Connect with us

Guest Columnists

How Congress is creating a national citizen database and what you can do to stop it

Deborah Love

Published

on

By Deborah Love
Executive Director Eagle Forum of Alabama

It seems like every day we hear of another data breach or privacy violation impacting our personal information whether its Equifax, IRS, or the U.S. Office of Personnel Management. But breaches are just one small part of privacy issues facing Americans today. Instead of increasing protections, Democrats and Republicans in Congress are working together not to protect your privacy rights but to build a national database on citizens. Such a database has always been prohibited by federal law. Even though a clear majority of Americans from all political perspectives oppose a national citizen database and are concerned about their personal privacy especially digital privacy and data collection, Congress is moving quickly to create this new massive warehouse system of personal data. A bill introduced by House Speaker Paul Ryan (R) and Senator Patty Murray(D), The Foundation for Evidence Based Policymaking Act (FEPA), HR4174/S. 2046 would be the first step in creating this national database and is assumed to pass under the radar and with little opposition.

The Orwellian argument for the creation of a national database is that it helps the bureaucrats evaluating federal programs so they can determine program effectiveness. FEPA will collect personally identifiable information on private citizens, and this data will be compiled by and for the federal government. (pg. 56 of FEPA) FEPA will set up an advisory board which will control most aspects of this system, but this board will not be accountable to the public. (pg. 12 of FEPA) If the threats to your personal liberty are not enough, there is tremendous bureaucratic power in FEPA. Those who control this national database will in many ways control funding, which programs should be cut, and what programs are deemed essential. The commission is instructed in the bill to put together “a list of data the agency intends to collect, use, or acquire to facilitate the use of evidence in policymaking.” (pg. 4 of FEPA) This is a vague opening for endless excuses to collect data on private citizens. It is important to know as well that FEPA requires data sharing among agencies so all the currently existing personally identifiable information on you within federal agencies will be linked together in this system.

Constitutionally, the power of the purse has been delegated to Congress and once any part of this is delegated to this new agency the system will see little to no accountability from Congress. Why would we want to actively support Congress in creating the mother ship of all bureaucracy? The few sponsors and supporters of this bill have ignored that monitoring private citizens and collecting personally identifiable information on them throughout the course of their lives destroys liberty and directly harms all Americans. No amount of additional data will solve the failures of federal programs especially when the solution is either more data, additional funding, or another program.

When passed FEPA will direct each federal agency to create “a list of any challenges” to data collection goals outlined. (pg. 4 of FEPA) Additionally, FEPA directs the commission to include in their list “any statutory or other restrictions to accessing relevant data.” (pg. 59 of FEPA) This means a federal agency is being directed by Congress to one by one destroy your existing privacy protections to achieve the goal of greater data collection.

Advertisement

Creating a national database of this nature is currently illegal through federal law, however a bill has been introduced to remove that prohibition. Don’t be misled by the title referencing transparency. The College Transparency Act (CTA), H.R. 2434 seeks to reduce your privacy protections and that of every student in higher education in America by overturning the Higher Education Act ban on a student unit-record system collection. This has previously prevented personally identifiable information about behavior and other areas in post-secondary education from being collected in this type of system. CTA means any college student entering post-secondary would automatically be tracked without consent throughout their life by the federal government.

Both CTA and FEPA can be stopped if you speak up and let your Representative and Senator in Washington DC know you oppose these bills. Both CTA and FEPA only give lip service to privacy like many other government surveillance bills. The Commission will have full access to personally identifiable information in a national database; but individuals will be in the dark about whatever might be kept in their record. Since privacy protections at the federal and state level are currently very weak, a citizen has no real legal protections from this system and no way to file a formal complaint.

As technology progresses, it is essential for individuals to become educated about their privacy rights, and the ways in which those rights are being threatened by a dark bipartisan push to accumulate personal information about each citizen. Speaking out now about CTA and FEPA is critical. As experience has shown, it is far harder to take back such rights when surrendered. As the push to eradicate personal privacy is bipartisan, the counter response to this attempt must also be from both the right and the left. This is a rare series of bills that seek to destroy privacy rights of all Americans. There are no winners. Whether we are engaged on this issue will determine if we will remain a Constitutional Republic where the rights of the individual are respected and free speech prevails or if the soul of the individual will be crushed by the arbitrary demands of an overbearing state.

