The fourth of July is the day to celebrate American independence from the Kingdom of Great Britain. But what is the significance of independence from Great Britain when America is kept in dependence by Washington, D.C., and in the case of 11 once-sovereign states, forcibly so?

The current congressional debate over yet another extension of unemployment benefits, this one a six-month extension expected to add another $35 billion to the federal deficit, merely underlines the degree to which Americans are held economic hostage by their central government. According to a 2007 Tax Foundation special report, 60 percent of American households receive more benefits from Washington in the form of targeted federal spending than they pay in federal taxes.

The lowest quintile of households receive 14.8 times more in government largesse than they pay, whereas the heart of the middle class, the third quintile, gets 1.3 times more. This might pass for a good bargain for most of America’s households, except of course that one-third of the money being distributed is borrowed and is going to have to be repaid, with interest. Dependence and debt is not independence.

Moreover, the democratic trappings of the American political system have never been more tattered. Congress reliably violates the clearly expressed will of the people, and, because of the two-party structure, a factional system which the Founding Fathers did not create and against which they warned, the electorate invariably finds that they are forced to choose between two different parties who intend to govern in precisely the same manner.

Regardless of what one thinks of the left-leaning Obama voters, it is eminently clear that they did not vote for a Vietnam-like expansion of the war in Afghanistan. Nor did they vote for the assassination of American citizens without trial, government kidnappings on foreign lands or the continued use of an extra-constitutional jail on foreign soil. Obama has betrayed their trust as well as the most basic principle of representative democracy, just as George W. Bush betrayed the votes of the small-government conservatives who made him president.

So, the Constitution lies in tatters, the politicians have successfully constructed a system that renders their collective will unopposable, the economic system is designed around the fundamentally Marxist principle of centralized credit and the courts and executive-branch agencies are regularly legislating from the bench and the bureaucracy.

Where is this freedom of which Americans so proudly speak?

As Ben Franklin said, the American people were given a republic, if they could keep it. And they have not kept it. Instead, they mortgaged it for the meager benefit of a few decades of material prosperity enjoyed on credit. Not since Esau traded his birthright for a pot of stew has anyone made such a foolish, short-sighted bargain.

But the cold winds of the Kondratieff Winter are already blowing, and on them rides the four horsemen of economic contraction: default, unemployment, disease and unrest. Perhaps Americans will rise to the occasion and claim their lost independence once more. Unfortunately, it is much more likely that a once-great nation will sink into the lost seas of history like so many great societies before her.

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