Staff Columnist

242 years later, colonists' complaints about government persist

Artist John Trumbull's
Artist John Trumbull's "Declaration of Independence, July 4, 1776" depicts the presentation of the document in what is now called Independence Hall in Philadelphia. The painting includes portraits of 42 of the 56 signers and five other patriots, all sketched from life.

Our nation observes its 242nd birthday this week. Even at that age, some things never change.

Independence Day marks the adoption of the United States’ Declaration of Independence. The 56 delegates to the Continental Congress listed their many grievances against King George III and asserted their right to form a nation of their own. How do their complaints hold up over time?

Founders wrote, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

It’s a powerful idea. If our rights come from nature and God, they can’t rightfully be revoked on a politician’s whim. Yet today we still see attacks on due process, with government leaders hoping to apply rights selectively, based on your country of origin, for example.

Last month amid debate over immigration policy, Trump wrote on Twitter, “When somebody comes in, we must immediately, with no Judges or Court Cases, bring them back from where they came.”

Founders wrote, “He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.”

The early Americans wanted to grow their communities by welcoming new immigrants to live and work among them, but that was made difficult by overbearing immigration laws from the central government.

Similarly, slow population growth in Iowa and several other states now threatens the health of our economy. We need more workers, but a senseless national immigration system has left us without the human resources to maintain a strong workforce.

Founders wrote, “ … cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world.”

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The British government used trade regulations to inhibit colonists’ economic independence. Our modern government hasn’t gone so far as to totally cut off trade with the rest of the world, but our right to exchange is eroding.

U.S. presidents from both parties have repeatedly employed trade sanctions to punish other countries, and the Trump administration now is vowing to wage trade wars across the globe, never mind that those policies also hurt Americans who lose access to international markets.

Founders wrote, “ ... imposing Taxes on us without our Consent.”

The colonists sought to dissolve ties with their government over tax policy far less burdensome than what we suffer today. The federal tax code totals more than 2,000 pages, plus many thousands of pages more of bureaucratic regulations and case law, and an enormous patchwork of state and local taxes as well.

Just last month, the U.S. Supreme Court cleared the way for online sales taxes. Now state governments will impose taxes on out-of-state corporations with no representation in those states.

Indeed, much has changed in these last two and a half centuries, yet plenty has stayed the same.

• Comments: (319) 339-3156; adam.sullivan@thegazette.com

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