With 24-hour cable news and an ever-present stream of information over the Internet it is sometimes difficult to discern trends or common threads due to the overwhelming amount of information that bombards us. But sometimes seemingly unrelated events or actions actually come together, much like a jigsaw puzzle, to form a bigger picture.
So what then do the "cattle battle" in Nevada, IRS persecution of conservative groups, NSA collection of so-called "meta-data," and the implementation of the Affordable Care Act all have in common? They are all examples of growing, pervasive, out-of-control government over-reach. And there is sub-text: in each case the over-reach has been perpetrated by non-elected bureaucrats all operating under the purview of the executive branch.
The case of Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy threatens to become the most explosive of these issues. The root of the problem extends back generations as the federal government has taken control of over 84% of the land mass of the state of Nevada. Similar land grabs have occurred in most other non-Pacific western states. As bureaucracies tend to do, the Bureau of Land Management has steadily expanded its control and placed more and more rules and regulations on federal lands.
Bundy claims the land grab is unconstitutional and that the territory belongs to the state. His refusal to pay grazing fees to the federal government stem from this state's rights issue. He claims he will pay the back fees to the state of Nevada. The Bureau of Land Management nearly triggered armed confrontation by attempting to forcibly take Mr. Bundy's cattle. This resulted in armed militia types rushing to defend Mr. Bundy. Wisely, the feds stood down.
This occurred against a backdrop of cooler heads, many state officials, meeting in nearby Utah to discuss ways to address the issue of federal land control. Clearly this is a problem that extends well beyond Mr. Bundy. While officials attempt to deal with the issue, a militia 50,000 strong in Oklahoma is vowing to take up arms, if necessary, to assist Mr. Bundy. Rational voices from media mogul Glenn Beck to Oklahoma Senator Jim Inhofe have spoken up against violent action. But it is clear that the age old issue of property rights remains a raw nerve for many mid-western Americans.
While the Bureau of Land Management oppresses ranchers, the watchdog group Judicial Watch this past week obtained e-mails showing the Internal Revenue Service's jihad against conservative groups was more widespread than initially reported. Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton told the media "These new e-mails show that the day before she broke the news of the IRS scandal, Lois Lerner (then head of the IRS) was talking to a top Obama Justice Department official about whether the DOJ could prosecute the very same organizations the IRS had already improperly targeted." In other words, Lerner was set to move from persecution to prosecution.
Less explosive, but more wide-ranging is the continued implementation of the flawed and deeply unpopular Affordable Care Act, better known as Obamacare. While the president touted contested numbers purporting to have reached enrollment goals, his Secretary of Health was being dispatched back to the private sector transparently for the disastrous roll-out of the program.
Perhaps no example of government over-reach has been more glaring that Obamacare. From the passage of the act along strictly partisan lines, to the Obama Administration's continual rewriting of the rules, granting of exemptions, and extending of deadlines, the program has been mismanaged by bureaucrats who apparently weren't able to understand what was in the law even after congress passed the law.
Finally, the issue of the National Security Administration (NSA) snooping into the private lives of Americans continues to gain traction as whistle-blower Edward Snowden joined Russian President Vladimir Putin on a talk show to discuss how oppressive U.S. intelligence agencies have become. You know it's bad when a former KGB agent claims the moral high ground. Again, as with the other agencies, the NSA operates with little effective oversight from elected officials.
Out-of-control federal bureaucracies are nothing new, and in fact have vexed both congress and presidents since the founding of the Republic. But the pendulum has now swung way too far. The president, who views himself as more of a dictator than a chief executive, fosters this swing to bureaucratic control. Democrats in congress follow their leader like sheep, and congressional Republican leaders are inept and ineffective.
As America enters a crucial two-year period where control of both the congress and the White House are up for grabs, reigning in the size and scope of the federal government is an issue that should be at the top of most voters' list of concerns.
(Lowman S. Henry is Chairman CEO of the Lincoln Institute and host of the weekly Lincoln Radio Journal. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.)
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