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Recently several prominent social and populist conservatives have attacked libertarianism. These conservatives, some of whom are allies in the fight against our hyper-interventionist foreign policy, blame libertarianism for a variety of social and economic ills. The conservative attack on libertarianism — like the attack on the freedom philosophy launched by leftists — is rooted in factual, economic, and philosophical errors.

Libertarianism’s right-wing critics claim libertarianism is the dominant ideology of the Republican establishment. This is an odd claim since the Republican leadership embraces anti-libertarian policies like endless wars, restrictions on civil liberties, government interference in our personal lives, and massive spending increases on welfare as well as warfare.

Anti-libertarian conservatives confuse libertarianism with the authoritarian “neoliberalism” embraced by both major parties. This confusion may be why these conservatives blame libertarians for the American middle class’s eroding standard of living. Conservatives are correct to be concerned about the economic challenges facing the average American, but they are mistaken to place the blame on the free market.

The American people are not suffering from an excess of free markets. They suffer from an excess of taxes, regulations, and, especially, fiat money. Therefore, populist conservatives should join libertarians in seeking to eliminate federal regulations, repeal the 16th Amendment, and restore a free-market monetary system.

Instead of fighting to end the welfare-regulatory system that benefits economic and political elites at the expense of average Americans, populist conservatives are promoting increased economic interventionism. For example, many populist conservatives support increased infrastructure spending and tariffs and other forms of protectionism.

Like all forms of central planning, these schemes prevent goods and services from being used for the purposes most valued by consumers. This distorts the marketplace and lowers living standards — including of people whose jobs are temporally saved or created by these government interventions. Those workers would be better off in the long term finding new jobs in a free market.

Anti-free-market conservatives ignore how their policies harm those they claim to care about. For example, protectionism harms farmers and others working in businesses depending on international trade.

The most common complaint of social conservatives is that libertarianism promotes immorality. These conservatives confuse a libertarian’s opposition to outlawing drugs, for example, with moral approval of drug use. Many libertarians condemn drug use and other destructive behaviors. However, libertarians reject the use of government force to prevent individuals from choosing to engage in these behaviors. Instead, libertarians support the right of individuals to use peaceful means to persuade others not to engage in destructive or immoral behaviors.

Libertarians also support the right of individuals not to associate with, or to subsidize in any way, those whose lifestyles or beliefs they find objectionable. Social conservatives object to libertarians because social conservatives wish to use government power to force people to be good. This is the worst type of statism because it seeks to control our minds and souls.

Most people accept the idea that it is wrong to initiate force against those engaging in peaceful behaviors. Libertarians apply this nonaggression principle to government. Making government follow the nonaggression principle would end unjust wars, income and inflation taxes, and the destruction caused by the use of force to control what we do with our property, how we raise our children, who we associate with, and what we put into our bodies. Making governments abide by the nonaggression principle is the only way to restore a society that is free, prosperous, and moral.

 
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Hypocrisy seems to have become a defining characteristic of US foreign policy, especially when it comes to Iran. After breaking the Iran deal last year and, de facto, forcing the Europeans to violate the deal in May, the US Administration is now complaining that Iran is no longer abiding by its obligations under the deal!

It’s remarkable to see Secretary of State Mike Pompeo take to Twitter to complain of Iran enriching uranium to pre-deal levels, as if somehow the US believes it can still dictate the terms of a deal to which it is no longer a party.

This latest neocon push for US war on Iran started last week when Iran exceeded the limit of a 300 kilogram stockpile of low-enriched uranium. As usual, the media only reported part of the story. One reason Iran went over the limit was that the countries to which Iran was exporting its excess uranium were notified by the US in early May that they would face US sanctions if they continued taking the uranium off Iranian hands.

The US created the crisis by preventing Iran from exporting its excess uranium and then pointed to the expanding Iranian stockpile of uranium enriched to 3.6 percent as proof that Iran was about to launch a nuclear weapon!

Make no mistake about it: Trump’s neocons are determined to trap him into a massive, disastrous war with Iran and they are using the same tactics they used to hoodwink George W. Bush into a multi-trillion dollar war on an Iraq that could not have attacked us if it wanted to.

Secretary Pompeo Tweeted yesterday the exact kind of dishonest hysterics used to terrify many Americans into supporting an Iraq attack 13 years ago: “Iran’s regime, armed with nuclear weapons, would pose an even greater danger to the world.”

