Say hello to Big Brother. . . Again. As if the information collected through the NSA, IRS, and FBI weren’t enough, the newly formed Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (does that Orwellian named entity not give you the full body shivers?) has decided that government does not have a stranglehold on the spending habits of enough Americans. As a result, the Bureau, which was created as part of Dodd-Frank, is planning on monitoring up to 80 percent of all debit and credit card purchases – roughly 42 billion transactions. (Ironically, the agency has not released how much this data mining program is expected to cost us taxpayers.)
According to the Washington Examiner, “if CFPB officials reach their stated ‘performance goal,’ they would collect data on 42 billion transactions made with 933 million credit cards used by American consumers.” The agency has not spelled out in any detail why they feel such a massive data mining operation is needed. . . But I’m sure that just like the NSA domestic spying program and the TSA’s body scanners, it is for our own good.
With billions of dollars being spent by Washington on pet projects and questionably beneficial expenses, maybe it would be more useful for government to track its own spending habits before taking a peek at ours. After all, the Federal Reserve gets to keep its balance sheet hidden, while the SEC, IRS, CFPB, and the rest of the Regulatory-Alphabet-Soup expand their powers over the rest of our financial affairs. Heck, reporters have to fill out a Freedom of Information Request to track down most government spending; is it too much to ask that government be expected to do the same before looking into my spending habits?
Moreover, the new accumulation of data seems inherently ripe for political manipulation and potential corruption. Big government begets big corruption, as is evidenced by the IRS scandal, the NSA constitutional abuses, and politically motivated Department of Justice investigations. Now the Orwellian named Bureau dedicated to protecting Consumers will be going “all NSA” in an effort to keep us financially protected from. . . Something. I’m already feeling better. Aren’t you?
Just like the NSA promised to remain within the confines of the US Constitution (which, according to a Secret US Court, it did not) the CFPB has promised to keep from accumulating any personally identifiable information. Little comfort should be taken from their promise, however, as they have already violated that guideline in their efforts to gather bankruptcy data. Oh, and they’re already working on monitoring up to 90 percent of all mortgages. I’m starting to like cash transactions more and more.
Of course the Bureau is unlikely to expand government’s knowledge of “we the people” by a terrible amount. Despite all the fuss over the NSA, Obamacare and now the CFPB, the IRS still holds the record for “most intrusive government agency” ever created. Almost every facet of our financial lives are reported, and scrutinized, by the benevolent revenuers who plunder the rich while abusing tea-party groups. The IRS, after all, was chosen to implement Obamacare primarily because of their ability to delve deeply into American’s personal lives. The CFPB is merely adding a layer of analysis to government’s growing obsession with monitoring the “free” citizens of the USA.
Which raises the question: how many cameras, monitoring devices, domestic spying programs, random searches, and warrantless wire taps until we should stop calling ourselves the “land of the Free”? I understand that like the TSA’s enhanced pat down techniques, this is all being done for “our own good,” but isn’t a certain amount of risk a requisite for living in a free nation? No amount of oversight, regulation, monitoring, spying, or data mining will change the fact that risk is a part of life. But under the guise of “protection” government has repeatedly intruded on the privacy and sovereignty of its citizens.
It’s that erosion of American privacy – and by extension our freedom – that is at the heart of the CFPB. Regardless of the motivation for the massive data collection, the agency is adding to Big Government’s insatiable appetite for an increased presence in our daily lives. Wouldn’t it be nice if we lived in a country where the people knew more about their government than their government knew about them?
Of course to some people in Washington, that idea seems as radical today as it did roughly 240 years ago.