Public Confidence in Government Falling
by Bill Sardi by Bill Sardi
Americans grow up with great pride that they live in the greatest country on Earth, a country that has Constitutional protections, and an economy and other freedoms that outsiders envy. But the American rose is fading, and hopefully this time, it may not be a passing whim but rather a frank realization of the failings of big government.
Americans recognize the distinctiveness of their government, the Constitutional checks and balances, the banning of nobility and monarchies, the limits on terms of service for its Presidents, the protection of private property, the right to bear arms, freedom of the press, etc. At least, the American Constitutional plan for government is good on paper. But is government really delivering on its written Constitutional promises?
In recent times, the curtains have swung open to reveal the real backstage maneuverings of the federal government. The Bush/Kerry Presidential election put the voting system on stage, and it looked bad. The public now hears of concerns that tampering with computerized touch-screen voting machines can stealthily thwart the will of the people.
The response of federal agencies to Hurricane Katrina was not only an embarrassment to the country, but it’s odd that the President called no one to task for lack of performance. Nor did the nation’s Chief Operating Officer call for any resignations when military jet fighters failed to respond in a timely manner to the events of Sept. 11. Then there’s that war we’re fighting overseas, without just cause (unfound weapons of mass destruction). These failures and misrepresentations are roiling in the minds of Americans.
Will government perform in a crisis?
Now, in a recent poll, the public is expressing its dismay over the inability of government to handle crisis situations. The results of the poll are appalling. Public confidence in the federal government’s ability to protect them from a terrorist attack has fallen from 63% in 2003 to 44% in Sept. of 2006. Only about a third of Americans believe the US government can adequately protect our borders from terrorist attacks and only 23 percent say the health care system is ready to respond effectively to a bird flu pandemic.
Citizens expect government won’t deliver on pension promises
Surveys show adults getting ready to enter retirement age believe the federal government will not be able to live up to its promise to deliver on pension and health care plans they have paid in to for decades. According to a 2004 pill, 65% of Gen-Xers don’t expect Social Security will be an option when they retire. (Generation X represents more than 29 million adults born between 1964 and 1980.)
Constitutional failures: Amendment V — right to private property
Then there are the Constitutional failures. Amendment V of the Constitution (Bill of Rights) states no citizen shall have "private property taken for public use, without just compensation." But in June of 2004 the nation saw the Supreme Court vote, by 5 to 4, in favor of local governments use of eminent domain to force property owners to sell out and make way for private economic development when officials decide it would benefit the public, even if the property is not blighted and the new project’s success is not guaranteed. The public lost out, even when it evoked the Fifth Amendment to the Constitution which prohibits the taking of property by government except for “public use.”
Constitutional failures: Amendment II — the right to bear arms
Then there is Amendment II of the Constitution, which says "the Right to bear arms shall not be infringed." After Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans police officers confiscated over 1000 weapons from its citizens, leaving citizens unable to defend themselves against crime when the police force was hampered with the aftermath of the storm.
Fortunately, the National Rifle Association has proceeded to launch a lawsuit against the City of New Orleans for a violation of the Second Amendment when it confiscated firearms from private citizens. A Federal judge has rejected an attempt to dismiss the suit. But where is the outrage from elected representatives or our Commander in Chief who, when taking office, solemnly swore "to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States?"
Constitutional failures: Amendment IV — right against unreasonable searches
Then there is Amendment IV of the Constitution, "the right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized."
Jonathan Turley, law professor at Georgetown University, writing in USA Today, says only in recent months has the public learned that the National Security Administration has engaged in warrantless domestic surveillance of overseas communications — an operation many experts believe is a clear federal crime ordered by the president. Not only may Constitutional protections have been violated here, but Turley points out that President Bush, in his State of the Union address in January, proudly said he had repeatedly ordered the domestic surveillance operation and would continue to do so. After this speech, members of both Houses of Congress gave him a standing ovation. Is the Constitution to be defied?
The US Patriot Act, enacted on October 26, 2001, but actually drafted far in advance of the events of Sept. 11 as if its authors had omniscience, contains express statutory authorization for the issuance of "sneak and peek" search warrants which can be used in any federal crime investigation including misdemeanors. (Section 213 Patriot Act)
A secret intelligence court has identified more than 75 instances where FBI agents misled courts in order to justify the need for wiretaps and other surveillance.
However, in a stunning defeat, on September 30, 2004, a federal judge ruled that a provision of the USA Patriot Act allowing the FBI to conduct certain kinds of secret searches is unconstitutional, standing in violation of both the First and Fourth Amendments.
Then again, in August of 2006, U.S. District Judge Anna Diggs Taylor in Detroit delivered a major blow to the White House in a 43-page opinion that said the Executive Branch exceeded its authority by conducting a secret program that monitors telephone calls and emails of Americans. “There are no hereditary kings in America, and no power not created by the Constitution,” U.S. District Judge Anna Diggs Taylor wrote.
