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LISA NELSON: Big Brother, the pocketbook and privacy

LISA NELSON: Big Brother, the pocketbook and privacy

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The Biden administration’s “Build Back Better Plan” is currently sitting at a hefty 2,500 pages – more than 100 times larger than The Communist Manifesto, a 23-page pamphlet. And the proposed spending would make even Marx and Engels blush.

Items funded by the multi-trillion dollar plan include forced expansion of Obamacare in 12 states and California-style energy mandates and taxes that would increase Americans’ electricity bills by hundreds of dollars. Yet these efforts still only account for less than half of the new proposed spending. The Biden Administration’s “easy money” policies will exacerbate inflation, making it harder for many Americans to make ends meet.

The administration also seems very concerned with how Americans are spending the money in their checking accounts. As originally proposed, one “Build Back Better” scheme would have tracked every personal banking transaction of $600 or more. With a Virginia minimum wage worker grossing $1,520 a month, the proposal would effectively surveil every account holder. In the face of opposition, big government advocates tried to put lipstick on the pig.

However, an unprecedented expansion of the Internal Revenue Service is still under consideration. Current discussions in Washington would add $80 billion to the agency’s budget to hire 87,000 new IRS agents to monitor transactions going into and out of personal and business bank accounts whose value or total transactions exceed $10,000 a year. Again, most will be snared.

Few rights are as fiercely valued in the United States as the right to a private life – whether defense against unwarranted search and seizure, freedom of association, or even just protections against trespassing. Why then, would the American people accept this extreme governmental monitoring of private citizens’ finances? They won’t, and the pushback has already begun.

In a recent letter, 24 state financial officers called this provision “the largest data mining exercise in U.S. history.” Well over 100 million Americans would be subject to this intense scrutiny – including our children, teenagers saving for their first car, or even young adults splitting rent costs via Venmo, CashApp, or Square Cash. To be clear, the scope of this overreaching surveillance encompasses most Americans who possess a bank account.

Some argue this invasion of privacy is justifiable in order to catch big-ticket tax cheats. However, according to the State Financial Officers Foundation, there is “zero quantitative or qualitative evidence that this measure will aid in collecting taxes from tax evaders.” Even if such evidence existed, the federal government’s track record on data security speaks for itself. Just last year, an extensive data breach compromised several cabinet departments (namely Treasury, Agriculture, Commerce, and Homeland Security). There was also the catastrophic hacking of the Office of Personnel Management in 2015 and at least 10 others in recent memory.

The cost of compliance with this dangerous proposal will up drive banking costs, as mandated reporting drives costs for banking operations. This assumes local or rural banks will even survive the new wave of costs. Many financial institutions – especially smaller hometown banks and local credit unions – lack the infrastructure to accommodate this degree of reporting. They will have to build it, then hire and train new employees.

The dangers of this measure are clear. Increased banking and credit costs will exacerbate the challenge of dealing with rapidly escalating inflation for everyone. But worse, the imminent threat to financial privacy posed by this data mining – and the inevitable hacks to follow – will cost Americans even more.

Lisa Nelson is the chief executive officer of the American Legislative Exchange Council, an organization bringing state legislators and stakeholders together to develop public policy beneficial to the free market and individual liberty.


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