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Would Americans ever really revolt against dishonest, incompetent, intrusive, and wasteful federal government? The Founders, Thomas Jefferson perhaps most prominent among them, recognized not only a right of revolution, but periodic need for rebellion. Current events may be proving them prescient.
There is no reason that citizens should believe anything the current administration says. Examples of its lying are legion.
Director of National Intelligence James Clapper gave a blatantly false answer when Oregon Senator Ron Wyden asked him if the government was collecting data on American citizens. "No, sir. Not wittingly," Clapper said.
Then Edward Snowden, who had access to national security secrets due to botched background screening, leaked documents proving Clapper lied. The government not only spies on citizens, it does so to an extent not even Congress or the administration seems to know.
Outrage over this massive privacy invasion has been muted. Several other scandals have overshadowed the serial revelations of Big Brother-style government snooping. If a Republican administration was in power, mainstream media would be calling for impeachment, but the Obama administration assaults civil liberties with impunity.
The same goes for Obama's patently false statement that those who were happy with their current health insurance could keep it under Obamacare. This is obviously untrue. Employers and insurers are changing or dropping coverages in droves.
It is also now painfully apparent that the federal government cannot do simple things that are routine in the private sector. The debacle of the healthcare.gov website is the most dramatic example, but there are many others.
A recent Treasury inspector general's report revealed that the Internal Revenue Service has made between $110.8 billion and $132.6 billion in improper Earned Income Tax Credit payments between 2003 and 2012. The IRS has wrongly transferred about $11 billion per year -- more than Kentucky's annual budget -- from the law-abiding taxpayers who earned it to others not entitled to it.
That same inept IRS bureaucracy now has a major role in administering Obamacare's penalties and subsidies. The IRS did one thing well: targeting the administration's political opponents for extra tax scrutiny. Again, the press showed little appetite for pursuing that scandal.
Americans who finance such federal fiascos are rightfully angry and suspicious of the federal government. Its primary competence seems to be moving money from those who earned it to others who want it.
The Senate Budget Committee Republicans recently reported that during the five years of the Obama administration the federal government has spent an unbelievable $3.7 trillion on welfare programs. As of 2012 the Census Bureau says 82.5 million people lived in households on Medicaid, 49 million people got food stamps, 23.2 million were in the Women, Infants and Children program, and 20.2 million got Supplemental Security Income.
CNN says 23 million Americans get some type of federal disability payment. Working Americans have a right to be cynical when they see reports like recent ones from Eastern Kentucky revealing massive disability fraud.
Families who operate on a budget are disgusted that the federal government does not. Washington has amassed a mind-numbing $17 trillion in debt, prints money to buy its own debt, and now regularly flirts with default that, like so many other events, could collapse our entire economic house of cards.
How long will productive citizens, not to mention global creditors, endure such dangerous dysfunction? Will the people rise up before an unforeseen event sends the whole mess spiraling into disaster or only after? What form would such a popular reaction take?
There is little reason to believe our political system will act responsibly to prevent things from getting worse. Those championing radical fiscal reform will never form a functioning majority against the superior numbers who benefit from the status quo. Moderate compromisers cannot prevail over the political extremes.
Rational, sober people now think survivalist thoughts formerly the domain of doomsday kooks. Desperate to protect their wealth in these uncertain times, some who previously would have invested now buy land, precious metals, and weaponry to defend them.
History suggests that if an able, inspiring, and responsible leader does not emerge soon, an able, inspiring, and irresponsible one will. This nation has long believed itself exceptional, but now realizes that it is not immune to the dangerous impulses that have always defined human societies.
Jefferson wrote to Abigail Adams, "I like a little rebellion now and then. It is like a storm in the atmosphere." The tea party represents a first rumbling of distant thunder, but darker clouds and more turbulence could be coming.
John David Dyche is a Louisville attorney and political commentator for WDRB.com. His e-mail is firstname.lastname@example.org.