Thursday, April 15, 2010

Signpost 4 -- Every Breath You Take, Every Move You Make

Today is another Friday, and it's time to address yet another of the Fourteen Signposts to Slavery I outlined in a previous post.  So far, two of the three signposts we've examined are currently in effect here in the good old USA (Signposts 1 and 3).  Signpost 2 -- the abolition of the right to gun ownership -- is not in effect, and we should be vigilant to make sure that gun rights are never, ever rescinded.

Moving on . . .

Signpost 4 -- Requirements that private financial transactions be keyed to social security numbers or other government identification so that government records of these transactions can be kept and fed into a computer.

What would this enormous red flag of government intrusion potentially bring to the American people?  Well, if you know what everyone is spending their money on and where, there is an awful lot you can learn about a person.  If you not only have the ability to compile data on individuals' financial transactions but to also decide whether or not it's O.K. for them to engage in certain transactions, you've essentially enslaved the populace.

Today in the United States, all payments we make through credit cards, debit cards, or even by check are, in fact, connected to our social security numbers -- a social security number is almost always required to set up a bank account, apply for a credit card, or to apply for a loan of almost any type.  Using cash in our transactions is really the only way to avoid any given transaction being linked to our social security number.

Of course you and I can go down to our local coffee shop, grocery store, or gas station and make a purchase in cash.  But how many of us find it more convenient to whip out a debit or credit card, even for small transactions?  How many of us pay our bills or make purchases online?  Even if we use checks, each check is now scanned and saved electronically by our bank or credit union in most cases, and this information is stored in a database.  I have an ecommerce business, and like most online businesses, all the financial transactions are electronic.

Just last year, Senator Chris Dodd sought to sneak a provision into his Hope for Homeowners bill that would require online merchant companies such as PayPal, Amazon, Ebay, and others to compile information on their customers and all their transactions.  According to FreedomWorks Chairman Dick Armey, such a provision "reduces privacy across America's payment processing systems and treats every American small business or eBay power seller like a criminal on parole by requiring an unprecedented level of reporting to the federal government." (1)  In my research, it appears that this particular proposal didn't pass, but it was very difficult to tell (and I didn't want to spend all day trying to sort through the monumental opacity of government websites).

Further, President Bush's proposed 2009 Budget called for all credit card companies to report the transactions of all their merchants (businesses who receive payments for products and services by credit card) to the IRS, with the transactions tied to the Taxpayer Identification Number of the merchant.  This information would be collected, shared, and stored on a database all without any evidence that any of the merchants were in violation of any law. (2)  The 2009 Budget also called for greater "enforcement initiatives" to make sure small businesses and the self-employed are paying the right amount of taxes, and the sharing of "financial intelligence" through American and world intelligence bodies. (3)

Of course, it is claimed that such provisions would be used to prevent terrorists from engaging in money laundering. 

Here are a few more facts --

  • Electronic financial transactions are on the rise in America,
  • Any deposit or withdrawal over $3,000 must be reported to the government,
  • Any cash transaction over $10,000 must be reported to the government,
  • As we learned in Signpost 1, the financial transactions of Americans while abroad or through foreign bank accounts are now strictly regulated,
  • There have been instances where individuals have been ordered by the court to open a bank account, 
  • Many Americans are required by their employer to have a bank account for direct deposit of their paychecks,
  • Europe is on the fast-track to moving to a cashless society, with the VP of Visa in Europe making comments about how expensive cash is, and advocating the abandonment of paper money and checks in favor of debit and credit cards.   Of course, he would personally stand to benefit from such a shift! (4)
  • The amount of information on individual Americans, both financial and otherwise that is available to the government has exploded in recent years, and so has government control.  If you, I, or your Uncle Bob somehow end up on a bad list or dubbed as a domestic terrorist, we could be cut off from all electronic financial means instantly (that is, if we're not detained by Homeland Security and thrown into a jail without a concrete accusation and without the right to a trial)!

    Here's the landscape of financial transactions in our day -- the majority of all commerce of significance is now made electronically and is linked to our social security number, cash payments are going out of style, and large purchases in cash have to be reported to the government.
    This is all fine and good if you have a benevolent and trust-worthy power structure safeguarding this information with their life, and with no intent to exploit.
    In my opinion, however, those who defend the current system as necessary are either those who blindly trust the power structure, or who work for it.

    Just as we've seen 5-year-old children show up as terrorists on the "No Fly" list and American veterans who are alive and well but the VA has determined that they are officially deceased, we would be naive not to expect negative ramifications from Uncle Sam compiling and perusing our financial history.  It's bad enough how much financial information and power held by the big financial entities in our nation!

    Just ask Leann Weaver of Phoenix, AZ who defaulted on a credit card, and one day at the grocery store attempted to pay for some groceries with her debit card and was declined for insufficient funds.  Her credit card company found a way to garnish her wages, and did so even without her knowledge! (5)

    Not that I think that those who don't pay their bills are in the right, but I don't like where this could be headed.

    Signpost 4 -- Not quite, but way too close for comfort



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