Congress Wants To Know What You Bought From E-Bay

It seems congress is only interested in the right to privacy when they believe they can make it appear the Bush administration is violating that right. The right to privacy is great when it allows a woman to kill her baby, and it’s great when it allows America’s enemies to plot their next terrorist act in secret. But when it comes to the privacy rights of the average American citizen? We-e-l-l-l, that’s a little different.

After all, there are some things the government simply must know about its citizens in order to make sure it is getting its share of the fruits of American labor. And then, how is Congress going to know whether or not businesses are taking advantage of their customers by charging too much and actually profiting from the sale of their product or service? There’s always the chance too, that unscrupulous marketers are going to sell us something that we really don’t need or that might even be bad for us.

Yes, watching over the American public to prevent us from facing the consequences of the boneheaded decisions we make is a thankless job, but someone has to do it. Who, better than our faithful servants in Washington?

Look at all the people who purchased homes with mortgages requiring monthly payments practically guaranteed to increase until they reached an unmanageable level. When someone gets into financial trouble, it seems natural they would turn to a rich uncle to help them out, doesn‘t it? And who is richer than Uncle Sam? And, if Uncle Sam is going to provide money to help someone smooth over bad decisions, isn’t it only fair that he should be allowed to look into their affairs so that they do not keep repeating the same mistakes?

At least, that’s how Congress looks at it. Tucked away in the Senate’s 630-page mortgage bailout package presently wending its way through Congress, is a little item everyone should find interesting. Included in the bill, is a last minute addition called: “Payment Card and Third Party Network Information Reporting”.

According to the official Senate summary of the bill, “the proposal requires information reporting on payment card and third party network transactions. Payment settlement entities, including merchant acquiring banks and third party settlement organizations, or third party payment facilitators acting on their behalf, will be required to report the annual gross amount of reportable transactions to the IRS and to the participating payee“.

For plain folk like you and me, perhaps some clarification might be in order. What the heck is a “payment card“? What is a “payment settlement entity”? What’s a “third party settlement organization”? “Payment card” is Washington jargon for what you and I refer to as “credit cards”. Payment settlement entities, organizations and facilitators are card issuing banks and companies like Visa, Master Card, Discover Card and PayPal.

According to Adam Brandon at Freedom Works, the bill is targeted primarily at e-Bay, Amazon and other e-merchants, but also takes in other businesses accepting Master Card, Visa, etc. It’s a little unclear exactly what Congress intends to do with the information it gathers, but it’s certain that one of its outcomes will be a tighter control over the economy and a further decline in our liberties. Once again, we have a concrete example of Congress’ ignorance of and/or antipathy toward our Constitution.

The anti-federalists of 1787-91 forced the first Congress to add the Bill of Rights as an addendum to the Constitution. Amendment No. 4 provides that,

“The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized“.

You do not have to be a Harvard Law graduate to understand that “papers” would include documents and papers pertaining to our business transactions whether written on papyrus, paper, animal hides, tree bark or the Ethernet/Internet. Such records are private and can only be legally obtained by government with a warrant. Things are really out of “whack” when the Democrats want trial lawyers to be able to sue communication networks for providing the government with possible information concerning terrorist’s communications following the 9/11 attacks, but sees nothing wrong with requiring Banks and Credit Card companies to report the book purchases we make on Amazon.Com.

It’s time to follow Freedom Works advice and “Call Congress and tell them to oppose the eBay reporting provision in the Housing Bill: 1-866-928-3035”.

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