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Michael Panzner
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Five more reasons why America is on the road to Banana Republicville (or are we already there?):

1. Those in charge don’t feel constrained by the rules that apply to everyone else

“36 Obama Aides Owe $833,000 in Back Taxes” (Investors Business Daily)

How embarrassing this must be for President Obama, whose major speech theme so far this campaign season has been that every single American, no matter how rich, should pay their “fair share” of taxes.

Because how unfair — indeed, un-American — it is for an office worker like, say, Warren Buffet’s secretary to dutifully pay her taxes, while some well-to-do people with better educations and higher incomes end up paying a much smaller tax rate.

Or, worse, skipping their taxes altogether.

A new report just out from the Internal Revenue Service reveals that 36 of President Obama’s executive office staff owe the country $833,970 in back taxes. These people working for Mr. Fair Share apparently haven’t paid any share, let alone their fair share.

Previous reports have shown how well-paid Obama’s White House staff is, with 457 aides pulling down more than $37 million last year. That’s up seven workers and nearly $4 million from the Bush administration’s last year.

Nearly one-third of Obama’s aides make more than $100,000 with 21 being paid the top White House salary of $172,200, each.

2. Those in charge increasingly censor and harass the media

“U.S Falls to 47th in Press Freedom Rankings after Occupy Crackdown” (Daily Mail)

Sweeping protests around the world made it an extremely difficult year for the media, and tested journalists as never before, the annual report into press freedom reveals.

The annual report by Reporters Without Borders has been released, showing the United States fell 27 points on the list due to the many arrests of journalists covering Occupy Wall Street protests.

The slide in the United States places it just behind Comoros and Taiwan in a group with Argentina and Romania.

3. Those in charge feel free to use public funds for private gain

“Parent Of Government-Backed Battery Maker Goes Bankrupt” (Associated Press)

The parent company of an electric car battery maker that received a $118 million grant from the Obama administration filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection on Thursday.

New York-based Ener1 said it has been affected by competition from China and other countries.

Ener1 subsidiary EnerDel received a $118 million stimulus grant from the Energy Department in 2009, and Vice President Joe Biden visited the company’s new battery plant in Indiana last year.

Ener1 is the third company to seek bankruptcy protection after receiving assistance from the Energy Department under the economic stimulus law. California solar panel maker Solyndra Inc. and Beacon Power, a Massachusetts energy-storage firm, declared bankruptcy last year. Solyndra received a $528 million federal loan, while Beacon Power got a $43 million loan guarantee.

4. Those in charge favor policies that benefit the few at the expense of the many

“How to Elude the Fed’s Attack on Savers” (MarketWatch)

On the surface, the Fed’s decision to keep rates at 300-year lows was spun as an effort to help the U.S. stay in its slow grind higher. But from a personal-finance standpoint, it is one of the most outrageous ripoffs of all time — a massive theft from the savers and retirees of this country for the benefit of banks and big business.

You might think of Fed chief Ben Bernanke as a reverse Robin Hood — stealing the savings from the older people who built this country into the powerhouse that it is today and giving it to enterprises that absolutely, positively do not need interest rates near zero to make their businesses work. And if they do, they don’t deserve help anyway.

If you have money in a passbook savings account or certificate of deposit, or in Treasurys, as so many retirees do, then the Fed’s decision Wednesday ensures that for the next two years, banks and the federal government will pay you less than 1%, which is in turn eroded by inflation, leaving you with -1%. You are thus essentially paying the banks to take your money, which they then pay to themselves as bonuses and lend primarily to the most creditworthy of their cronies, not to the small businesses that actually could use a hand.

Even worse, a lot of the savings that you are lending the banks and government for pennies under the zero interest rate policy, or ZIRP, is being shipped to Europe in the form of “swaps” and other arcane instruments they don’t want you to understand to help bail out holders of Greek, Portuguese, Italian and Spanish debt.

5. Those in charge seek to keep greater tabs on what the masses are doing

“Drones: Another Tool of the Surveillance State” (The New American)

Evidence that New York City is considering using drones to keep an eye on its citizens is growing, according to Don Dahler of New York’s CBS Channel 2. Dahler quoted an email it obtained indicating that a detective in the New York Police Department’s counterterrorism division asked the Federal Aviation Administration “about the use of unmanned aerial vehicles [UAVs] as a law enforcement tool.”

Dahler noted that NYPD commissioner Joe Kelly suggested that drones would be useful: “In an extreme situation, you would [then] have some means to take down a plane.” A spokesman for the NYPD admitted that “We’re always looking at technology. Drones aren’t that exotic anymore. Brookstone sells them. We’ve looked at them but haven’t tested or deployed any [yet].”

A retired officer from the department said that the use of drones would help protect the police from physical danger: “Not only would it be a form of surveillance gathering to protect the public, it also in many respects removes the officers … from harm’s way.”

Drones are increasingly being used for citizen surveillance. Retired General Michael Kostelnik heads up the office that supervises the use of drones and said drones are routinely being used across the country. Predators are flown “in many areas around the country, not only for federal operators, but also for state and local law enforcement and emergency responders in times of crisis.”

Stay tuned for the next installment — coming soon.

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