The Chains That Bind You

Dave Gonigam – April 19, 2012

  • Travel restrictions if you owe back taxes, as your car tracks your movements: Two horrible ideas wrapped up in one proposal
  • Conflicting orders from law enforcement, and debtors’ prison for the innocent: Scenes from contemporary America… and a new way to fight the power
  • “Life goes on”… Chris Mayer with the mundane message behind the third-best-performing stock market in the world
  • Got nickels? Washington takes another step toward debasing the only coins with any real monetary value

   “Where is the outrage?” read the email from Chris Mayer.

Below these four words he pasted a story about a proposal in Congress to prevent Americans from traveling overseas if they owe more than $50,000 to the IRS.

We confess this item crossed our awareness two weeks ago. But we’ve become so inured to the onslaught of assaults on basic liberties that we couldn’t summon enough outrage to bother writing about it. Especially when you can already have your travel privileges pulled for owing a mere $2,500 in back child support.

But in the spirit of Patriots’ Day — the 237th anniversary of the Battles of Lexington and Concord that launched the American Revolution — we inventory a series of recent outrages.

And more important, we offer a vehicle to do something about it other than stew… or, worse, vote.

   Every new automobile sold in the United States come 2015 must be equipped with a “black box,” under the same odious legislation that links your passport to your back taxes.

(It’s called the “Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act,” or MAP-21 for short. Congressional aides get six-figure salaries to come up with this stuff.)

This way, if you’re involved in a crash, investigators will know at minimum the speed of the vehicles before impact… and whether everyone was wearing a seat belt.

“Coupled with GPS systems, the devices could provide the police with the ability to monitor private citizens’ movements in real-time,” says the law firm O’Reilly Collins in an analysis of the bill.

To say nothing of making cars more expensive and beyond the reach of the ever-shrinking middle class.

   Want to take the bus instead? Count on the TSA to give you a hard time.

“Undercover officers are now riding selected Metro buses as part of a pilot program focusing on counterterrorism,” reports today’s Houston Chronicle.

“TSA was present to bolster the uniform presence on the (transportation) system,” said the transit system’s police chief. “They provided behavioral detection officers who are specially trained to identify aberrant behaviors that may indicate potential terrorist activity.”

They were doing more than that, according to a contributor at the website Houston Free Thinkers: “When I arrived at Wheeler I… instantly noticed the massive police presence,” writes Phillip Levine. “The police presence consisted of DHS, metro police, HPD, TSA and Harris County police officers. They were going on to buses searching and stopping people for questions.”

We haven’t seen this account independently verified… but if true, this is a new and dramatic power grab. Even in New York, cops conduct random searches at the entrances of subway stations… but passengers reserve the right to turn around and leave.

   If you stay at home, you always run the risk of police shooting your dog. That’s what happened to Michael Paxton of Austin, Texas, last weekend.

An officer was responding to a domestic disturbance call. “The 911 caller mistakenly gave the wrong address,” reports KVUE-TV. Paxton, getting something out of his truck parked in the driveway, had the ill fortune of being the first person the officer saw.

The officer gets out of his squad car with his gun drawn. First he tells Paxton to put his hands up. Then Paxton’s dog — a blue heeler named Cisco — comes out from the backyard. So the officer tells Paxton to control his dog.

Paxton, understandably reluctant to move his hands to perform that task, says frozen. Seconds later, Cisco lies in a pool of blood.

No one keeps national statistics of how often police shoot dogs. But “puppycide” is an almost daily fixture at the blog of Reason and Huffington Post writer Radley Balko. Records show one large Florida agency, the Broward County Sheriff’s Office, has shot five dogs so far this year, and 12 last year.

Remarkably, Mr. Paxton managed to avoid arrest for “disobeying a lawful order.” And because he kept his cool despite his instant grief, he also steered clear of “disorderly conduct.”

   If you happen to run afoul of the law and for whatever reason cannot pay your fine, you run the risk of being thrown in a modern-day debtors’ prison.

Actually, you can be thrown in debtors’ prison even if you’re innocent.

