September 03, 2009

EXERCISING OUR FIRST AMENDMENT RIGHTS

Guest opinion submitted by Idaho Senator Mike Crapo

Congress and the President are engaged in a spending spree accompanied by assertions of federal government control over the economy on a scale never before seen in America. This unbridled expansion of the federal government is happening at such breakneck speed that it is causing tremendous unease among the American populace. Many are deeply disturbed about where it might lead. Reactions have ranged from tea party rallies and protests throughout the year, to anger and outrage at town hall meetings around the country. A very small number of these reactions have crossed the bounds of decency or legality. But the vast majority of Americans who are speaking out have done so well within the bounds of their First Amendment right to free speech. Unfortunately, these legitimate protests have been met with considerable scorn, outright dismissal or disparagement from those who are promoting this unprecedented expansion of spending, taxing and government. 

The proposed government intrusions into our lives go far beyond anything the framers of our Constitution intended, and, according to current polling data, far beyond what most citizens want, especially Idahoans. This year, federal government growth has been so massive as to be jarring; the pace, breathtaking. Hundreds of billions have been spent on bailouts and so-called stimulus, with unprecedented interventions into the automotive, insurance, mortgage and banking industries and planned radical changes to the financial regulatory system. The federal government is increasing spending by trillions of dollars and is seeking even more spending, accompanied by massive tax increases for a government takeover of health care and a cap and trade system of energy regulation, to name just a few. With just the eye-popping spending so far this year, the yearly budget deficit is more than $1.5 trillion. The gross federal debt is at an all-time high of $12.2 trillion and is projected to double over the next ten years to a total gross federal debt of $24.5 trillion in 2019! 

The massive spending and forthcoming tax increases are unsustainable and dangerous to the economy. We cannot borrow, spend and tax ourselves into prosperity. The American people understand this. Rather than being ridiculed, scorned or labeled "un-American," they should be commended for having the courage and making the effort to stand up and speak out. Those limited few whose acts are beyond the bounds of decency or legality should not be used to taint the motives or conduct of the millions of Americans who are properly and sincerely exercising First Amendment rights to express heartfelt beliefs about how we should be governed. As I have listened to Idahoans, thousands have expressed worry, anger and fear. Their reactions are strong, but efforts to vilify them are unfair and wrong. 

Throughout Idaho, I have encountered intelligent, informed citizens, whom I encourage to continue to speak out. Individuals can make a difference by encouraging and assisting everyone within their circle of influence to get involved. Use your email address book, Christmas card list, Facebook friends, and more to contact everyone you know. We should all speak out in public forums and share with our friends and contacts examples of letters, emails, petitions, etc., that we have sent to our Senators, Representatives, and even the President, and encourage them to do the same. Americans who speak out can make a difference. The 1st Amendment is first for a reason. We must exercise our freedom to speak now, when it is needed as much as ever to return this great nation to its bedrock, the Constitution, and its principles of liberty and limited government. To learn about contacting your elected officials, please visit my website, http://crapo.senate.gov. 

Word Count: 601