As the former head of the CIA, surely Pompeo knows that his own agency had determined back in 2003 that Iran had abandoned its nuclear weapons program and that every US intelligence assessment since then has concurred with that conclusion. But then again, he did brag recently about his excellent ability to lie, cheat, and steal.

Though the Europeans promised Iran that they would continue to honor the deal, they have proven themselves unable to put forth a credible alternative to the US-dominated SWIFT system, meaning no trade in Iran’s number one export: oil.

Iran responded over the weekend to European fecklessness by announcing that they would begin enriching uranium up to five percent, which is a level needed to run one of its nuclear power generating plants. As could be predicted, this move – which is allowed according to section 36 of the Iran deal – is being treated as the equivalent of Saddam’s “mobile chemical weapons labs.”

The Iranians are not backing down. They rightly feel cheated, as they continued to honor the deal even as the US re-imposed crippling sanctions meant to destroy their economy and starve their people.

President Trump has a very serious decision to make. He is being frog-marched into war by his neocons and his Middle East “partners.” He has very little time left to change course. If the neocons are not swept out immediately, he is risking both his second term and his legacy.

 
• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: American Military, Donald Trump, Iran, Neocons 
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The mainstream media was too busy obsessing over Russiagate to notice that, according to an annual Social Security and Medicare Boards of Trustees report, the Social Security trust fund will run out of money by 2035. The trustees also reported that the Medicare Hospital Insurance trust fund will be empty by 2027.

The trustees’ report is actually optimistic. Social Security is completely funded, and Medicare is largely funded, by payroll taxes. Therefore, their revenue fluctuates depending on the employment rate. So, when unemployment inevitably increases, payroll tax revenue will decline, hastening Medicare and Social Security’s bankruptcy.

Another dark cloud on the government’s fiscal horizon involves the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (PBGC), which provides federal bailouts to bankrupt pension plans. The PBGC currently has an over 50 billion dollars deficit. This deficit will almost certainly increase, as a number of large pension funds are likely to need a PBGC bailout in the next few years. Congress will likely bail out the PBGC to avoid facing the wrath of voters angry that Congress did not save their pensions.

Unfunded liabilities like Social Security and Medicare are not included in the official federal deficit. In fact, Congress raids the Social Security trust fund to increase spending and hide the deficit’s true size, while leaving the trust fund with worthless IOUs.

The media also ignored last week’s Congressional Budget Office (CBO) report predicting the federal debt will increase to an unsustainable 144 percent of the gross domestic product by 2049. The CBO’s report is optimistic as it assumes interest rates remain low, Congress refrains from creating new programs, and there are no major recessions.

Few in Congress or in the Trump administration are even talking about the coming fiscal tsunami, much less proposing the type of spending cuts necessary to pay down the debt and have the funds to unwind the entitlement programs without harming those currently reliant on them. Instead, both parties support increasing spending and debt.

Republican control of both houses of Congress and the While House led to increased federal spending of over $300 billion dollars. The House Democratic majority now wants even more spending increases. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is threatening to not raise the debt ceiling unless President Trump and congressional Republicans agree to lift the spending caps put in place by the 2011 budget deal.

The Republican Congress routinely exceeded the caps’ minuscule spending limits. Therefore, Speaker Pelosi should have no problem getting President Trump and his Republic congressional allies to once again exceed the caps on welfare spending as long as Democrats agree, as they are likely to agree, to bust the caps on warfare spending.

America’s military budget already equals the combined budgets of the next seven highest-spending countries. Instead of allowing himself to be neoconned into wasting trillions on another Middle East quagmire, President Trump should bring home the nearly 170,000 troops stationed in almost 150 countries.

Unless Congress immediately begins making substantial spending cuts, America will soon face a major economic crisis. This crisis will likely involve the Federal Reserve’s debt monetization resulting in a rejection of the dollar’s world reserve currency status. Since the media and most politicians refuse to discuss this topic, it is up to those of us who understand the truth to spread the word, grow the liberty movement, and force politicians to make real cuts right now.

 
• Category: Economics • Tags: American Military, Government Spending 
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President Trump did the smart thing last week by calling off a US airstrike on Iran over the downing of an American spy drone near or within Iranian territorial waters. According to press reports, the president over-ruled virtually all his top advisors – Bolton, Pompeo, and Haspel – who all wanted another undeclared and unauthorized US war in the Middle East.

