Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Freedom to do what?

The nation's founders stated their intentions in the Declaration of Independence. They wanted to be free from the abuses of British rule in order to establish a government in which the consent of the people, not the mandates of a monarch, determines the course of a nation.

As we Americans celebrate the freedoms that Independence Day brought us in 1776, it's a good time to ask what we want to do with those freedoms beyond 2012.

The just-released rash of U.S. Supreme Court decisions and this presidential election year raise twin questions for Americans: What do we want to be free from today, and what do we want to be free to do?

Do we really want to be free of the federal government and to vest all power except the power to raise an army in the 50 states as the radical rightwing says?

Ultra-conservative strategists say the federal government should get its nose out of business they believe should reside with states and individuals. They say states should be free from federal laws and rules on immigration, wages, union-worker protection, women and minorities.

They want states to be free from federal dictates on public lands and from expensive Medicaid programs that provide medical care to poor kids and seniors.

They want citizens to be free from the onerous transfer-tax that funds Social Security retirement benefits. And since last week, the cry has gone up for Congress to free citizens from Obamacare—a new "tax."

But what would being free from these federal laws and programs leave us free to do? Free to deport immigrants who want to work but can't get a permit because our system is a mess? Free to gag workers who dare to speak on their own behalf? Free to discriminate against minorities, women, gays and seniors? Free to sell off our wild outdoor treasures to the highest bidder? Free to re-impose the certain poverty of old age that existed before Social Security? Free to turn sick kids and the elderly away from clinics and hospitals?

Freedom is tricky. It's something to think about on this Independence Day.

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