out to dinner instead of trick-or-treating also carries higher government costs. And if you have to drive your kids to trick-or-treat, the government bite of gasoline also takes a hefty bite out of your wallet…

Wherever you turn, wherever you go, you can’t escape the bloodsucking horror of… the federal government.

Hey, if you’re still searching for a truly bone-chilling costume idea, here’s one: dress up as… Uncle Sam.

America’s Real Welfare Queens: Fortune 100 Companies

in Liberator Online Archives, Welfare by James W. Harris Comments are off

(From the Intellectual Ammunition section in Volume 19, No. 14 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

Welfare QueensEarlier this year Open the Books, a non-partisan watchdog group advocating transparency in public spending, issued a genuinely shocking report that added up all federal grants, loans, direct payments, and insurance subsidies going to private companies.

Among its findings: corporate-welfare payments from the federal government to the Fortune 100 companies, from 2000 to 2012, amounted to more than $1.2 trillion.

The bulk of this was in the form of contracts between government agencies and private firms, with the largest going to the military-industrial complex. While these provide some services to taxpayers, such spending is difficult to control because the huge sums also fund a massive lobbying industry busily working for more such spending.

But contracts aside, staggering amounts of money were just given away as outright subsidies — taxpayer-funded handouts to the biggest businesses in America.

Writing in National Review Online, economist Stephen Moore summarizes: “$21.3 billion… was doled out in the form of outright income-transfer subsidies to corporate America. On average, each Fortune 100 company received about $200 million in such [taxpayer-funded] handouts.

“So who are the major corporate-welfare queens? The biggest grant recipients were General Electric ($380 million), followed by General Motors ($370 million), Boeing ($264 million), Archer Daniels Midland ($174 million), and United Technologies ($160 million).

“About $8.5 billion of this largesse came in the form of taxpayer-subsidized loans. The big winners here were Chevron, Exxon Mobil, Ford Motor Company, and other multibillion-dollar corporations whose franchisees received Small Business Administration loans.

“Archer Daniels Midland got just under $1 billion for USDA farm-program loans, and this doesn’t include ethanol subsidies. Another $10 billion was doled out through federal insurance…”

And the problem goes beyond even these staggering sums. Says Moore:

“That $1.2 trillion number does not include the hundreds of billions of dollars in housing, bank, and auto-company bailouts in 2008 and 2009, because those payments are kept mostly invisible in the federal-agency books. It also doesn’t include the asset purchases of the Federal Reserve, indirect subsidies such as the ethanol mandate that enriches large agribusinesses like Archer Daniels Midland…

“Amazingly, all but one of the Fortune 100 stood in the federal soup line to take at least some form of corporate-welfare benefit.”

Sums up Moore: “Imagine for a moment that you are sitting on your couch watching TV and there is a knock on the door. There in a corporate suit is an employee of General Dynamics with a tin cup and he asks if you would contribute a dollar for a research project. You would slam the door in his face. But somehow when the government collects a dollar from each of us and gives the money to General Dynamics, this is considered in Washington a wise ‘investment.’”

Read the next article from this issue here.

Go back to the full issue here.

They Said It… Rand Paul, John Hickenlooper, And More!

in Liberator Online Archives by James W. Harris Comments are off

(From the They Said It section in Volume 19, No. 14 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

Doug Sosnik

AMERICANS MAD AT GOV’T, WANT LESS OF IT: “It is difficult to overstate the depth of the anger and alienation that a majority of all Americans feel toward the federal government. A June 30, 2014, Gallup poll found that Americans’ level of confidence has dropped to near record lows for all three branches — the presidency (30 percent), Congress (7 percent) and the U.S. Supreme Court (29 percent). …the country’s diminishing faith in its institutions has translated into a desire for less government, not more.” — Democratic political strategist Doug Sosnik, former political director for President Clinton, “Blue Crush: How the Left Took Over the Democratic Party,” Politico Magazine, July 24, 2014.

ANGRY AMERICANS PART 2: 
John Hickenlooper“People are mad at Democrats. But they’re certainly not happy with Republicans. They’re mad at everything.” — Democratic governor of Colorado John Hickenlooper, quoted in the  New York Times, August 26, 2014.


John HaywardBURGER KING HAS IT THEIR WAY: “Three cheers for Burger King, I say! All of the whiny liberals racing to call them ‘unpatriotic’ for pursuing a deal to merge with the Canadian coffee shop Tim Horton and reincorporate north of the border, thus escaping the deranged American corporate tax system, are completely missing the point. Nothing is more patriotic, more quintessentially American, than voting with your feet and withdrawing your consent from an unhinged government. When CEOs start climbing over the walls to escape from greedy left-wing government, the problem is not insufficiently high walls.” — conservative writer John Hayward, “Burger King to escape U.S. corporate tax system,” Human Events, August 26, 2014.