Is Iran really the aggressive one? When you unilaterally pull out of an agreement that was reducing tensions and boosting trade; when you begin applying sanctions designed to completely destroy another country’s economy; when you position military assets right offshore of that country; when you threaten to destroy that country on a regular basis, calling it a campaign of “maximum pressure,” to me it seems a stretch to play the victim when that country retaliates by shooting a spy plane that is likely looking for the best way to attack.

Even if the US spy plane was not in Iranian airspace – but it increasingly looks like it was – it was just another part of an already-existing US war on Iran. Yes, sanctions are a form of war, not a substitute for war.

The media are also a big part of the problem. The same media that praised Trump as “presidential” when he fired rockets into Syria on what turned out to be false claims that Assad gassed his own people, has been attacking Trump for not bombing Iran. From Left to Right – with one important exception – the major media is all braying for war. Why? They can afford to cheer death and destruction because they will not suffer the agony of war. Networks will benefit by capturing big ratings and big money and new media stars will be born.

President Trump has said he does not want to be the one to start a new war in the Middle East. He seemed to prove that by avoiding the urgings of his closest advisors to attack Iran. It is hard to imagine a president having top advisors who work at cross-purposes to him, planning and plotting their wars – and maybe more – behind his back. Even Trump seems to recognize that his national security advisor is not really serving his administration well. Over the weekend he said in an interview, “John Bolton is absolutely a hawk. If it was up to him he’d take on the whole world at one time, okay?”

I think when you have a national security advisor who wants to fight the whole world at once, you have a problem. Does anyone believe we will be more secure after spending a few trillion more dollars and making a few hundred million more enemies? What does “victory” even look like?

President Trump is in a bind and it is of his own making. Iran has shown that it is not willing to take its marching orders from Washington, which means “maximum pressure” from the US will not work. He has two options remaining in that case: risk it all by launching a war or make a gesture toward peace. A war would ruin his presidency – and a lot more. I would urge the president to issue waivers to China, India, Turkey, and the others who wish to continue buying Iranian oil and invite the Iranian leadership to meet at a neutral location. And fire Bolton and Pompeo.

 
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Last week, the House of Representatives voted in favor of a Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education appropriations bill amendment to repeal the prohibition on the use of federal funds to create a “unique patient identifier.” Unless this prohibition, which I originally sponsored in 1998, is reinstated, the federal government will have the authority to assign every American a medical ID. This ID will be used to store and track every American’s medical history.

A unique patient identifier would allow federal bureaucrats and government-favored special interests to access health information simply by entering an individual’s unique patient ID into a database. This system would also facilitate the collection of health information without a warrant by surveillance state operatives.

The health records database could easily be linked to other similar databases, such as those containing gun purchase records or education records. If mandatory E-Verify becomes law, the health records database could even be linked to it, allowing employers to examine a potential employee’s medical history.

The possibility that the unique patient identifier system may be linked to a database containing information regarding gun ownership is especially disturbing given the bipartisan support for “red flag” laws. These laws allow the government to deny respect for someone’s Second Amendment rights without due process and based solely on an allegation that the individual is mentally unstable and likely to commit an act of gun violence. Combining red flag laws with the unique patient identifier system would leave a gun owner who ever sought psychiatric help for any reason at risk of losing his ability to legally possess a gun.

Unscrupulous government officials could use medical information to harass those whose political activities challenge the status quo. Anyone who doubts this should ask themselves what a future J. Edgar Hoover or Lois Lerner would do with access to the medical information of those involved in political movements he wishes to silence.

The unique patient identifier undermines one of the foundations of quality health care: the doctor-patient relationship. Accurate diagnosis requires that patients share intimate details about their lives — ranging from details about their diet and exercise habits to their sexual history and alcohol and drug use — with their physicians. If patients legitimately fear information shared will be compromised, they will be unwilling to be completely honest with their physicians, making it impossible for physicians to effectively treat their patients.

Proponents of the unique patient identifier claim it will improve efficiency. But, in a free society, the government should never endanger privacy or liberty for efficiency. Besides, when has any government intervention in health care ever improved efficiency or increased patients’ or health care providers’ satisfaction with the system?

The unique patient identifier system puts the desires of government bureaucrats and politically powerful special interests ahead of the needs of individual patients and health care providers. Instead of further intervening in health care and further destroying our privacy and our liberties, Congress should give patients control over their health care by giving them control over health care dollars through expanding access to Health Savings Accounts and health care tax credits. In a free market, patients and doctors can and will work tighter to ensure patients’ records are maintained in a manner that provides maximum efficiency without endangering privacy or liberty.

