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Happy Birthday, America

Published: Wednesday, July 2, 2014 11:04 a.m. CST

Celebrating the Fourth of July brings family, friends and neighbors together for backyard barbecues, pool parties and patriotic parades. It’s also the time to reflect on the charter of freedom that immortalized our destiny for 238 years and counting.

In the months leading up to America’s historic Declaration of Independence, an influential 18th century political pundit named Thomas Paine observed that “the birthday of a new world is at hand.” Our American identity has stood the test of time for more than two centuries.

Paine’s prolific writings in “Common Sense” resonated with 2.5 million colonists, building momentum for the sacrifices and struggles to secure liberty and independence. Today, more than 300 million Americans remain united by the principles and ideals that launched a new nation on July 4, 1776.  

Limited government, freedom, liberty and free enterprise served as the foundation for the future. America’s institutions of government would be crafted to serve the public good, held accountable by a system of checks and balances and answerable to the electorate through representative government. Allegiance to these patriotic principles helped cultivate national pride in the talent, ambition and self-reliance of people driven to work hard, take responsibility and sacrifice whatever it took to achieve the American Dream. Generations of families have answered the call to take risks with an invention or start-up business, join the work force, volunteer, run for public office or serve in the Armed Forces.

And yet, the flawed advance of big government threatens to rewire expectations for individual rights and personal responsibility. Shifting expectations, redistributing wealth, growing debt, raising taxes and incentivizing dependency over self-sufficiency unravels centuries of American mindset.

The growing size and scope of the federal government poses a burden to the founding principles of limited government. Overreaching regulatory regimes, overspending and onerous tax burdens are holding back prosperity, economic growth and job creation.  The economy contracted nearly three percent in the first quarter and consumer confidence is failing to gain traction. 

Systemic abuses of law and power among a sprawling federal bureaucracy aren’t helping uphold the public trust.  Consider what happens when government services created for the public good go wrong.

• Whistleblowers and investigators have exposed mismanagement and ineffective leadership at the Veterans Affairs Department, where wrongdoing at VA medical facilities has caused delayed patient care and deaths.

• Arguably the most powerful and intrusive agency in the federal government is in hot water for targeting American taxpayers based on their political views.  The IRS’s blundering response to congressional investigators about the matter reflects an inexcusable model of mismanagement and/or malfeasance.

• The Health and Human Services Department exhibited astonishing incompetency last fall in the disastrous launch of the healthcare.gov website.  Consumer confidence plummeted further with broken promises about keeping one’s doctor and health insurance plans.

Trumping political agendas and reining in mismanagement of the federal bureaucracy requires robust checks and balances by the legislative and judicial branches. As a champion for whistleblowers and good government watchdog on Capitol Hill, I’m not afraid to hound the White House or federal agencies to get to the truth.

Recent decisions handed down by the U.S. Supreme Court have slapped the wrist of a heavy-handed government squeezing individual rights. The high court protected the sacred protections of the First and Fourth Amendments in cases involving the rights of a limited number of corporations that are privately owned to exercise their religious freedoms and the privacy rights of cell phone users from warrantless searches by law enforcement. The Supreme Court also ruled this summer that the President overstepped his constitutional authority by circumventing the U.S. Senate to make illegal recess appointments.

As our youngest generations enjoy sweet corn, sprinklers and sparklers, celebrate safely and remember the blessings of liberty and freedom on this Fourth of July. Our constitutional system of checks and balances, self-government and free enterprise will help ensure America’s best days are yet to come.

America’s 238th birthday is at hand. Let’s also give a hand to the hometown heroes who have served our country in uniform so that we may live our way of life as a free people in a free society.

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