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January 3, 2014

2014 A Year for Liberty?

Joe Charlebois

2013 left a lot to be desired for many, myself included. Looking back at many of the columns I penned this year, there is a realization that the source of many frustrations was based on loss of civil liberties.


Back in January the Republican majority in the U.S. House of Representatives re-elected Ohio Congressman John Boehner to the post of House Speaker. The Speaker’s following actions to punish the more conservative – and libertarian – members of the Republican caucus by removing them from leadership posts. These actions sent a message to current – as well as future – GOP representatives seeking to limit the power of the federal government that they need to play ball or they will “ride the bench.”


In February, attention in the Maryland State House turned to the possibility of making the referendum in the state obsolete, or at least so difficult that the minority party would be left with little to no means of checking the will of the majority party.


In March, famed neurosurgeon Dr. Benjamin Carson of Johns Hopkins spoke at the National Prayer Breakfast where he laid out his blueprint for taxes and healthcare. He soon became a political favorite of conservatives across the nation as he decried the progressive income tax as being morally wrong. He also took shots at the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) as a system that will take the free-market out of the healthcare delivery system and institute cost-cutting measures that will cut in effect the quality of care to patients that can’t afford to go outside of the system.


In May, Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin (D) suggested that the federal government institute a “Shield” law for reporters to seek protection from prosecution for failing to reveal sources. However, the intent of the law would severely damage 1st Amendment rights as the government would be able to determine who is a “legitimate journalist” and who isn’t. In our founding document, free speech was guaranteed to all Americans, not just those legitimized by the federal government.


Also in May, one of the most fundamental abuses of power that can be perpetrated by the federal government was uncovered. Led by Obama Administration, officials used the Internal Revenue Service to gather information on political rivals as well as target conservative groups who were established to oppose to the administration’s policies. The IRS used questionnaires with questions that have also been illegal to ask.


In October, the Obama Administration shut down access to all federal lands based on the failure of Congress and the president to pass a budget or Continuing Resolution to provide funding for the federal government prior to the fiscal year end. This included the National Park Service setting up barricades to keep out the very Americans who purchased their rights to these open-air exhibits with their blood and tax-dollars. Even privately funded memorials and businesses were forced to close by the threat of force.


The continued extra-constitutional actions by the federal government have energized those with libertarian tendencies to sound the alarm. Whether civil libertarians make a difference in the coming year is yet to be seen, but many liberals and conservatives are very wary of the intrusions of the federal government both known and unknown to a point where little will escape the scrutiny of an educated electorate in years to come.


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