For many years now, the federal government has been usurping the powers of the states.

Today, state governments mostly consider themselves subservient to the will of Washington – gladly accepting marching orders, pathetically holding out their hands for money extracted from their own taxpayers and generally serving as an extension of the federal bureaucracy.

It is only in that context that one can begin to comprehend the nightmarish, Orwellian nature of the latest federal-state power grab.

It’s called the Model State Health Powers Act.

Financed by the federal Centers for Disease Control, it was hatched in Washington with the cooperation of the National Governors Association, the National Conference of State Legislatures, the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials, the National Association of City and County Health Officials and the National Association of Attorneys General.

It was a big topic of conversation at the recent NGA meeting in Boise, Idaho.

What’s so scary about the MSHPA?

It is a law being introduced in all 50 state legislatures granting emergency powers to governors and public-health authorities – powers so sweeping they would make Benito Mussolini blush.

The act authorizes the collection of private medical data and other records on you and your family. It authorizes the “control of property” – a nice term for confiscation of everything, including – but not limited to – your house, your car, your guns, your food, your clothing and your fuel. It authorizes the management of people – meaning forced vaccinations, incarceration and restrictions on transportation. It also authorizes the government to seize control of communications.

Now, as I read that prescription, it smacks of tyranny. It reeks of fascism.

Under this model legislation, which is gaining steam across America, one man or woman – the governor – can declare a public-health emergency and assume all of the powers above.

Many believe that because this act came up after Sept. 11 that it has to do with bio-terrorism or nuclear or chemical attacks. But the public health emergency doesn’t need to have any tie to terror.

Already, 11 states have passed emergency health powers acts based on this model. Another 22 are considering them. Only six states – Idaho, Nebraska, Wyoming, Wisconsin, Mississippi and Washington state – have rejected them.

This is serious stuff. It leaves me wondering if Americans are threatened more by terrorism or by the war on terrorism.

It appears our government no longer considers Osama bin Laden public enemy No. 1. Now it’s Joe Citizen who finds himself in the crosshairs.

We’re on the verge of losing our constitutional protections against illegal searches and seizures. We’re being desensitized as a people every day.

Maybe you don’t think your governor is a threat to your personal freedom. Maybe you just think this is one more law that won’t amount to a hill of beans or affect your life. Maybe you’re right. Maybe. Then again, maybe not.

Remember, I told you that this legislation can only be understood in the context of the way Washington, D.C., has the states under its thumb. Remember where this legislation originated. Remember who paid for it. Remember who is pushing it.

This is no way to fight terrorism. We ought to be empowering the American people as soldiers, not reducing them to the enemy. We ought to be figuring out ways to protect the public, with shelters and air-filtration units and civil defense stockpiling. We ought to be asking the public to enlist in this war, not preparing to round them up and attack them.

This debacle is evidence of a failure of leadership at the very top – President Bush, Homeland Security Director Tom Ridge, etc. They have steadfastly rejected common-sense anti-terrorism measures such as firearms in the cockpits and instead favored a command-and-control bureaucracy building that will never make any of us safer.

It’s easy being a civil libertarian when times are good – when there are no real threats on the horizon. The real challenge to constitutional government comes in times of crisis, in times of war, in times of attack.

There’s no question we’re in a real war against terrorism. But it’s our own government, once again, that’s really scaring me.

Related story:

Wyoming rejects model health bill

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