Our dumb and dumber Congress

Something extraordinary will happen at

Washington, DC’s Newseum on July 3.

There, on the day before Independence Day, those who suffered through the Sept. 11 attack on the Pentagon will tell their stories. For the ages. It’s part of an oral history project sponsored by the National September 11 Memorial & Museum, in partnership with StoryCorps.

Attack survivors, members of victims’ families, first responders, volunteer rescuers and other witnesses will record the horrors and heroics they witnessed that day. Their interviews will be maintained at the Library of Congress and become part of the permanent collection at the 9/11 memorial in New York. (While the interviews are being recorded, Newseum visitors will be able to sign one of the “I” beams that will be used in building the memorial.)

It’s important to preserve, forever, the memory of that murderous attack on the American homeland. If we forget the past, it may well revisit us again.

That said, let’s hope members of Congress will read some of these transcripts. It may remind them of their obligation to be ever-vigilant, and to give us laws that will keep us safe, free, and prosperous against a lurking transnational terrorist threat.

Sadly, this year the House on the Hill seems inclined to do anything but that. Here is a short list of really stupid pending legislation. Some entries exemplify “checkbook security”–measures that succeed in spending money, without improving our security.

Others exemplify “feel-good security”–bills that pretend to do something worthwhile, when it’s not. And some demonstrate “checklist security”–meaningless gestures that won’t accomplish much of anything. None of it is real security.

Topping the “dumb” list is a bill called “Providing for Additional Security in States Identification (PASS ID).” Despite its misleading title, PASS ID actually “takes a pass” at implementing a key recommendation of the 9/11 Commission: Improving the security of identity credentials like driver’s licenses.

The bill would rescind key provisions of the REAL ID Act, which established national standards. One requirement eliminated is a system that allows states to readily cross-check their data bases to combat fraud and identity theft. While PASS ID wouldn’t roll back REAL ID in its entirety, it would leave us with something akin to a square fort with three walls.

Then there’s the proposed “Chemical Facility Antiterrorism Act.” The Department of Homeland Security has already established reasonable standards for chemical security, but they expire in October. Rather than just reauthorize the standards, this House bill would hijack the issue and force new regulations to advance an activist environmental agenda.

Under this bill, the government gets to decide what chemicals companies should be producing. And the criteria for this decision-making will be “green,” not security. While this will do little to make us safer, it is sure to drive some chemical companies out of business and encourage others to move operations–and jobs–overseas.

Also pending in the House is the “Homeowners Defense Act,” a bill to create a massive government insurance program–allegedly to help Americans recover after a catastrophic disaster. In reality, the main function of the bill is to force all taxpayers to subsidize insurance for folks who opt to live in beach houses in hurricane zones.

Beachfront property offers a pleasant but risky lifestyle, to be sure. But why should these property owners expect others to underwrite their risky behavior? And what in the world does it have to do with security?

And, of course, there’s the “Travel Promotion Act.” This bill proposes an unusual “solution” to the post-9/11 decline in foreign travel to the United States: Slap a tax on foreigners who do visit. The tax money, you see, would then pay for a government-sponsored ad campaign to encourage people to visit.

The geniuses in Congress are really onto something with this one, aren’t they? It could be the start of something really big. How about taxing foreigners who buy U.S. produced beef so the government could launch a “Buy Beef” campaign? Or maybe a special levy on foreigners who buy GM cars. You can almost see the U.S. steel flying off foreign showroom floors, can’t you?

Unfortunately, this through-the-looking-glass logic is all the rage on Capitol Hill. But piling up debt, raising taxes, growing government, strangling private industry, and repealing sound security measures will not make us safer. As unveiled so far this year, the Congressional agenda for homeland security so far just makes our legislative leaders look dumb and dumber.

Examiner Columnist James Jay Carafano is a senior research fellow for national security at The Heritage Foundation (www.heritage.org heritage.org)

About Tim McDowell

Colorado ACFEI Member's Homeland Security Weblog
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