Deborah Love is the Executive Director Eagle Forum of Alabama

 

Continue Reading

Guest Columnists

Opinion | Pro-growth policies are working in AL-02 communities

Martha Roby

Published

on

Over the last year and a half, Republicans in Congress and the Trump Administration have worked tirelessly to unleash our economy and foster growth right here in the United States. Since November of 2016, 3.7 million jobs have been created, and one million of those came after the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act became law. Unemployment numbers are at the lowest point they’ve been in decades. Job openings are at a record high – 213,000 jobs were added in June alone. Also last month, there were 6.7 million job openings, which marks the first time since the year 2000 that the number of job openings is larger than the number of people unemployed.

As you may know, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act roughly doubled the standard deduction while lowering tax rates. Because of this historic tax reform, 90 percent of Americans have seen bigger paychecks this year. Plus, more than four million Americans have seen increased wages, bonuses, and expanded retirement options.

Thanks to tax reform and our efforts to spur economic growth, Americans are working and businesses are growing – and Alabama’s Second District hasn’t missed out on the momentum. Since the enactment of our tax overhaul last year, several businesses have announced they are opening branches in our district, expanding existing ones, offering pay increases to employees, and more. I would like to take this opportunity to briefly share some of the great economic news we’ve received so far.

Most recently, Alabama manufacturer Sabel Steel, which has locations in Montgomery and Dothan, announced they will provide pay increases to all employees, invest in new equipment, expand existing facilities, and hire additional workers thanks to tax reform. I believe the company’s CEO Keith Sabel said it best himself: “There’s optimism. With the previous administration, we were hammered by rule changes and regulations. It was like trying to drink water out of a firehose. The change in policy under President Trump was enormous, and the attitude among businessmen and especially other steel manufacturers has been incredibly optimistic. Tax reform and other policies psychologically have made an enormous difference.”

James Hardie Building Products announced plans to open a new manufacturing plant in Prattville. This project is the largest industrial development in Autauga County in 50 years, and it will have a significant economic impact on the area.

Advertisement

U.S. firearms maker Kimber Gun Manufacturing also announced a project in AL-02. By early 2019, the company will open a $38 million production facility in Troy that will create more than 350 high-paying jobs over the next five years.

Also in Troy, Rex Lumber Co. will soon open a state of the art sawmill operation that will employ more than 100 people. This $110 million investment will create quality employment opportunities and a significant new timber market in Pike County.

In Coffee County, Wayne Farms has announced a $105 million expansion at their Enterprise fresh processing facility. This investment will bring a strong economic boost to the area.

Last, but certainly not least, Great Southern Wood Preserving based in Abbeville recently announced it will use savings from the tax overhaul to invest in additional employee benefits, including lower health care costs, more paid time off, and a new scholarship program. In addition, the company has given pay increases to employees across the board.

So you see, thanks to our pro-growth policies and a commitment to fostering economic growth in this country, Americans are confident in our economy – and rightfully so. Hardworking people in our very own communities have already benefited tremendously as a result of these important efforts, and I am eager to see this positive forward momentum continue for all Alabamians.

Martha Roby represents Alabama’s Second Congressional District. She lives in Montgomery, Alabama, with her husband Riley and their two children.

 

Continue Reading

Guest Columnists

Opinion | Americans are better off now

Bradley Byrne

Published

on

Two years ago, I joined other Republican House members in unveiling our “Better Way” agenda. The agenda covered everything from national security to tax reform to the economy. It was a bold vision about a different path for America that wasn’t driven by a larger, more powerful federal government. Instead, we advocated for a better way where we got government out of the way and allowed the American people to flourish.

 Working with President Trump, we have held true to our promises to the American people. Two years later and with many parts of the agenda in place, we can safely say that Americans are better off now. Our communities are safer. The economy is booming. Our military is being rebuilt. Our “Better Way” is paying off.

 Our communities are safer because we have made supporting law enforcement a top priority. We have passed historic legislation to address the opioid crisis, which is having a horrible impact on communities in Alabama and throughout the country. In addition to better policy, we have invested $4 billion in grants and programs to help combat the opioid crisis.

 We passed legislation to devote more resources to school safety, and we have made real progress in the fight against human trafficking. In fact, we have seen a 60 percent decline in online advertising for sex trafficking.

Also, important to keeping our communities safe, we set aside $1.5 billion for physical barriers and technology along the southern border and provided for over 90 miles of a border wall system. Border security is national security.