RAND PAUL ON THE INTERVENTIONISTS: 
Senator Rand Paul“The let’s-intervene-and-consider-the-consequences-later crowd left us with more than 4,000 Americans dead, over 2 million refugees and trillions of dollars in debt. Anytime someone advocates sending our sons and daughters to war, questions about precise objectives, effective methods and an exit strategy must be thoughtfully answered. America deserves this.” — Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), “Rick Perry Is Dead Wrong,” Politico.com, July 14, 2014.

Ron PaulRON PAUL ON HELPING ISIS RECRUIT: “A new U.S. military incursion will not end ISIS; it will provide them with the recruiting tool they most crave, while draining the U.S. treasury. Just what Osama bin Laden wanted!” — Ron Paul, “Obama Has No Middle East Strategy? Good!” Ron Paul Institute for Peace and Prosperity, August 31, 2014.

FREEDOM OR EMPIRE:
Robert Murphy“If Americans want a free society at home, then they must convince the U.S. government to give up its global empire. The militarized police recently on display in Ferguson was no freak coincidence: Antiwar activists and other civil libertarians have been warning for decades that an aggressive U.S. foreign policy would eventually destroy domestic liberties. Americans can’t ask their government to subjugate foreigners with bombs but bow to their own wishes at the ballot box.” — Robert P. Murphy, “A free society must give up empire,” Antiwar.com, August. 30, 2014.


LABOR DAY, OBAMA ERA:
 “It’s Labor Day weekend. Labor Day, of course, is a David Lettermanholiday where people take three days off from being unemployed.” — David Letterman, August 28, 2014.

NOTED AND REQUOTED
CANDIDATE OBAMA VS PRESIDENT OBAMA:

President Barack Obama

“The President does not have power under the Constitution to unilaterally authorize a military attack in a situation that does not involve stopping an actual or imminent threat to the nation.” — Sen. Barack Obama, interviewed by the Boston Globe while running for president in 2008, quoted by Conor Friedersdorf at Atlantic.com.

Harvard Study: Young Americans Want Far Less Interventionist Foreign Policy

in Foreign Policy, Liberator Online Archives, Military, War by James W. Harris Comments are off

(From the Intellectual Ammunition section in Volume 19, No. 9 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

Young Americans want a far less interventionist foreign policy, and they don’t trust the United Nations or the federal government in general. And they have strong libertarian leanings on other key issues.

Harvard UniversityThat’s according to the latest Harvard Public Opinion Project, a highly-respected national poll of America’s “Millennials”(18- to 29- year-olds) by Harvard’s Institute of Politics that has been conducted biannually since 2000.

The numbers are startlingly anti-interventionist. Fully 74 percent agreed with this statement: “The United States should let other countries and the United Nations take the lead in solving international crises and conflicts.” Only a fourth believed that the United States “should take the lead in solving international crises and conflicts.”

Fully 39 percent disagreed with the statement “it is sometimes necessary to attack potentially hostile countries, rather than waiting until we are attacked to respond.” Only a tiny 16 percent agreed with that statement.

Concerning specific recent foreign policy crises, 62 percent disapproved of the president’s handling of the Syria crisis, and 59 percent disapproved of the government’s policies towards Iran and Ukraine.

The same skepticism applies to international bodies. Fully two-thirds said they trusted the UN only “some of the time” or “never.” Only about a third of respondents said they trusted the United Nations all or most of the time.

This radical rejection of interventionism among the young is accompanied by other libertarian-friendly positions and a strong degree of skepticism towards government in general. Just three percent of Millennials reported trusting the federal government “all of the time,” while 80 percent said that they trusted it either only “some of the time” or “never.” Similarly, eighty-four percent of participants felt that they could trust Congress only “some of the time” or “never.” Just one-third trust the president “most” or “all of the time.”

On the re-legalization of marijuana, 25- to 29- year-olds support re-legalization by a large margin of 50 percent to 28 percent (21 percent unsure); among 18- to- 24- year-olds, 38 percent support, 39 percent oppose (22 percent unsure). Overall, 66 percent support re-legalizing marijuana for medical purposes.

On sexual tolerance, 61 percent say that “a friend’s sexual orientation is not important to me.”

Finally, Millennials are moving away from identifying with either of the two older parties, with increasing numbers identifying as Independents (38 percent) rather than Republicans (25 percent) or Democrats (37 percent).

Surveillance, Safety… and Rabbit Hunting

in Liberator Online Archives by Sharon Harris Comments are off

(From the President’s Corner section in Volume 19, No. 8 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

For the past year or so liberty-loving Americans have been appalled by the revelations of Rabbit HuntingEdward Snowden and others about the secret and unconstitutional spying programs the federal government is engaged in.