 
• Category: Ideology • Tags: Government Surveillance, Health Care 
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Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-CA) found himself in hot water recently over comments he made in defense of Navy SEAL Edward Gallagher, who faces war crimes charges over his alleged conduct while serving in combat overseas. Gallagher is charged with stabbing a 15 year old ISIS member while in custody, of taking photos posing with the corpse of the teen, and with killing several civilians.

Defending Gallagher recently, Hunter put his own record up next to the SEAL to suggest that he’s an elected Congressman who has done worse things in battle than Gallagher.

That’s where Hunter’s defense earned him some perhaps unwanted attention. While participating in the first “Battle of Fallujah” in early 2007, by Hunter’s own account he and his fellow soldiers killed hundreds of innocent civilians, including women and children. They fired mortars into the city and killed at random.

In the sanitized world of US mainstream media reporting on US wars overseas, we do not hear about non-combatants being killed by Americans. How many times has there been any reporting on the birth defects that Iraqis continue to suffer in the aftermath of US attacks with horrific weapons like depleted uranium and white phosphorus?

Rep. Hunter described his philosophy when fighting in Iraq:

“You go in fast and hard, you kill people, you hit them in the face and then you get out…We’re going to hurt you and then we’re going to leave. And if you want to be nice to America, we’ll be nice to you. If you don’t want to be nice to us, we’re going to slap you again.”

This shows how much Duncan Hunter does not understand about war. When he speaks of hitting people in the face until they are nice to America, he doesn’t seem to realize that the people of Fallujah – and all of Iraq – never did a thing to the US to deserve that hit in the face. The war was launched on the basis of lies and cooked-up intelligence by many of the people who are serving in the current Administration.

And that brings us to the real war criminals. Rep. Duncan Hunter and his fellow soldiers may have killed hundreds of innocent civilians and even felt justified. Their superior officers, after all, established the rules of engagement. Above those superior officers, going up and beyond to the policymakers, the lie was sold to the American people to justify a war of choice against a country that could not have threatened us if it wanted to.

Vice President Dick Cheney knew what he was doing when he kept returning to the CIA headquarters, strong-arming analysts to make the intelligence fit the chosen policy. John Bolton and the other neocons knew what they were doing when they made claims about Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction they knew were false. The Pentagon’s Office of Special Plans played its role in selling the lie. So did the media.

Edward Gallagher will face trial and possibly jail for his actions. Rep. Duncan Hunter may even face punishment – though perhaps only at the ballot box – for his admitted crimes. But until those at the top who continue to lie and manipulate us into war for their own gain face justice, the real criminals will continue to go free and we will continue pursuing a suicidal neocon foreign policy.

 
• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: American Military, War Crimes 
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Last week in an episode of my daily Ron Paul Liberty Report we discussed whether the US and British government were actually trying to kill jailed Wikileaks publisher Julian Assange. More than seven years ago Assange was granted asylum from the government of Ecuador over fears that espionage charges were being prepared against him by Washington. He spent those years in a small room in the Ecuadorian embassy in London without sunlight. Without fresh air. Without exercise. Without medical treatment.

Assange’s critics mocked him for entering the embassy, saying his fear that the US government would indict him was paranoia. Then the US-controlled International Monetary Fund dangled a four billion dollar loan in front of Ecuadorian president Lenin Moreno (elected in 2017, replacing the president who granted him asylum), and Moreno eagerly handed Assange over to British authorities who the same day hauled him before the court to answer for skipping bail. No medical examination after what was seven years of house arrest. Straight to court. He was sentenced to 50 weeks – the maximum sentence.

And what happened while he was serving time in the notorious Belmarsh prison? The Trump Administration decided to go where the Obama Administration before him did not dare to tread: he was indicted on 17 counts under the US Espionage Act and now faces 170 years in prison – or worse – once the formality of his extradition hearing is over. He faces life in prison for acting as a journalist – publishing information about the US government that is clearly in the public interest.

But do they really want to put him up on trial?

When US citizen Otto Warmbier died in a wretched North Korean prison cell after being denied proper medical treatment, the western world was disgusted by Pyongyang’s disregard for basic human rights. Now we have Julian Assange reportedly too sick to even appear by video at his own court hearings. UN Special Rapporteur on torture Nils Melzer has investigated the treatment of Assange over the past nine years and has determined that the journalist has been the “victim of brutal psychological torture.”

UN investigator Melzer concluded, “In 20 years of work with victims of war, violence and political persecution I have never seen a group of democratic States ganging up to deliberately isolate, demonize, and abuse a single individual for such a long time and with so little regard for human dignity and the rule of law.”

