New Congress Assaulting Our Freedom
- 11 February 2007 by Author 0 Comments
New Congress Assaulting Our Freedom
By Richard Larsen
Published – Idaho State Journal, 2/11/07
Great have been the cries of intrusion into our individual and collective “privacy” over some of the provisions of the Patriot Act and other government efforts to curtail terrorist activity over the past few years. But the assaults on our freedoms from the new congress dwarf those efforts expended for our protection since 9/11.
Representative Dennis Kucinich, Democrat from Ohio, thinks it’s time for the Fairness Doctrine to govern the content of the broadcast airwaves again. At the National Conference for Media Reform in January, he presented the argument that the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) should monitor and enforce content for media outlets, including radio and television broadcasters.
Some applaud this resurrection of a defunct Federal policy, contending that it will force broadcasters to “balance” their presentation of controversial topics of public interest. In effect, the policy places the FCC in a role as referee to restrict the free expression of ideas except as presented in a manner in conformity with the policy.
The bureaucracy of the Federal Government is hardly in a position to serve as an unbiased intermediary in this process. They have an inherent conflict of interest in many of the issues discussed over the airwaves as they seek their expanded role in governing our daily lives to ensure their power and perpetuity.
The efforts of Congressman Kucinich are no more than a thinly-veiled attack against the success of talk radio which is dominated by conservative commentators. The invocation of the Fairness Doctrine would totally restructure the landscape of talk radio, which, along with the internet, are the primary sources of news and information that run contrary to main-stream media which is dominated by liberal group-think.
Perhaps the greatest motivation to Kucinich is provided by the recent declaration of bankruptcy by Air America. This is the liberal talk show program launched in 2004 by a group intent on making inroads into the media dominated by the likes of Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Bill Bennett, and Bill O’Reilly. Even with the significant seed money infused by groups like Moveon.org and individuals like George Soros, Air America could not compete successfully in the free market. Hence, Kucinich’s desire to force the liberal perspective into a realm where they cannot compete without government intervention.
Milton Friedman, the Nobel laureate for economics, postulated that there can be no economic freedom without political freedom. Kucinich’s efforts indicate a dysfunctional understanding of the free exchange of ideas with the necessary correlation of free enterprise.
The government should be no more in the business of controlling “free” speech (except that which is deemed vulgar, seditious, or otherwise illegal) any more than they should be controlling our health care system.
For another example of the new congress’s efforts to curtail free speech, the U.S. Senate is considering legislation that will dramatically affect our ability to engage in grassroots lobbying to our elected officials. Senate Bill 1, which is packed with a host of issues, includes a provision to amend the Lobbying Disclosure Act of 1995. Under the new bill, any organization that has a paid employee and has an organization of more than 500 members, must comply with all lobbyist registration requirements that the big oil or big pharmaceutical companies must comply with. In other words, your church or club, if they promote a letter-writing campaign to your congressmen, must be registered as a lobbyist, and file the requisite quarterly report filings under threat of a $100,000 fine.
This is a thinly masked effort to stifle efforts by churches and other non-profit organizations to influence the legislative process by Congress, proven such by the fact that labor unions, corporations, and even foreign companies that engage in lobbying are excluded from the legislation. The result could be reduced efficacy by such groups in efforts to express concern over legislation pending before Congress, and an effectual stifling of free speech by constituents to affect our Federal lawmakers.
This effort toward government regulation of speech and managing grassroots efforts to communicate with our elected officials doesn’t directly prohibit free speech but it creates a climate of intimidation and onerous regulation that could effectively silence church and civic groups interested in Federal legislation.
If these early efforts by the 110th Congress are any indication of where they’re headed for the next couple of years, we may see an assault on our freedoms and liberties unlike any since the suspension of habeas corpus by Abraham Lincoln. These efforts underscore the precept uttered by Ronald Reagan in his first Inaugural Address when he said “Government is not a solution to our problem, government is the problem.”
Richard Larsen is President of Larsen Financial, a brokerage and financial planning firm in Pocatello, and is a graduate of Idaho State University with a BA in Political Science and History and former member of the Idaho State Journal Editorial Board. He can be reached at email@example.com.