George W. Bush was president. The federal deficit was under $400 billion; and the national debt was “merely” a little over $9 trillion. Virtually no one outside of Alaska knew who Sarah Palin was. America’s Big Three auto makers were still, well, big. Lehman Brothers remained an American financial icon; and insurance behemoth AIG was riding high on the hog. Housing markets across the country were weak, but still appeared viable. And, the notion of smaller government was still paid lip-service support by the Republican Party.
Man, what a difference nine months can make. My last column for the AJC appeared April 2. At that time, which now seems so very long ago, the political and economic landscape facing us was hugely different than that which presents itself to us today.
Just yesterday, a relatively young and untested Illinois senator who happens to be black was sworn in as the 44th president of the United States. The secretary of state will shortly be the new president’s former — and many believe, future — political adversary, Hillary Clinton. The Congress of the United States, now under much stronger control of the Democratic Party than in the last Congress, is poised to start spending taxpayer dollars faster and at a higher level than at any time in the history of the Republic; and the “loyal opposition” Republican Party has raised hardly a whimper against it.
Clearly, much has changed since the early spring of 2008. But, as I scan the news, there remains an eerie constancy to goings on in Washington, in Atlanta and elsewhere.
Our civil liberties continue under assault by the highest courts in the land, by the federal government, by state governments and by local governments here in Georgia. What am I talking about? Well, let’s see:
Just last week the United States Supreme Court, in a 5-4 decision in which now-former President George W. Bush’s two appointees were in the majority, ruled that evidence seized illegally by the police nonetheless can be used to convict someone if the police maintain they seized the evidence “mistakenly.” So much for the Fourth Amendment, which used to protect against such inappropriate police action.
Thanks to a law expanding the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) signed last July by Bush, the government may now legally monitor any international phone call or e-mail transmission without a warrant, regardless of who you might be communicating with or why.
You might have thought yesterday’s inauguration of President Barack Obama was a celebration. You’d be wrong. It was a “national emergency, ” right up there with Hurricane Katrina.
Why was it a declared “emergency” and a “special security event”? Simple. Such designations enable government to spend more of our money and to exercise greater power to control and arrest people.
Think your DNA is private? Think again. The federal government and many state governments, including Georgia, are now developing vast databases of DNA information (including from newborns), and they are not asking “pretty please” before they take the samples.
The new city of Dunwoody is following the footsteps of other Georgia municipalities in finding activities to outlaw. Their latest target? Concertgoers and others who might commit the now-unpardonable sin of bringing a glass bottle to an event in a city park.
Even as governments — Republican and Democrat alike — are expanding the spheres of government power at the expense of individual freedom, they continue to find new ways in which to prove they are no longer linked to a foundation of common sense. For example:
The federal Environmental Protection Agency is actually studying the possibility of fining farmers for “bovine emissions”; that is, cow belching and flatulence.
The feds are considering as part of the “economic stimulus plan” paying people to sell older cars and buy newer, government-preferred vehicles. Apparently, prior government efforts to spend money to influence markets are no longer available to educate these brainiacs. Does anyone remember the “synfuel” boondoggle or the solar panel program of the late 1970s and early 1980s? How about the still-active ethanol subsidy scam?
Perhaps most revealing, the program whereby governments are spending unconscionable sums of taxpayer monies to provide state-of-the-art, high-tech toilets for public usage, has spread beyond MARTA and the city of Atlanta, even to Cobb County, which now owns a pair of these gleaming and hugely expensive stainless steel thrones.
Somehow, I don’t anticipate there will be a shortage of topics on which I will be writing in the weeks and months ahead. Thank you, government.