What's Ahead for Civil Liberties in 2012? 
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What's Ahead for Civil Liberties in 2012?

What's Ahead for Civil Liberties in 2012?

By: Mark Nestmann

What's Ahead for Civil Liberties in 2012?

By Mark Nestmann

No, it's not a trick question. It's possible in theory for US legal protections for civil liberties to increase in 2012. 

Of course, that's not likely. Civil liberties are inconvenient for Big Government and its apologists.  What's more, it's easy to persuade a population conditioned to the erroneous proposition that civil liberties and security are mutually exclusive that their security depends on the continued erosion of civil liberties. Unfortunately, I don't see this changing anytime in 2012.

Indeed, in the next 12 months, I believe that we will witness:

* Occupy Wall Street escalation and counter-escalation. The OWS campaign may be led by hard-core leftists and other practitioners of muddled thinking, but it has clearly rattled the political establishment. In 2012, I anticipate the OWS "movement" will intensify. It will bring numerous major U.S. cities to a virtual standstill. Inevitably, hotheads within OWS will engage in property destruction and other criminal activity.  And that's likely to encourage a fierce counter-reaction. It's not too far a stretch to predict that by Jan. 1, 2013, at least one city in the United States will be under military rule, as U.S. law now permits. My top candidate is Detroit, Mich., with an official unemployment rate now approaching 25% and well over one-third of the city's residents considered to be living in poverty, according to official statistics.

* The surge in people giving up US citizenship and leaving USA permanently will intensify. Over the last four years, the number of US citizens permanently severing legal ties with the United States has skyrocketed. The number of "expatriates" has risen from 235 in 2008 to over 1,400 through the first three quarters of 2011. In 2012, I predict the number of persons expatriating will soar to over 5,000.

Why expatriate? Mainly, because U.S. citizenship is an enormous burden to anyone living outside the United States, or trying to invest or do business abroad. Due to the extraterritorial operation of U.S. tax laws, along with legislation such as the US PATRIOT Act, the vast majority of banks outside the United States no longer allow U.S. citizens to open or maintain accounts. International business arrangements involving U.S. citizens must be very carefully configured to avoid bringing non-U.S. business partners under U.S. legal jurisdiction.

* IRS audits of high-income Americans will soar. President Obama's not the only one who wants to raise the tax burden on wealthy Americans. The IRS has its own plans as well. In 2009, the IRS unleashed a new enforcement unit to focus on the financial affairs of America's wealthiest taxpayers.  The audit rate of these taxpayers"individuals declaring $10 million of income annually"nearly doubled from 2009 to 2010.  However, IRS statistics show that only 0.71% of individuals with declared income between $100,000 and $200,000 were audited in 2010. In 2012, I predict that dramatic increases in audit rates will "trickle down" to lower income taxpayers. The audit rate for anyone with a declared income over $100,000 will rise to at least 1%, and possibly much higher.

* TSA ramps up "random" searches on highways and at sporting events. The Transportation Safety Authority, perhaps best known for strip-searching 90-year-old grandmothers, often reminds us that "transport" isn't limited to airports. The TSA also has brought its unique brand of intrusiveness to other venues. TSA now has deployed 25 so-called VIPER (Visible Intermodal Prevention and Response) teams nationwide. In the last 12 months, they've set up nearly 10,000 unannounced checkpoints throughout the United States. No, they haven't caught any terrorists or anyone else guilty of anything more than possession of illegal herbs. Despite this abject waste of money and resources, TSA officials insist that random searches and armed officers "bolster public confidence." And, since the VIPER budget is growing rapidly, you can look forward to your own encounter with a VIPER team in the months to come. I predict that in 2012, the TSA will set up 15,000 or more checkpoints to search, harass, and detain otherwise law-abiding Americans. I also predict that their 100% success rate of not catching a single terrorist will continue.

* Cities, states, and the federal government ramp up "civil forfeitures." In the United States, your property is guilty until proven innocent. If you find this hard to believe, consider the law of civil forfeiture, under which police may seize your property, sell it at auction, and use the proceeds to pad their own agency budgets--without charging you, much less convicting you, of any crime. In 2010, forfeiture programs administered by the U.S. Department of Justice confiscated more than 15,000 homes, cars, boats and cash holdings.  The take exceeded $2.5 billion, more than double the total confiscated just five years ago. And, if you like civil forfeiture, you'll love what the DOJ has planned for us in 2012. In recent congressional testimony, the DOJ proposes that it be permitted to use classified information to seize property, without arrest or conviction. In other words, it wants to use secret evidence to seize property. Naturally, you as the property owner will have no right to refute that evidence. I predict that in 2012, Congress will pass this legislation unanimously, with the exception of a single U.S. congressional representative (Ron Paul).

* Cities increasingly seize or demolish "blighted" property.  The right of property is fundamental to civilization.  However, under U.S. laws, your property is safe only until politicians decide someone else needs it more than you do.  The loss of property is called "expropriation" and the process under which it occurs is called "eminent domain." Politicians have discovered that by condemning blighted properties to construct malls, hotels, and convention centers, they can both increase tax revenues and appease politically connected private interests. Thus, many state laws and local ordinances now authorize eminent domain for "economic redevelopment," whether or not the areas to be redeveloped are blighted. In 2005, the Supreme Court upheld such use of the eminent domain process. As a result, eminent domain "takings" by cash-strapped state and local governments have risen sharply. For instance, National City, California, wants to seize and bulldoze a youth community center so a wealthy developer can build high-rise luxury condos. The city of Detroit is trying to find a legal way to use eminent domain proceedings to demolish entire neighborhoods of "blighted" homes. I predict that in 2012, numerous other cities will follow Detroit's example to seize supposedly blighted property to pad municipal coffers.

* And finally…I predict that in 2012, Congressman Ron Paul will find himself with more delegates than any other candidate at the Republican convention.  This will force the discussion of civil liberties into the mainstream media. Republican insiders will find a way to force Paul out of the race, but for a brief period"perhaps just a few days, Americans may just get to hear the truth of how the U.S. government has deliberately and systematically dismantled civil liberties protections guaranteed in the U.S. Constitution.

(Mark Nestmann is President of The Nestmann Group, Ltd., a consultancy focusing on international tax planning and wealth preservation. Link:http://www.nestmann.com)


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