The U.S. government is strangling Americans by turning a growing number of activities into crimes punishable with fines and imprisonment, and Congress needs to do something about it.
That includes Senate Republicans who stand in the way, says Steve Forbes, chairman and editor-in-chief of Forbes Media and a one-time presidential candidate.
“There are some 300,000 criminal offenses listed in the 80,000-page Code of Federal Regulations,” he writes on Forbes.com
. “No one knows for sure how many federal laws there are these days that can trip up–and imprison–the unwary citizen. In the early 1980s the Department of Justice came up with an estimate of 3,000 crimes. Today experts believe that number is over 5,000.”
He cites numerous examples of the federal government using its broad powers to knuckle under unwary citizens who don’t realize they’re breaking the law.
“It is now a federal crime to walk a dog on federal lands with a leash that’s longer than 6 feet. Instead of a fine (putting aside why there’s a need for such a prohibition in the first place), violators can be sentenced to up to six months in prison,” he says. “An 11-year-old girl in Virginia, who saved a woodpecker from a cat, was hit with a fine for ‘transporting’ a protected species.”
To rein in the excesses of petty bureaucrats and over-reaching officials, Forbes is supporting a proposal by Sen. Orrin Hatch (Rep., Utah) and several House Republicans to reform criminal intent requirements.
“The feds won’t easily be able to go after people if those people didn’t know they were committing a crime,” Forbes says. “It’s meeting stiff resistance among several Senate Republicans, who confuse prosecutors and bureaucrats abusing citizens and companies with being tough on crime. They need a re-education course in the Constitution.”
Forbes earlier this year criticized President Barack Obama
for making sure that his administration spends its last days in power by piling on more rules and regulations on private industry.
“The Obama Administration has let it be known that the White House and the regulatory agencies will be issuing a blizzard of new rules and decrees in the waning months of his miserable regime,” Forbes said. “These will affect overtime, unionization, the environment and finance, among other areas, thereby hobbling enterprise even more.”
Obama’s bureaucrats last year published a record-setting 82,000 pages of rules in the Federal Register. The right-leaning American Action Forum estimated those regulations cost $197 billion and added 127 million hours of paperwork for private industry.
“Lawlessness has reigned in the issuance of many of these decrees, but the White House remains unbowed, despite occasional setbacks in the courts,” Forbes says. “Even your IRAs aren’t safe, as Washington starts floating the idea that these accounts should be required to hold a certain amount of government bonds. This is another instance of Obama-style socialism: Government control of what you can do with your money is as good as its owning it.”
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