Governments hate it when the truth is told about them. They prefer to kill the messenger than face the message.

Judge Andrew Napolitano wrote last week that, “the whole purpose of the First Amendment…is to promote and provoke open, wide, robust political debate about the policies of the government.”

We need to understand that it is our First Amendment that is on trial right there along with Assange. The Obama Administration – no defenders of civil liberties – wanted to prosecute Assange but determined that his “crime” was the same kind of journalism that the US mainstream media engages in every day.

Let’s hope President Trump recovers from his amnesia – on the campaign trail he praised Wikileaks more than 100 times but now claims to know nothing about them – and orders his Attorney General to stand down. Assange deserves our gratitude, not a lifetime in prison.

 
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Congress, and particularly the Democrat-controlled House of Representatives, seems determined to see the end of the Trump Administration before the 2020 vote. Although House Speaker Pelosi claims she is not seeking impeachment, she’s accusing the president of “covering up” something. However, she won’t say what until she can do more investigating.

But Trump’s opponents on both sides of the Congressional aisle don’t seem so enthusiastic about challenging the president when he actually does abuse his Constitutional authority to pursue a more aggressive policy overseas.

Late last week, for example, President Trump declared a national security “emergency” brought about by unspecified “Iranian malign activity” – a “loophole” allowing him to bypass Congressional review of some $8 billion in US weapons to be sold to Saudi Arabia.

Congress had been reluctant to approve yet more arms sales to Saudi Arabia after the President vetoed a bi-partisan House and Senate-approved bill requiring the US to end its military support for the Saudi war of aggression against Yemen.

What might this new Iran “emergency” be? As with the lead-up to the Iraq war, the Administration claims important secret intelligence — but of course we have to just trust them. From what we have heard from the Administration, it looks pretty flimsy. Rear Admiral Michael Gilday, the director of the Joint Staff, has outright claimed that the so-called “sabotage” of four container ships at port in the UAE is the doing of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards. But even Abu Dhabi didn’t claim Iranian involvement in the mysterious incident.

Could it have been a false flag?

Admiral Gilday also claims, without providing proof, that the recent firing of a small rocket in the general vicinity of the US Embassy in Iraq is the work of the Iranians. “We believe with a high degree of confidence that this [recent attacks] stems back to the leadership in Iran at the highest levels,” he said.

What would Iran gain by shooting off an insignificant rocket, exposing itself to US massive retaliation with no gain whatsoever? They don’t say.

The Trump Administration has been lacking any coherent foreign policy strategy for some time. It often seems the President is fighting more with his own appointees than with his opponents on Capitol Hill. As soon as he announces that ISIS is defeated and US troops must come home, his employees like National Security Advisor John Bolton “clarify” Trump’s statements to mean that troops are staying. Trump goes to Hanoi to cut a deal with North Korea’s Kim Jong-Un and Bolton shows up with a poison pill that blows up the deal.

Bolton announced plans for 120,000 US troops to the Middle East to help push the war on Iran he’s been hocking for 20 or so years. Then we heard it was 10,000. Then 1,500, of which 600 are already there.

Whether Trump is on board or not, his Administration is clearly dragging the US into conflict with Iran. While some Members remind the president that he does not have Constitutional authority to attack Iran without approval, that argument has not been very effective in deterring presidents thus far.

If Congress really wanted to rein in an out-of-control president, they have plenty of opportunity in his bogus “national emergency” declaration and his saber rattling toward Iran. But if asserting Constitutional authority means Congress acts to pull-back US militarism overseas, suddenly there is a great bipartisan silence. They’d rather impeach Trump over his rude Tweets than over his stomping on the Constitution.

 
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A common trick of big-government loving politicians is to give legislation names so appealing that it seems no reasonable person could oppose it. The truth is, the more unobjectionable the title, the more objectionable the content. Two well-known examples are the “PATRIOT Act” and the “Access to Affordable and Quality Care Act.”

Another great example is the Violence Against Women Act. Passed in 1994, the Violence Against Women Act provides federal grants to, and imposes federal mandates on, state and local governments with the goal of increasing arrests, prosecutions, and convictions of those who commit domestic violence.

Like most federal laws, the Violence Against Women Act is unconstitutional. The Constitution limits federal jurisdiction to three crimes: counterfeiting, treason, and piracy. All other crimes — including domestic violence — are strictly state and local matters.