Ironically, we’ve also learned that the programs have been spectacularly ineffective. As the federal Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board said earlier this year:

“We have not identified a single instance involving a threat to the United States in which the telephone records program made a concrete difference in the outcome of a counterterrorism investigation. Moreover, we are aware of no instance in which the program directly contributed to the discovery of a previously unknown terrorist plot or the disruption of a terrorist attack.”

And that reminds me of a story…

Federal Rabbit Hunting

The NSA, the CIA and the FBI were fighting among themselves, each arguing that they were the best and most qualified at apprehending terrorists.

Finally the president decided to settle the argument with a simple test. He would release a rabbit into a forest, and give each agency a chance to find and capture it.

The NSA went first. They placed cameras throughout the forest. They eavesdropped on every animal, plant and mineral. NSA drones circled the forest, filming every leaf on every tree. After three months of extensive investigations the NSA concluded that there was no rabbit in the forest at all. But they warned the president that 300 other kinds of animals and insects were behaving strangely and the whole forest needed round-the-clock surveillance.

Then the CIA went in. They captured numerous innocent animals and questioned them harshly, but got no information. After two weeks with no leads they burned the forest to the ground, killing everything in it. “The rabbit had it coming,” one agent said. (Later, the NSA sent the president a classified tape showing the rabbit hopping away from the forest just before it was destroyed.)

Finally the FBI had their chance. They went into another forest chosen by the president. Just two hours later they proudly emerged — holding a ruffled, badly frightened raccoon. The raccoon shouted: “Okay! Okay! I’m a rabbit! I’m a rabbit!”

* * *
Tired of the surveillance state? See this issue’s Intellectual Ammunition column to learn about “Reset The Net,” a worldwide effort to preserve free speech and liberty on the Internet by taking simple steps to shut off the government’s mass surveillance capabilities. You’re invited to take part.

New Study: Government Regulation Robbed You of Millions of Dollars

in Liberator Online Archives by James W. Harris Comments are off

(From the Intellectual Ammunition section in Volume 18, No. 13 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

Imagine living in an America where the average family was worth millions of dollars.

That’s what America could be today — if the federal government hadn’t increased its interference in the U.S. economy during the past 60 years.

That’s the stunning conclusion of a new study by economists John Dawson of Appalachian State University and John Seater of North Carolina State, published in the Journal of Economic Growth.

They compare U.S. economic growth with the growth in federal regulation since 1949, and conclude that federal regulations cost the average American household more than a quarter-million dollars in lost income — annually.

Today the average household brings in about $53,000 per year. Without federal regulations passed during the past sixty years, that same household would bring in a whopping $330,000 per year instead.

Put another way, the U.S. GDP Is $16 trillion. Without the federal regulations of the past sixty years, Dawson and Seater argue it would be about $54 trillion. Federal regulations since 1949 have thus cost America an astounding 75% of our potential growth.

With this loss of income, of course, comes a corresponding loss in health, education, environmental quality, safety, charity and much more.

Ronald Bailey, science correspondent for Reason Magazine, has written an excellent analysis and summary of the Dawson and Seater study entitled “Federal Regulations Have Made You 75 Percent Poorer: U.S. GDP Is Just $16 Trillion Instead of $54 Trillion.” Bailey’s article is highly recommended for anyone wanting to learn more about the study and the methodology it uses.

Bailey tests their hypothesis against various assumptions and finds that their basic argument holds — that federal regulations have cost Americans an incalculable amount of wealth.

But what about the value of the federal regulations? Haven’t citizens benefited from these regulations? The two economists argue that their findings “indicate that whatever positive effects regulation may have on measured output are outweighed by negative effects.”

Or, as Bailey says: “Whatever the benefits of regulation, an average household income of $330,000 per year would buy a lot in the way of health care, schooling, art, housing, environmental protection, and other amenities.”

Of course, it is extremely naïve to assume that regulations are designed wisely and dispassionately to benefit and protect citizens. Many economists have long noted that much regulation is not — despite the claims of regulators — aimed at protecting consumers, but rather at benefiting and enriching special interests, including the regulated businesses (which routinely use regulations to enrich themselves and injure their competition), politicians, and regulators. And regulation also often triggers unexpected costs and consequences.

If economists Dawson and Seater are right, government regulations have wiped out incalculable riches in the past sixty years, without remotely comparable benefits. This important new study deserves the attention of all who are interested in liberty.

Privacy: You DO Have Something to Hide

in Liberator Online Archives by James W. Harris Comments are off

Privacy

“If you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear.”

This is surely the most tedious argument in favor of government spying on innocent citizens.

