John W. Whitehead
The Rutherford Institute
“The fact is that the government, like a highwayman, says to a man: Your money, or your life. And many, if not most, taxes are paid under the compulsion of that threat.”—Lysander Spooner, American abolitionist and legal theorist
It used to be that the Constitution served as a bulwark against government abuses, excesses and wrongdoing.
That is no longer the case.
Having been reduced to little more than a historic document, the Constitution now provides scant protection against government abuses, misconduct and corruption.
Not only are “we the people” painfully vulnerable to the whims of any militarized cop on the beat, but we are also sitting targets for every government huckster out to fleece the taxpayer of their hard-earned dollars.
We get taxed on how much we earn, taxed on what we eat, taxed on what we buy, taxed on where we go, taxed on what we drive, and taxed on how much is left of our assets when we die.
Because the government’s voracious appetite for money, power and control has grown out of control, its agents have devised other means of funding its excesses and adding to its largesse through taxes disguised as fines, taxes disguised as fees, and taxes disguised as tolls, tickets and penalties.
The government’s schemes to swindle, cheat, scam, and generally defraud Americans have run the gamut from wasteful pork barrel legislation, cronyism and graft to asset forfeiture schemes, the modern-day equivalent of highway robbery, astronomical health care “reform,” and costly stimulus packages.
Now the government and its corporate partners in crime have come up with a new scheme to not only scam taxpayers out of what’s left of their paychecks but also make us foot the bill, and it’s coming at us in the form of a war on cash.
What is this war on cash?
It’s a concerted campaign to do away with large bills such as $20s, $50s, $100s and shift consumers towards a digital mode of commerce that can easily be monitored, tracked, tabulated, mined for data, hacked, hijacked and confiscated when convenient.
Much like the war on drugs and the war on terror, this so-called “war on cash” is being sold to the public as a means of fighting terrorists, drug dealers and tax evaders. Just the mere possession of cash is enough to implicate you in suspicious activity and have you investigated. In other words, cash has become another way for the government to profile Americans and render them criminals.
The rationale is that cash is the currency for illegal transactions given that it’s harder to track, can be used to pay illegal immigrants, and denies the government its share of the “take,” so doing away with paper money will help law enforcement fight crime and help the government realize more revenue.
Despite what we know about the government and its history of corruption, bumbling, fumbling and data breaches, not to mention how easily technology can be used against us, the campaign to do away with cash is really not a hard sell.
It’s not a hard sell, that is, if you know the right buttons to push, and the government has become a grand master in the art of getting the citizenry to do exactly what it wants. And if you belong to the growing class of Americans—46% of consumers, approximately 114 million adults and rising—who use your cell phone to pay bills, purchase goods, and transfer funds, then the government is just preaching to the choir when it comes to persuading you of the convenience of digital cash.
In much the same way that Americans have opted into government surveillance through the convenience of GPS devices and cell phones, digital cash—the means of paying with one’s debit card, credit card or cell phone—is becoming the de facto commerce of the American police state.
It’s not just cash that is going digital, either.
A growing number of states—including Delaware and California—are looking to adopt digital driver’s licenses that would reside on your mobile phone. These licenses would include all of the information contained on your printed license, along with a few “extras” such as real-time data downloaded directly from your state’s Department of Motor Vehicles.
Of course, reading between the lines, having a digital driver’s license will open you up to much the same jeopardy as digital cash: it will make it possible for the government to better track your movements, monitor your activities and communications and ultimately shut you down.
So what’s the deal here?
First, it’s hard to imagine how a cashless world navigated by way of a digital wallet doesn’t signal the beginning of the end for what little privacy we have left and leave us vulnerable to the likes of government thieves and data hackers.
Second, digital wallets will make it that much easier for government agents to take advantage of civil asset forfeiture schemes. ERAD (Electronic Recovery and Access to Data) devices supplied by the Department of Homeland Securityallow police to not only determine the balance of any magnetic-stripe card (i.e., debit, credit and gift cards) but also freeze and seize any funds on pre-paid money cards.
Third, the war on cash is about giving the government the ultimate control of the economy and complete access to the citizenry’s pocketbook.
Fourth, every technological convenience that has made our lives easier has also become our Achilles’ heel, opening us up to greater vulnerabilities from hackers and government agents alike. Digital cash will be no different. In recent years, the U.S. government and a host of financial institutions, retailers and entertainment giants have been repeatedly hacked. And these are the people in charge of protecting our sensitive information?
Fifth, if there’s one entity that will not stop using cash for its own nefarious purposes, it’s the U.S. government. Who could forget the $12 billion in shrink-wrapped $100 bills that the U.S. flew to Iraq only to claim it had no record of what happened to the money.
Sixth, this drive to do away with cash is part of a larger global trend driven by international financial institutions and the United Nations that is transforming nations of all sizes, from the smallest nation to the biggest, most advanced economies.
Finally, short of returning to a pre-technological, Luddite age, there’s really no way to pull this horse back now that it’s left the gate.
To our detriment, we really have little control over who accesses our private information, how it is stored, or how it is used. Whether we ever had much control remains up for debate. However, in terms of our bargaining power over digital privacy rights, we have been reduced to a pitiful, unenviable position in which we can only hope and trust that those in power will treat our information with respect.
America’s founders, however, did not believe in trusting government officials or giving them too much power. In fact, they believed those entrusted with power will eventually pervert it into tyranny. As Thomas Jefferson observed, “Let no more be heard of confidence in man, but bind him down from mischief by the chains of the Constitution.”
Unfortunately, that Constitution has since been shredded.
Our republic has been transformed into an oligarchy.
We have come full circle, back to a pre-revolutionary era of taxation without any real representation.
We the people, once free citizens of a free nation, are now at the mercy of cutthroats and villains masquerading as government agents and elected officials. We continue to be robbed at gunpoint, treated like cattle, tracked incessantly and forced to serve and obey. We continue to be branded rebels and traitors and enemy combatants, shot without hesitation for daring to resist an official order or challenge injustice, and duped into believing all this was done for our “good.”
In the end, as I make clear in my book Battlefield America: The War on the American People, we are no better than when we first started out more than 200 years ago as indentured slaves to a government elite intent on using us for their own profit and gain.
Constitutional attorney and author John W. Whitehead is founder and president of The Rutherford Institute. His bookBattlefield America: The War on the American People (SelectBooks, 2015) is available online at www.amazon.com. Whitehead can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.