“In some states public defender, pretrial jail and other court fees can be assessed on individuals even when they are not convicted of any crime,” writes George Mason University economist Alex Tabarrok, who appears in Addison’s documentary-in-progress Risk!

“Failure to pay criminal justice fees can result in revocation of an individual’s driver’s license, arrest and imprisonment.”

“Many of these charges,” he goes on, “are not for any direct costs imposed by the criminal, but have been added as revenue enhancers.” In Pennsylvania, for instance, a $5 fee supports the County Probation Officers’ Firearms Training Fund, an $8 fee supports the Judicial Computer Project, and a $250 fee goes to the DNA Detection Fund.

   And these are the outrages we’ve collected from the last three days alone.

“The state is always inclined toward oppression, division, conquest and bloodshed, because these are its tools of trade,” writes the Independent Institute’s Anthony Gregory in an essay marking a rather different anniversary today. It’s titled “We’re All Branch Davidians Now.”

“In the 19 years since Waco,” writes Mr. Gregory, “we have seen the police state explode in every direction, and now we are all ensnared.”

“The prisons have swollen to the largest detention system since Stalin’s gulags. The police conduct 3,000 SWAT raids a month. The war on terror has made a total mockery of what remained of the Fourth Amendment. Torture has lost its taboo. So has indefinite detention. The feds irradiate and molest airline passengers by the millions.”

“People are jailed for taking medicine, buying Sudafed, sharing songs and selling milk. The Kafkaesque regulatory state threatens people of all economic classes with crushing fines and a fate in a cage.”

“Every major police department has tanks and battle rifles and drones that are being used for surveillance and God knows what else. Each federal department has enough firepower to conquer a small third-world country. DHS alone has ordered enough ammo to shoot every American man, woman and child. The president claims the right to kill American citizens anywhere on the planet on his say-so alone. And he exercises that power.”

   Mr. Gregory’s litany reminds of nothing less than the itemized grievances Thomas Jefferson laid out in the Declaration of Independence — you know, the “boring” part that gets glossed over in history class.

Which brings us to a critical project we’ve had in the works for months.

“The more aggressive the government becomes in restricting our day-to-day activities,” writes Addison, “the more important this project becomes.”

It’s nothing less than your chance to join kindred spirits in taking your freedom back, one step at a time.

Don’t know where to begin? We have a special report laying out 10 steps you can take to get government out of your home. Every one of these steps is legal — at least for now — but they also poke sharp fingers in the eyes of busybody bureaucrats.

Access to this report will also entitle you to join a virtual community of like-minded people. Together, you’ll enjoy an array of benefits spelled out here.

We don’t aim with this project to put big government back in its place; at this point, that’s a fool’s errand. But we do aim to give you new options to reclaim the power that’s your birthright. Check out exactly what’s in it for you at this link.

   Turning to the markets, the major U.S. stock indexes are ruler-flat this morning. For now, Dow 13,000 still holds.

Traders exhaled after another Spanish bond auction came off with little trouble. And they’re weighing the following numbers…

  • First-time unemployment claims: Down slightly to 386,000, says the Labor Department. But the previous week’s number was revised up big. The four-week average is moving decisively in the wrong direction
  • Mid-Atlantic manufacturing: OK, according to the Philly Fed survey, but down from 12.5 to 8.5. New orders and shipments both fell
  • Leading economic indicators: Up 0.3% last month, says the Conference Board, to its best level since June 2008. Which sounds good except the index was also at the same level in late 2003.

“As we approach expiration Friday,” Options Hotline editor Steve Sarnoff wrote his readers last night, “we could see a vulnerable market produce some sharp whipsaw conditions.”

As of this morning, one of Steve’s recommendations — a play on a rising Big Pharma stock — is up 156% in less than two months. Last week, a play on a falling natural gas producer was good for a 114% gain.

We can’t promise Steve will generate money-doubling plays every week… but we can promise the next best thing based on the track record Steve — and his father before him — amassed over a 22-year span. And if you act before his next recommendation on Sunday, you get access to this service at half the regular fee.

