Click here to listen to the broadcast of You Tell Me on KTBB AM 600, Friday, April 20, 2012.
Two items in the news, both rather obscure, caught my eye this week.
First comes news about swimming pools. Hotels, motels, local community centers, fitness clubs and just about anyone else who operates a swimming pool that is open to the public has until mid-May to install chair lifts for the purpose of helping individuals with physical disabilities get into and out of the pool. This came about as a result of a 2010 modification to the Americans With Disabilities Act, no doubt without your knowledge.
An article I read on this subject listed 16 bullet points of the law setting forth in minute detail the specifications for design, installation, operation and capabilities of these new chair lifts. Estimates for purchase and installation of equipment that complies with the law come to about $14,000 per unit. Depending on the size of the pool, some pools will require more than one. Failure to comply with the law carries a fine of up to $55,000 on the first offense and double that amount for subsequent offenses.
Pool owners are now scrambling to comply before swimming season begins and they are hampered by the fact that the government took its sweet time finalizing every jot and tittle of the specifications. Manufacturers of the equipment are now swamped with orders that they cannot possibly fill before summer begins. Many pool owners say they are going to close their pools rather than risk the penalties attendant to non-compliance.
The second story that caught my eye concerns the car you buy three years from now. The Senate has passed and the House is expected to rubber stamp a provision that will require all automobiles built from the 2015 model year forward to have “black boxes” for the purpose of tracking and recording where the car has been. This law will mandate a continuous recording of your daily travels. Disabling the box will be a federal crime.
Of course, proponents of this measure, including Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) and Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA), are quick to point out that the recorded data remains the property of the car owner and is subject to government inspection only under certain circumstances including the showing of probable cause that a crime has been committed.
But such is the nature of the erosion of liberty. It happens in increments. Few alive today know that the federal income tax as we know it started at a mere one percent on all incomes up to an amount equal to $10.5 million in today’s dollars. The first iteration of the Americans With Disabilities Act didn’t mandate chair lifts at swimming pools.
So how long will it be before some court or some future Congress decides that it’s OK for the government to use the black box technology installed by law in your vehicle to find and disable your vehicle until you pay your disputed taxes or get your child support payments caught up? How long before automobile black box data is routinely subpoenaed by courts in divorce proceedings?
Chair lifts for the disabled are not objectionable per se. Knowing where the bad guys go to be bad guys will no doubt help law enforcement. But these considerations stand at a distant remove from the point.
Under what authority as set forth in the Constitution does the federal government get to dictate the accoutrements of the swimming pool at the Holiday Inn in Chanute, Kansas? By what constitutional authority does the federal government have the right to require that your comings and goings, particularly when they are wholly within the state of Texas, be continuously recorded?
For more than three years, the Congress has not performed its most basic duty under the Constitution and passed a budget. Harry Reid said just last week that the Senate was going to punt on the budget again.
A Congress that refuses to do its job, while working overtime on laws that infringe basic liberties, is dangerous and has ceased to be representative of those that elected it.
And we have thus ceased to be our own masters.