And it’s not just annoying, it’s dead wrong. You probably DO have something to hide. Something that could get you in real trouble.

So says Moxie Marlinspike — former director of application security at Twitter and co-founder and CTO of Whisper Systems — in an enlightening and frightening article at Wired.com entitled “Why ‘I Have Nothing to Hide’ Is the Wrong Way to Think About Surveillance.”

Marlinspike quotes James Duane, a professor at Regent Law School and former defense attorney:

“Estimates of the current size of the body of federal criminal law vary. It has been reported that the Congressional Research Service cannot even count the current number of federal crimes. These laws are scattered in over 50 titles of the United States Code, encompassing roughly 27,000 pages. Worse yet, the statutory code sections often incorporate, by reference, the provisions and sanctions of administrative regulations promulgated by various regulatory agencies under congressional authorization. Estimates of how many such regulations exist are even less well settled, but the ABA thinks there are ‘nearly 10,000.’”

That’s right. The federal government cannot even count how many federal laws there are. Indeed, no one knows them all.

Nevertheless, you can face severe penalties if you unwittingly break one.

Therefore, asks Marlinspike, “If the federal government can’t even count how many laws there are, what chance does an individual have of being certain that they are not acting in violation of one of them?”

Marlinspike then quotes Supreme Court Justice Breyer:

“The complexity of modern federal criminal law, codified in several thousand sections of the United States Code and the virtually infinite variety of factual circumstances that might trigger an investigation into a possible violation of the law, make it difficult for anyone to know, in advance, just when a particular set of statements might later appear (to a prosecutor) to be relevant to some such investigation.”

And if you think we’re talking about variations on things like murder, robbery and assault, think again.

Marlinspike writes: “For instance, did you know that it is a federal crime to be in possession of a lobster under a certain size? It doesn’t matter if you bought it at a grocery store, if someone else gave it to you, if it’s dead or alive, if you found it after it died of natural causes, or even if you killed it while acting in self defense. You can go to jail because of a lobster.

“If the federal government had access to every email you’ve ever written and every phone call you’ve ever made, it’s almost certain that they could find something you’ve done which violates a provision in the 27,000 pages of federal statues or 10,000 administrative regulations.

“You probably do have something to hide, you just don’t know it yet.”

Resource: A Verifiable and Disturbing Look Into “Top Secret America”

in Liberator Online Archives by James W. Harris Comments are off

“Top Secret America” is a investigative report first published in The Top Secret AmericaWashington Post on July 19, 2010. It is based on a two-year investigation by a team of journalists headed by Pulitzer Prize-winning author Dana Priest and William Arkin.

Top Secret America attempted to discover the size and scope of the post-9/11 growth of the U.S. intelligence community.

Though the report is now nearly three years old, it remains a startling and shocking profile of the post 9/11 security state. It’s available online, along with supplementary material.

The Post found that the top-secret world the federal government created in response to the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001 “has become so large, so unwieldy and so secretive that no one knows how much money it costs, how many people it employs, how many programs exist within it or exactly how many agencies do the same work.”

This constitutes nothing less than “an alternative geography of the United States, a Top Secret America hidden from public view and lacking in thorough oversight.”

Among the investigation’s findings:

  • Some 1,271 government organizations and 1,931 private companies work on programs related to counterterrorism, homeland security and intelligence in about 10,000 locations across the United States.
  • An estimated 854,000 people — nearly 1.5 times as many people as live in Washington, D.C. — hold top-secret security clearances.
  • In Washington and the surrounding area, 33 building complexes for top-secret intelligence work are under construction or have been built since September 2001. Together they occupy the equivalent of almost three Pentagons or 22 U.S. Capitol buildings — about 17 million square feet of space.
  • Many security and intelligence agencies do the same work, creating redundancy and waste. For example, 51 federal organizations and military commands, operating in 15 U.S. cities, track the flow of money to and from terrorist networks.
  • Analysts who make sense of documents and conversations obtained by foreign and domestic spying share their judgment by publishing 50,000 intelligence reports each year — a volume so large that many are routinely ignored.

Indeed, the secret government is growing so fast and so secretly that no one really knows its size or scope — including those who are supposedly in charge of it.

Reports the Post: “In the Department of Defense, where more than two-thirds of the intelligence programs reside, only a handful of senior officials — called Super Users — have the ability to even know about all the department’s activities. But as two of the Super Users indicated in interviews, there is simply no way they can keep up with the nation’s most sensitive work.”

In the years since, we can only imagine the further expansion of Top Secret America. Revelations since then include, for example, charges from reliable sources that the government is tracking most if not all electronic communication in America.

This report is an excellent mainstream account of startling information and thus is a useful and reliable resource. Just remember, things are even worse than the Post reports.