Advertisement

No one can deny that the American economy is booming. Just consider these numbers: 90 percent of Americans are seeing larger paychecks under our tax reform bill. 3.7 million jobs have been created since November 2016. There are 6.6 million job openings in the United States as of May 2018, meaning more jobs than job seekers. And, $4.1 billion has been saved in agency regulatory costs by rolling back burdensome government regulations.

 One of my biggest concerns during the Obama Administration was the hollowing out of our military. We had planes that couldn’t fly and ships that couldn’t sail. We were not making the continuous critical investment in our military necessary to keep up with our adversaries. Thankfully, those days are over.

 We have made the largest investment in our military in 15 years. This means 20,000 new troops, the largest pay increase for our service members since 2010, more training time, better equipment, new ships, and much more.

 On the world stage, countries know that the United States means what we say. ISIS is on the run in the Middle East, North Korea has come to the negotiating table, and China is being held accountable for their dangerous trade practices.

 Now, I want to make clear that much work remains. For example, we have to keep working to fix our broken immigration system and ensure that our borders are finally secure. We also cannot give up on our efforts to improve health care in our country. Costs remain too high and rural communities right here in Alabama are facing dangerous hospital closures.

 But, despite what some on the other side of the aisle and the national news media want you to believe, the American people are better off now than they were two years ago. That’s a testament to our pro-growth agenda, but, more importantly, it is a testament to the spirit and drive of the American people.

Want to know more? I encourage you to visit Better.gop to learn more about the various ways the American people are better off now.

Continue Reading

Guest Columnists

Opinion | Pro-Life Movement momentum is strong

Martha Roby

Published

on

As a member of the House Appropriations Committee, I have the privilege each year to advocate for the priorities most important to the people who live and work in Alabama’s Second District.  Among many other key issues, I have been proud to stand up and fight for a strong military and smart agriculture policy on this committee. On the reverse, I am also in a strong position fight against funding from being steered towards programs or organizations that I adamantly oppose. Recently when the Appropriations Committee approved our Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies (Labor-HHS) Fiscal Year 2019 funding bill, I had the opportunity to speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves: the unborn.

As a member of the Labor-HHS Subcommittee, I am extremely proud to report that our bill passed by the full Committee includes the strong pro-life language I have fought for year after year and implements additional policy riders to defend life. Every single one of these measures is critically important and further ensures that no taxpayer dollars can be used for abortions.

Among the key pro-life provisions included in the Labor-HHS FY19 funding bill are the Hyde Amendment, which directs that no taxpayer dollars be used to fund abortions, and the Dickey-Wicker Amendment, which bans Labor-HHS funding from being used on research that harms human embryos.

In addition to these longstanding pro-life measures, our bill also includes several other important pro-life provisions that continue our efforts to assign greater protections for life under the law. These measures include the Conscience Science Protection Act, which protects the rights of health care providers that do not participate in abortion.

In addition, the bill includes language that prohibits funding for fetal tissue research obtained from abortion. This measure might sound familiar because it is a direct response to the 2015 scandal that revealed how Planned Parenthood officials were systematically altering abortion procedures to preserve babies’ organs in order to sell them to researchers for profit. Planned Parenthood’s action was sick, callous, and completely inhuman.

Advertisement

Finally, the bill includes language to prohibit abortion providers like Planned Parenthood from receiving any available funding, including through Title X family grants. This measure works hand-in-hand with the Trump Administration’s “Protect Life” rule, which also directs that Planned Parenthood is not eligible to receive Title X grant money. As I have said many, many times: Abortion is not family planning. Abortion is not health care. Organizations that offer these services should not receive taxpayer dollars that are intended for family planning.

Throughout my time in Congress, I have remained unapologetically pro-life. I believe life begins at conception, and our laws and policies should reflect a strong commitment to defending life at every stage. I have considered it a great privilege to have a platform with which I can serve as a voice for the voiceless.

After eight long years of coming up short pro-life victories, I am encouraged that we now have a President who supports our efforts and is willing to sign important measures into law. The pro-life movement’s momentum is strong, and I look forward to seeing it grow as we continue to impact meaningful change on behalf of the unborn. I am eager to support our Labor-HHS funding bill when it comes before the full House for a vote.

 Martha Roby represents Alabama’s Second Congressional District. She lives in Montgomery, Alabama with her husband Riley and their two children.

Continue Reading

Authors

Advertisement

Facebook

Advertisement

Trending

How Congress is creating a national citizen database and what you can do to stop it

by Deborah Love Read Time: 5 min
0