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Thursday, March 02, 2006

My Case for an Independent Political Party Based on Privacy

Mark Twain said: “Reader, suppose you were an idiot. And suppose you were a member of Congress. But I repeat myself.” This was spoken sometime in the late 1800’s by the writer, and quoted in December of 2004 in “Why you can’t trust Congress,” by Paul Greenberg. Greenberg, writing in, was remarking on the attempt of Oklahoma Republican Representative Ernest Istook to slip into the giant omnibus spending bill of 2004, a provision allowing lawmakers, and whomever they designate, to access the tax returns of any American they choose.

Under pressure, the provision was removed, after being discovered by the staff of Democratic Senator Kent Conrad of North Dakota. posted the story, “GOP lawmaker: Tax-return measure aimed at IRS oversight,” in November of 2004. Old news? Yes, but one of the glaring examples of what lengths at least the Republican side of this Congress will go to in order to usurp your identity and place your name and personal data in jeopardy. Starting with your Social Security number, your tax returns provide all the ingredients for ID thieves to steal you blind.

Here are the results of a CBS News poll in the latter part of 2005. On Congress’ job approval, 52% disapprove with only 33% approving. Some reasons given for the dissent are: partisan bickering, 20%; bad priorities, 14%; and this is my favorite, 9% feel congressional leaders just don’t care about them. When asked what Congress had done lately, 78% said they didn’t know. Sixty-one percent expressed that Congress does not share their priorities. Yet, as an approval of political party, the Democrats are barely ahead at 44% to 43%.

In an Associated Press, article, “Collins: Public trust in Congress perilously low,” by Jim Abrams, some members of Congress are calling for an evaluation of their own behavior, as well as the lobbyists. It’s the old adage of supply and demand. The lobbyists wouldn’t be performing the crooked antics they are if it wasn’t for the needs of some likewise politicians. On the other hand, Senator Susan Collins, Republican from Maine and chair of the Homeland Security and Government Affairs committee, sounds genuinely concerned over the public trust, or lack, thereof. Senator Joe Lieberman, the committee’s top Democrat, wants to clear the air, referring to the Abramoff lobbying scandal.

All well and good, but where is the real action? My gut feeling is that this Congress will let the identity crisis issue slide until the heat is off—as we have learned to expect from the past—and eventually go back to business as usual. Too bad there is no statesperson in the current crop of politicos in Washington like Shirley Chisholm, Everett Dirksen, Adlai Stevenson, or Barry Goldwater. Say what you want about former Mayor Richard Daley of Chicago, but he took care of the people.

We must return to a focus on the human rights of individuals, and respect their privacy to do what they choose within the law. This would have to start with the White House and filter down through Congress and State governments. What is needed is a new independent political party with its major platform issue: individual privacy.

My grass-roots effort to pass federal legislation giving consumers control over their names and personal data, and paying them when it is sold, is only a small part of a movement that seems to be gaining momentum with the low congressional satisfaction levels stated above. The time is right and the electorate is ready to stand up for their rights.

It will never be done with ordinary politicians, and, unless there is a national leader lurking in the cloakrooms of Congress, unable to speak up due to peer pressure, we have to find that individual. As best I can determine, he or she isn’t on either side of the aisle today. As Paul Greenberg put it: “When Mark Twain compared congressmen to idiots, he was, of course, being unfair. To idiots.”

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