Sunday, February 14, 2010

Futurewatch: perhaps the tin foil hatted guys are right.

A law was passed recently in Greece to deal with their economic and sovereign debt crisis which should cause Americans to wonder if it could happen here (because it can), but it's getting no press on the nightly news that I have heard.

Reuters Online
HIGHLIGHTS-Greek FinMin unveils tax reform, wage policy
Tue Feb 9, 2010 11:37am EST

ATHENS, Feb 9 (Reuters) - Greece outlined on Tuesday its public sector incomes policy and a tax reform bill, as part of an EU-endorsed plan to increase state revenues and reduce its huge deficit...

..."From 1. Jan. 2011, every transaction above 1,500 euros between natural persons and businesses, or between businesses, will not be considered legal if it is done in cash. Transactions will have to be done through debit or credit cards"...

You heard it, class - the EU has approved a measure whereby the government of Greece would make it illegal to buy or sell medium to large ticket items in cash. A debit or credit card will be required for all transactions, no doubt including paychecks.

The Tin Foil Hat crowd has been claiming for years that, according to their reading of the prophecy of Revelation, the Powers that Be will eventually require everyone to have a microchip implanted in order to buy or sell anything, and requiring electronic transactions is a step in that direction. Of course, anyone who submits to being chipped will go to hell, after first being tormented here on Earth.

Loads of fun, I'm sure - but the idea of requiring electronic transactions is apparently not so far-fetched as many would have believed. If they can do it in Europe, they can do it here.

Now, for most ordinary people this will not be a real problem - but a lot of business in Chereidi/UO communities is done cash under the table. Specifically, if only electronic transactions becomes law here, it's going to be awfully difficult for many Chereidi families to claim they only have such-and-such income when they are clearly spending thus-and-so much more in monthly transactions. This is a goal the government is looking forward to because the underground economy is untaxed and supposedly involves millions if not billions of dollars in transactions every year (including transactions for illegal substances). Clearly it is in the government's best interest to outlaw cash and require everyone to use electronic methods of being paid and spending their money.

But is it in the people's best interest? Is it any of government's business what you buy every month? Will government use this knowledge to penalize you with higher taxes if you buy cupcakes or soda? If you have children and you don't buy fresh fruits and vegetables, will CPS come knocking at your door? There are other ways the data could be used to invade a person's privacy. For example, how about tracking your over the counter medications as well as your prescriptions, then singling out those who prefer herbal and nutritional remedies for harassment? Will those who shop at ethnic stores be "profiled" (because we all know that the government isn't really stupid enough to believe methodist grandmothers are a serious terror threat)?

How much money will non-profits lose due to having all their donations net less because of credit card transaction fees? The help that the poor and needy receive will be reduced due to the greed of credit card processing companies, and people will have no means to bypass their immoral fees. And if you give to certain ethnic charities (Jewish Federations, for example) will you be scrutinized differently?

I'm sure there are other examples, but you get the idea. It's a gross violation of our civil liberties to require tracking of all our everyday transactions. I can see that if someone were accused of tax evasion or illegal activities, then perhaps such a requirement could be put upon them - but there is no reason for government to have such information on ordinary people.

Whether you believe the tin foil hat crowd or not, there is no way such data would not be misused. Every other bit of data the government collects has been misused in some way - this will be no different.

Perhaps we'll have to return to paying employees daily instead of every week or two - and shop almost exclusively within our communities at locally owned and operated businesses, daily as they do in the middle east and other parts of the world instead of weekly or monthly. But if the tin foil hat crowd is correct, even that option will be taken away eventually.

So keep your eyes on Greece.

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