What are the consequences of giving a centralized government the authority to track every inch of your private property with the right to invade and search it without cause?
In the years leading up to the American Revolution, it was precisely this abuse of power by British imperialists which prompted the founding fathers to add the 4th amendment to the Constitution. It placed a judge who must be presented with probable cause between the hands of government and the property of private citizens.
When we were colonists, and the King and the Parliament needed money from us, and they always seemed to need money, they devised ingenious ways to tax us. One of them was called the Stamp Act. The Parliament decreed that every piece of paper that the Colonists had in their homes; every book, every document, every deed, every lease, every pamphlet, every poster to be nailed to a tree had to have the King’s stamp on it. You think going to a Post Office is bad? You had to go to a British Government office and buy a stamp with the King’s picture.
Question. How did the King know that his picture was on every piece of paper in your house? The Parliament enacted a hateful piece of legislation called the Writs of Assistance Act which let the king’s soldiers write their own search warrants, and bang down any door they chose to look for the stamps or anything else that they were looking for.
It was the last straw.
We fought a revolution. We won the revolution. We wrote the Constitution. The constitution doesn’t grant power, it keeps the government off our backs.
Night Talk: Interview with Judge Andrew Napolitano
The problem with not having to prove probable cause is that the government can target individuals for harassment without any justifiable reason. Take for example a 60 year old grandmother living in Texas who was raided by six SWAT agents for growing orchids in her backyard.
“You don’t need to know. You can’t know.” That’s what Kathy Norris, a 60-year-old grandmother of eight, was told when she tried to ask court officials why, the day before, federal agents had subjected her home to a furious search.
The agents who spent half a day ransacking Mrs. Norris’ longtime home in Spring, Texas, answered no questions while they emptied file cabinets, pulled books off shelves, rifled through drawers and closets, and threw the contents on the floor.
The six agents, wearing SWAT gear and carrying weapons, were with – get this- the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
Kathy and George Norris lived under the specter of a covert government investigation for almost six months before the government unsealed a secret indictment and revealed why the Fish and Wildlife Service had treated their family home as if it were a training base for suspected terrorists. Orchids.
That’s right. Orchids.
No one Read the Bill
This legislation has become particularly dangerous in the hands of the current administration as it appears to be developing a habit of attacking political opponents in a manner which has been compared to Richard Nixon’s ‘enemies list’.
Now a U.S. senator from Tennessee, Alexander cited the Nixon team’s “open declaration of war upon anyone who seemed to disagree with administration policies.” He added, “we’re beginning to see symptoms of this same kind of animus developing in the Obama administration.”
Referring to a story in Politico, Alexander decried White House pushback against Fox News, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the insurance industry and certain Republican members of Congress (including Alexander, who has criticized the White House appointments of “czars”).
Now, progressives are aiming to expand government power further than ever before into the free market, under the auspices of the Patriot Act.
With groundwork laid by previous administrations, the Obama administration has now “assaulted economic liberties,” Napolitano said. A law signed by President Bush on the day after Saddam Hussein was arrested—the National Intelligence Act of 2004—redefined “financial institutions” to include far more than banks. A footnote defines hotels, restaurants, casinos, car dealers, libraries, computer companies, hospitals, doctors’ offices, lawyers’ offices and many more private organizations as “financial institutions.”
The Obama administration is using this provision to regular private contracts, in violation of the due process clause of the Fifth Amendment to the Constitution, if the government decides that an organization is so large that its failure may affect “liquidity”—the movement of cash in the marketplace.
An Unpatriotic Attack on Liberty
Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner and House Financial Services Committee Chairman Barney Frank have declared war on economic liberty while introducing new legislation to expand market control through the Federal Reserve.
Using language that has got others into trouble before him, Timothy Geithner, US Treasury secretary, on Tuesday called financial regulatory reform “a just war” – words given substance by a legislative proposal unveiled the same day by Mr Geithner and Barney Frank, chairman of the House Financial Services Committee. The sweeping powers it grants the government – presumably those Mr Geithner wishes it had had during the financial paralysis last year – are what give the bill both its strengths and its weaknesses.
Under the law, no company engaged in financial activities would be able to hide from a new Financial Services Oversight Council. It would be empowered to seek all information it needs to determine whether an entity or an activity has systemic significance for overall financial stability. It would subject systemically important institutions – banks or non-banks – to potentially draconian requirements to mitigate risk to the financial system.
The Federal Reserve could order a financial institution to sell a risky division or stop dangerous trading activity if the central bank determined there was a threat to the US financial system, under a draft law released on Tuesday.
The landmark bill drawn up by the Treasury and the House financial services committee sets up a council of regulators charged with snuffing out systemic risks and gives the government and the Fed sweeping powers over financial companies at home and overseas…
But the draft law goes further than expected – allowing the Fed to require any systemically significant company to “sell or otherwise transfer assets or off-balance sheet items to unaffiliated firms, to terminate one or more activities, or to impose conditions on the manner in which the identified financial holding company conducts one or more activities”.
Our businesses should not be treated like terrorists. We do not want a pay czar or a federal bureau controlling contracts in the private sector. Further, we should not be giving expanded powers to the same governmentally created institution which caused the financial crisis by artificially suppressing interest rates, expanding cheap credit, and creating moral hazard throughout the system.
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