   We did a double-take when we came across this list of the world’s best-performing stock markets during the first quarter of 2012…

OK, Venezuela and Egypt both climbed off the floor after political upheaval — which in both cases is far from over. But No. 3 Vietnam has an interesting story to tell.

Actually, Chris Mayer told it to his readers last December after a visit there, and before the big run-up: “Inflation is out of control with prices rising around 20% annually. Vietnam is also like China, in that its government directed a lot of investment in things that soured. The banking sector, therefore, is riddled with worms.”

But the banks were still open, farmers were planting, builders were building and manufacturers were producing. “You can easily get caught up in the doom and gloom, but the fact is life goes on. If you can stick it out, there are often great opportunities in such cheerless environments.”

It’s gratifying to see Chris’ research borne out in real time. If you’re looking for concrete ways to play the trends he’s spotted during his extensive travels, you owe it to yourself to grab a copy of his new book World Right Side Up.

   Gold remains caught in a tight trading range, as it has most of the week. At last check, the bid was $1,640. Silver’s showing a little life, though, up to $31.82.

   “Talk about currency debasement in yesterday’s 5!” writes a Reserve member from Ohio. “The race to the bottom continues,” he says, pointing us to an article in The Columbus Dispatch.

Yesterday, a local congressman’s proposal to strip pennies and nickels of their metal value got a hearing in a House subcommittee.

The bill, proposed by Republican Steve Stivers, “would ensure that pennies and nickels are made of steel, although pennies would be dipped in copper,” says the report.

The issue is one we’ve documented before: The current coins’ metal content is worth more than the value stamped on the back.

The 1943 steel penny: A one-year wartime measure, now a necessity
to keep the fiat currency treadmill from seizing up

We’re getting closer to the day Whiskey & Gunpowder’s Gary Gibson forecast in these pages in February: “When the price of the metal gets high enough, a market will naturally become established for the coins and that market will be use the higher-content value, not the lower face value.

“The same thing happened to pre-1965 silver dimes, quarters and half dollars. These coins have traded for their metal value since shortly after their production ceased.”

It’s the most accessible arbitrage opportunity out there. As long as you have the storage space, anyway…


Dave Gonigam
The 5 Min. Forecast

P.S. Online registration for the 2012 Agora Financial Investment Symposium is now available.

This year’s gathering brings together familiar faces with those who haven’t joined us lately… and a couple of new ones joining us for the first time. For the complete speaker lineup, dates and pricing details, please review your invitation.


Recent Alerts

Here Comes the AI Cartel

Maybe you saw the news earlier this week: An outfit called the Center for AI Safety issued a 22-word statement — as dire as it is terse. Read More

A Deal in D.C., a Wipeout on Wall Street

Debt ceiling deal, U.S. Treasury auctions, Wall Street liquidity, Fed policy reversal, BlackRock recession call, gross domestic income, GDI, Maryland license plate snafu Read More

Climate, Carbon… and Control

“The climate change agenda is not about climate change,” says Jim Rickards. “It’s about total political and economic control of the population.” Read More

White House’s New Witch Hunt

Go figure: The stock market is at nine-month highs, but the Biden administration is amping up its jihad against short sellers Read More

The Biden Bleed

Presidents have meddled with the SPR for political purposes. But Biden is really leveling up. Read More

Natural Gas Gets Blacklisted

The EPA — with Team Biden’s blessing — proposes an overhaul of U.S. power plants by 2042. Read More

Green Smokescreen

Ray Blanco is on the lookout for presumed do-gooders… blowing “Green Smoke” up our collective rear ends. Read More

“No Blood for Chips!”

Fair warning: This edition of The 5 might be the most controversial issue we’ve ever published. Read More

The Dollar’s Death March

Nine years after The 5 started writing about “de-dollarization,” you can’t get away from headlines about it now. Read More

The “F” Word

No sooner did G7 leaders sit down yesterday than they declared they’re doubling down on sanctions targeting Russia. Read More