Just who do they think they own?

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 I have for some time been looking for a model to describe the relationship that currently exists between the people and the federal government. At different times, I have labeled it as feudalism, serfdom or slavery.

None of them is quite right, and yet they all hint at the problem — the American people, who ostensibly still pride themselves on freedom have long since been co-opted as nothing more than a labor force by their masters in Washington.

“We the people” have become “we the workers.”

This is a fact known to one and all, but for some reason, of late it has been treated like a crazy uncle — the less said about it the better. But that was not always true. President Reagan often warned against letting the government control too much of your life. In his farewell address to the nation in 1989, he said this:

“I hope we once again have reminded people that man is not free unless government is limited. There’s a clear cause and effect here that is as neat and predictable as a law of physics: As government expands, liberty contracts.”

That’s either a true or false proposition. If anyone wants to defend a larger role for government in our lives, they are welcome to do so ... but I sure wish they would demonstrate how more government can exist without taking away more of my freedom. I don’t think they can do so.

And we are living in the time of the greatest expansion of government in the history of our country. Every day, the Congress and the president propose or implement some new restriction, some new regulation, some new entitlement that further extends the control of government into our personal lives. And to add insult to injury, they make us pay for it. Thus, it is clear that while we work at the local grocery store, or in a hospital or a law office or in any other kind of business, our real boss is Uncle Sam.

Or maybe “boss” is not the right word either. I am starting to think the real model for our relationship with the federal government is the sharecropper’s relationship with his landlord. We do the work; they get a share of the money. There’s no fieldwork or farming in this kind of sharecropping, but basically isn’t the federal government putting us to work in our various “fields” of endeavor and then grabbing a percentage of our profit.

Where this model falls down is that at least the landlord really did own the land and had a contract with the sharecropper, but what stake does the government have in us? Just our citizenship? Are we actually the property that the government is harvesting its share from? Do they own us?

Which, I guess, brings us back to the slavery model after all.

Think of the debts that have been incurred by the federal government in our name. We are on the hook for $17.5 trillion for Social Security; more than $75 trillion for Parts A, B and D of Medicare; and unknown trillions for the new health-care reform.

Since the federal government doesn’t have any money of its own, every time it creates a new entitlement or guarantees a new service it has to get more money from you the taxpayer or else borrow more money from them the Chinese (metaphorically speaking, of course; it could actually be the Saudis, the British or the Russians, for beggars are equal opportunity borrowers).

But if the government borrows money it can’t pay back, that’s just another way of putting you on the hook, and trust me, there is no way the government can pay back what it owes. Plus, interest rates are expected to go up substantially when our foreign creditors realize we have no visible means of support — and every percentage increase in the interest rate will mean more trillions in unfunded liabilities.

Now, some have said that the federal government has incurred this massive debt without the approval of the taxpayers, that in essence the Congress has usurped the authority of the public, and thus created a kind of taxation without representation.

While poetically apt, this description throws on its head the whole notion of “representative government.” Clearly, it is our representatives who are spending themselves silly. We cannot argue that we did not elect them.

But we can still argue against their reckless spending because they are stealing from our progeny, who just as clearly do not have representation.

As Jefferson wrote: “The generations of men may be considered as bodies or corporations. Each generation has the [use and enjoyment] of the earth during the period of its continuance. When it ceases to exist, the [use and enjoyment] passes on to the succeeding generation, free and unencumbered... We may consider each generation as a distinct nation, with a right, by the will of its majority, to bind themselves, but none to bind the succeeding generation, more than the inhabitants of another country.” 

As Americans, we have passed on a heritage of freedom and prosperity to our children “free and unencumbered,” for generation after generation. Until now. And the generation that follows us will be so encumbered that it will not be able to lift itself up off the ground. It shall have small chance of freedom and no hope of prosperity, unless the chains of tyranny are thrown off now.

It seems as though more and more we have to return to the words of the Founding Fathers if we hope to return to the nation they created. In one quote, Jefferson even anticipated the role of the government as a tyrannical landlord, and warned us against it:

In his autobiography, he wrote, “I am for a government rigorously frugal and simple. Were we directed from Washington when to sow, when to reap, we should soon want bread.”

Everyone knows this is true. It is just a matter of how hungry we are willing to become before we demand back our individuality, our liberty and our right to use and enjoy the free republic that our forefathers handed down to us.

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