The law also forbids anyone subject to a restraining order obtained by a spouse or a domestic partner from owning a gun. This is a blatant violation of the Second Amendment’s prohibition on federal laws denying anyone the right to own a gun. Whether someone subject to a restraining order, or convicted of a violent crime, should lose their rights to own firearms is a question to be decided by state and local officials.

At least the current law requires individuals receive due process before the government can deprive them of their Second Amendment rights. The House of Representatives recently passed legislation reauthorizing and making changes to the Violence Against Women Act. The most disturbing part of this “upgrade” gives government the power to take away an individual’s Second Amendment rights based solely on an allegation that the individual committed an act of domestic violence. The accused then loses Second Amendment rights without even having an opportunity to tell their side of the story to a judge.

This is a version of “red flag” laws that are becoming increasingly popular. Red flag laws are not just supported by authoritarians like Senators Diane Feinstein and Lindsey Graham, but by alleged “constitutional conservatives” like Sen. Ted Cruz.

Red flag laws have led to dangerous confrontations between law enforcement and citizens who assumed that those breaking into their property to take their guns are private, rather than government, thieves.

The House bill also expands red flag laws to cover those accused of “misdemeanor stalking.” Many jurisdictions define misdemeanor stalking to include “cyber” or online stalking. These means someone could lose Second Amendment rights for sending someone an “offensive” Facebook or Twitter message.

Forbidding someone from owning a firearm because of offensive social media posts sets a precedent that could be used to impose legal sanctions on those posting “hate speech.” Since hate speech is defined as “speech I don’t agree with,” this could lead to the de facto outlawing of free speech online.

Instead of addressing concerns over the inclusion of new red flag type laws in the Violence Against Women’s Act, proponents of the bill have smeared their critics as not caring about domestic violence. As Reason magazine senior editor Jacob Sullum has pointed out, these progressives sound like neoconservatives who smear PATRIOT Act opponents as allies of Al Qaeda.

All decent people oppose domestic violence and terrorism. However, the desire to catch and punish wrongdoers does not justify violating the Constitution or denying anyone due process. When government violates the rights of anyone it threatens the liberties of everyone.

 
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Last week the New York Times published some of President Trump’s 1980s and 1990s tax returns information. The information detailed President Trump’s financial difficulties during that time. While you would not know it from reading some media reports, this is old news. In fact, President Trump openly discussed his financial difficulties on his popular reality television show.

What should be of great concern is the possibility that the person who leaked the returns — who the paper says has legal access to President Trump’s tax records — is an IRS employee seeking to undermine the president. This would hardly be the first time an IRS employee has leaked confidential information because he disagreed with the taxpayer’s politics. In 2014 the agency had to pay the National Organization for Marriage 50,000 dollars after an IRS employee gave names of the group’s donors to the group’s opponents.

In 2014-2017, my Campaign for Liberty group was repeatedly threatened by the IRS because it refused to give the agency the names of and other information about its top supporters. Fortunately, the IRS rescinded the regulation forcing groups like Campaign for Liberty to violate supporters’ privacy or face legal penalties. However, campaign finance reform legislation that recently passed in the House of Representatives would require the IRS to resume collecting this information, and the New York attorney general is suing the IRS to force the agency to reinstate the regulation.

The right of groups like Campaign for Liberty to protect their supporters’ privacy was upheld by the Supreme Court in NAACP v. Alabama. As Justice John Marshall Harlan wrote, “Inviolability of privacy in group association may in many circumstances be indispensable to preservation of freedom of association, particularly where a group espouses dissident beliefs.”

Traditionally, presidents have used the IRS to harass their political opponents instead of presidents’ opponents using the IRS against them. Franklin Roosevelt audited people critical of the New Deal and supportive of the America First movement. Lyndon Johnson ordered audits of opponents, and John Kennedy shared tax return information with Washington Post editor Ben Bradlee.

During the Obama administration, the IRS targeted groups opposing Obamacare. The agency went after anti-Iraq War groups during the George W. Bush years.

If the Times did obtain Trump’s tax returns information from an IRS employee, that employee is not in the same category as whistleblowers like Edward Snowden or Chelsea Manning who exposed government wrongdoing. The leaker or leakers of President Trump’s information are releasing private tax information.

The IRS regularly violates the civil liberties of taxpayers generally. In fact, the income tax system forcing taxpayers to reveal potentially incriminating information on their tax returns violates the principles of a free society. Americans’ liberty and prosperity will never be secure until Congress repeals two great mistakes of 1913: the income tax and the Federal Reserve.civil