Constitutional failures: Amendment I — Freedom of the Press
Then there is the first Amendment which guarantees freedom of the press. In 2005 USA Today revealed in a series of reports that branches of the US government are bribing American journalists to create favorable views of the government. The first revelation was that a news commentator was covertly paid $241,000 to help promote the No Child Left Behind law. Then USA Today revealed the Agriculture Department paid a freelance writer thousands of dollars in 2003 to write favorable articles about the Natural Resources Conservation Service programs. Health and Human Services also got caught paying two columnists more than $40,000.
Then there are those video news releases, issued to TV networks by at least 20 federal agencies (including the Defense Department), many broadcast without any acknowledgement of government’s role in their production. Strong warnings against this practice by the Government Accounting Office in 2004 and 2005 were ignored.
Then there is the collusion between the federal government and Hollywood, which began writing scripts and producing war movies (American heroes against middle-eastern terrorists) long before the events of Sept. 11, 2001. Is this a free press? Or is the electronic media a conduit for propaganda?
Who mailed anthrax-laden envelopes targeted at the tabloid press, NBC News and opposing members of Congress in the weeks following 9-11? Some terrorist was trying to hush the American press and political opposition. Maybe the press can’t tell us for fear of receiving an envelope in the mail with white powder in it. The 4th Estate can no longer be relied upon to report or interpret the affairs of government.
Loss of checks and balances
There are hidden movements within the branches of government that escape detection. Somewhere during the Clinton administration the FBI was moved from oversight by the Judicial branch to the Executive branch of government. This left no investigative oversight of the Executive Branch. Maybe this was a late aftermath from the Nixon administration that suffered as the FBI released information about the Watergate scandal. Who knows? But the move backfired recently when Democratic Congressman William Jefferson was found to have hid $90,000 in cash in his refrigerator. On orders from the Executive Branch (the opposing party), the FBI subsequently raided Jefferson’s suite of offices in the Rayburn House Office Building in Washington DC, removing materials they deemed necessary to their investigation.
Even House Speaker Dennis Hastert, the Illinois Republican, was aroused over this assault on the system of checks and balances. The Speaker reportedly told the President that the raid on Jefferson’s office was a direct violation of the Constitution — of the principle of separation of powers, and protections afforded the legislative branch by the “Speech and Debate” clause of the Constitution.
Talking about defying the Constitution and the loss of checks and balances in government, Presidents have taken to signing bills passed by Congress by adding written proclamations to legislation that describes how the Executive Branch intends to interpret and enforce new laws. These signing statements have gotten so out of hand, and beyond the intent of the Constitution, that a Republican Senator has introduced legislation (Presidential Signing Statements Act) that would instruct all state and federal courts to ignore Presidential signing statements as they have no Constitutional authority.
Few Americans catch on to how Constitutional protections are circumnavigated to thwart the will of the people. For example, the public is largely unaware how and when Congressional districts are remapped to support incumbents. I’ve been trying to throw my representative out of Congress, but each time his Congressional District is gerrymandered to capture votes and remain in office. Both parties participate in this practice to keep their incumbents in office.
Government versus Constitutional ideals
Few Americans catch on to how the Federal government often operates contrary to the Constitutional ideal to "promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity," or to promote “Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” (Declaration of Independence).
Few Americans catch on to how their money is devalued by ceaseless printing of more paper dollars, how their life savings are placed completely at the whim of the public’s confidence in paper money, that is backed by nothing, rather than representing something that has intrinsic value such as gold or other precious metals (remember those silver certificates?).
Another covert operation is how government gives the appearance of tax cuts. When the first G.W. Bush tax cut in 2001 was proposed (~$350 billion), it conveniently equaled the amount of money Americans would need to pay for upcoming rises in gasoline prices. Three key figures in the Executive Branch are connected to the petroleum industry. Did they conveniently time the tax cut so Americans would have enough money to pay oil companies for gasoline? It appears so.
Americans have crossed wires when it comes to their loyalty to the government. Americans want to be patriotic and somehow consider dissent to be un-American. The Constitution was drafted to protect citizens from government. Americans are to be wary of government, as the Founding Fathers were. The Federal Government was supposed to be limited in size and reach. "The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the states respectively, or to the people." (The X Amendment) The Federal Government breaches its charter every day.
Government is failing to deliver on its promises. Hopefully, the current loss of confidence in government signals that the American public is waking up to the problems posed by an unbridled government that masquerades behind a disregarded American Constitution. In practice, this isn’t the government you and I learned about in our American Government class in high school. Flag waving and patriotism aside, American citizens need to be ever vigilant of government.