Although I agree that Radical Islam is a concern that is definitely on my radar screen, I don't think it is the most serious threat to our democracy. After agreeing that I am concerned with the motivation of folks that could lead to terrorism inside America, I told him my largest concern was the use of money by interest groups and supporting Super PACs to influence our Congress. Whoa now! His response to me was nothing short of a rant about the undue influence of Unions on Congress and if I wanted to restrict interest groups, would I include Unions in that equation!? When I told him I would include Unions in the "Interest Group" equation, he went on to rant that the education system in America has been totally ruined by the dominance of the Teachers' Unions. Huh? You see, my friend is neither an educator nor has he ever worked in the field of education. So where does he get the "expertise" to make this type of statement? When I asked him why he believes Teachers' Unions have destroyed education, he stated that they have "sucked all the money out of the system and have forced bloated teacher pensions that states can't afford." There you have it, teacher pensions are too expensive and their Unions push States around. But in reality, teachers have typically accepted lower salaries than those offered to employees with the same level of education and experience. By taking the lower salaries, teachers have accepted decent insurance benefits and pensions instead. Lately, pensions though have come under attack by Conservatives claiming States cannot afford them. And the ideologically oriented for-profit media is the source of his angst towards Teachers' Unions. But the reality is again, somehow lost on these folks.
According to a bi-partisan group of former governors, teacher pensions are inadequately funded not because the benefits are too expensive, but because State legislatures have for decades been diverting pension monies to General Funds. As we learned in January, Florida teachers paying an additional three percent (3%) of their income towards shoring up the Florida Retirement Fund have actually seen their contributions diverted by the State Legislature to the General Fund. But do Conservatives admit this is happening? No, they continue the charade that pensions are bloated as a result of exorbitant demands arbitrarily imposed upon them by Teachers' Unions. And my friend has fallen for this line of reasoning. So what doe he say when I set the record straight? He pivoted to saying the Service Employees International Union ("SEIU")" exerts an "undue influence on Congress with all of their campaign spending!" Once again, facts seem to be getting in the way of my friend's opinion!
According to The Center For Responsible Government and OpenSecrets.Org, campaign contribution reports filed with the Federal Election Commission, indicate the SEIU spent a whopping $36,277,242 on the 2012 election! How dare a Union spend so much money on an election! I mean, the US Chamber of Commerce only spent $35,367,029 and we know who supports them right? Actually, we don't! The Chamber does not disclose who their donors are, while the SEIU is required by law to disclose their donors. So what gives? Do Unions exert an undue influence on Congress or not? Here's a clue - Karl Rove's Koch Brothers backed American Crossroads/Crossroads GPS spent $175,128,610 and they too do not disclose who their donors were. Next in line spending the most? Restore Our Future, Mitt Romney's supporting Super PAC, which spent $142,097,336! So why the angst towards the SEIU when their campaign spending is dwarfed by the top two Super PACS supporting only Conservative candidates? Because facts continue to escape the rhetoric pushed upon folks, that's why! Yes, Liberals supported Super-PACs of their own, but Unions spent far less than Conservative Super-PACs in the most recent election. So where is the angst those groups deserve from the "concerned" public?
My other friend asked me my opinion on whether I felt the younger terrorist in Boston should have been read his Miranda Rights. When I told him I believed the Public Safety Exception was properly used and that Miranda being eventually read was acceptable to me, he then asked why we shouldn't have labeled him an "Enemy Combatant" (straight out of the mouth of GOP Senator Lindsey Graham and Fox News!)? But I responded to his question with a question of my own - "Should U.S. Citizens be afforded due process of law?" "Of course" he said. Then why should the second terrorist, a U.S. Citizen not be afforded his Constitutional rights? "Because he is a Terrorist, that's why!" Really? Since when do we selectively apply the Constitution when it comes to civil liberties and due process, but demand that Second Amendment rights be upheld regardless of the circumstances? No response from my friend. Should the second terrorist have been denied access to firearms? No response. And hence, the hypocrisy inherent in the argument.
Should we ever set aside the civil liberties guaranteed in the Constitution? If so, which ones? Who decides which ones? As Thomas Jefferson once wrote, "It behooves every man who values liberty of conscience for himself, to resist invasions of it in the case of others; or their case may, by change of circumstances, become his own." It's time to set aside unreasonable fear and replace it with a solid certainty that our Constitution and the reasoning behind it should always prevail.