BLOME: Government power: The more things change …

Pete Blome

Let’s face it, the elections of 2012 show that going against the grain is not in the nature of those elected to office.   

Take a look at Okaloosa County. This county was wracked by scandal at the Tourist Development Commission (TDC) and the county commissioners were thoroughly embarrassed by their apparent lack of oversight of both money and employees. In 2012 two new commissioners were voted into office. This was a superb opportunity for the new board to reevaluate the nature, purpose, or need for a TDC, and even eliminate it.

In the course of time, however, everything seemed to be blamed on one bad apple, despite the Florida auditor general saying that the problem was much deeper. The auditors said contracts were given without paperwork, and hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars went to people or organizations unknown.  One bad apple couldn’t do that. Instead of getting to the root of the problem, the commissioners have made nice and actually voted to give the TDC a boost of $300,000 for some special project earlier this year.

Then there is the matter of county taxation. Okaloosa County Commissioners recently voted for a 4.3 percent property tax hike along with a 3 cents per gallon gas tax. It was a close vote (3 to 2) and Nathan Boyles, one of the new guys, decided it is better to tax his neighbors than to figure out how to make government smaller.

Of course, this is how things have always been done. Government gets bigger and you pay more. What makes this pinch my mind especially hard is the county commission recently unanimously voted for an ad valorem tax break to a company that by  law is secret to the public (FS 196 and FS 288). They gave a preferential tax break to one company at the expense of all others, and the law prevents them from telling us who it is. 

Secret tax breaks fly in the face of open, accountable government.  This very same board then votes to raise taxes on everybody else in the county. No change here. 

At the state level, who can ignore the Medicaid flip flop of our Governor Rick Scott? You could say he was elected as an opponent to the Affordable Healthcare Act, and was quoted as saying he would never lift a finger to help its implementation. 

Despite high sounding rhetoric, the Florida Legislature is no stranger to growing government either, and voted this year for a 6 percent increase in the state budget for 2013-2014. More and more of that money is coming from federal sources, 36.93 percent of the total state budget as of 2011, according to the Census Bureau. How independent can a state be when its bills are paid by the feds?

In national matters, our “conservative” Congressman Jeff Miller has shown he likes the growing list of laws that restrict your liberties and feed the “all-seeing, all-knowing” central government. In at least two public appearances he said the government is not listening in on your communications. Trust him, he says. 

Of course, Lt-Gen Clapper, Director of National Intelligence, was forced by the Snowden revelations to publicly admit and apologize for lying to Congress about government surveillance of all citizens. Where are the perjury charges?

Plus, an NSA internal audit said the agency violated its own rules about surveillance several thousand times in the past year. Despite this contrary testimony to what Mr. Miller thinks, and the lessons of history, he voted against the Amash Amendment to the Patriot Act, which would have limited government investigations to people actually under suspicion using probable cause. His reason? It would have affected some unspecified secret surveillance program Mr. Miller likes. The erosion of the Fourth Amendment proceeds apace just as it did before. None of this fits the moniker “conservative.”

I’ve only scratched the surface. It’s clear that the leadership of 2013 is shaping up to be the same as 2012 or any other year. Those who have been elected love government power, and that is what the trend of the last 100 years has been all about.

I dared to hope for better. 

Pete Blome is chair of the Northwest Florida Libertarian Party.