The Crushing Weight of New Laws and Federal Tax Codes

The sale, trade and distribution of shark fins are now banned in California.

Daily drink specials — i.e., happy hour — have been banned in Utah.

Volunteer Little League and Pop Warner Football coaches in Colorado must now undergo annual training. Georgia set new safety requirements for golf carts driven on streets.

A Contradictory Set of Stop Signs
Welcome to 2012 — Maybe the Mayans were onto something

It’s not that the 40,000 new laws — state and federal — that hit the books yesterday for the first time are outrageous… it’s the sheer quantity that’s alarming.

With the extension of the payroll tax cut, a few more pages are added to the federal tax code, too.

We haven’t been able to unearth the new total… but as of July 1 last year, the Standard Tax Reporter — a database of the tax code maintained by the firm CCH — stood at 73,536 pages.

That’s equal to 62 copies of Atlas Shrugged. It is also nearly three times the size of the tax code in 1984 — when the total stood at a more “manageable” 26,300 pages.

Yet the most-onerous new law signed with little fanfare on New Year’s Eve: The funding bill for the Pentagon in 2012… also subjects US citizens to indefinite detention on the say-so of the president.

“With Americans distracted with drinking and celebrating,” writes George Washington University professor Jonathan Turley, “Obama signed one of the greatest rollbacks of civil liberties in the history of our country.”

According to Bruce Fein, a Reagan-era Justice Department official, Section 1021 of the law “empowers the military to detain for life without trial any American citizen captured in the United States whom the president maintains is ‘substantially support[ing]… al-Qaida, the Taliban or associated forces’ engaged in hostilities against ‘coalition partners’ of the United States.”

Unfortunately, “None of the key terms in Section 1021 are defined to constrain the president’s power to disappear Americans into dungeons at Guantanamo Bay or elsewhere.

“The words can mean whatever the president, like Humpty Dumpty, wants them to mean. ‘Substantial support’ might be said to include any criticism of the United States government for flouting the Constitution in combating international terrorism.”

Hope You Don't Get Detained - Obama Poster

Apart from a movement in Montana to recall the state’s US senators, both of whom voted for the measure, the reaction to the news was… well, “apathetic” seems an understatement.


Addison Wiggin
for The Daily Reckoning

The Daily Reckoning