Big Government is Bad, Right?

An interesting catch over at digby’s blog: did you know that Alabama has its own Dept. of Homeland Security? Not just a couple of officers, mind you, but a cabinet level agency on top of their state and local police forces, FBI offices, and Federal DHS offices. As digby notes, it’s not surprising that everyone went a little nuts in 2001, creating an entirely new government bureaucracy from whole cloth (with a 2010 budget of nearly $100 billion, by the by) but the extent to which this federal system was mimicked by the  states is staggering. As this WaPo special report lays out, this is a very lucrative and extremely comprehensive network that essentially does the work that the federal agency already does and still manages to find very little to do.

What’s even more striking is how little attention this receives and how it explains things like this:

Peaceful protesters being pepper-sprayed at point blank range by a cop in full, military-grade riot gear. This video has sparked outrage and is causing a backlash at UC Davis where the incident occurred but it is far from unique. The Occupy movement has borne the brunt of this hyper-militarized fetishism but it has wormed its way into situations as routine as traffic stops.

What’s the takeaway? Since 2001, $31 billion has been given to state and local DHS agencies to beef up their ability to ‘fight terrorism’. That reinforcement, obviously, includes stuff like:

  • Technologies and techniques honed for use on the battlefields of Iraq and Afghanistan have migrated into the hands of law enforcement agencies in America.
  • U.S. Customs and Border Protection flies General Atomics’ Predator drones along the Mexican and Canadian borders – the same kind of aircraft, equipped with real-time, full-motion video cameras, that has been used in wars in Kosovo, Iraq and Afghanistan to track the enemy.

It’s really only the tip of the iceberg; I’d suggest you go take a long look. So we spend billions on training local police like marines, give them nebulous and misleading information and guidance, and set them loose on the public. Is it any wonder why the Occupy movement is being tear-gassed, pepper-sprayed and beaten with abandon? This gigantic government agency, enacted by self-described ‘small government’ conservatives and spending billions of dollars a year under a vague mandate, simply has nothing better to do than gas and beat peaceful students. It’s just a helpful bonus that the protests represent a threat to the status quo.

No doubt rabid conservatives love seeing video like that. Nothing better than cracking some hippie skulls, right? Just remember that this is all being paid for with billions of your money. ‘Big Government’ really does exist but it’s not just the purview of Social Security or food stamps. The growing police state is much more insidious, much harder to dismantle and much more likely to be cheered on by those who would otherwise slash every dollar of social spending they could get their hands on.

Big government, alright. But for whom?

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