It could happen; in fact, Argentina is already scanning its consumers credit card purchases with the goal of taxing any overseas purchases. It now requires banks to report every single credit card transaction, whether it’s a domestic or foreign purchase and says the data is being used to ensure no one cheats the government.
There’s no doubt that information will be fed into a massive database. But what about here in the US? Is it possible that efforts here could let the government know every detail about your buying habits, including your favorite ice cream and those other unmentionables that could tell it things it really has no business knowing?
The easy answer is that it’s not even remotely possible; however, we’ve discovered – both as consumers and as taxpayers – that the worse thing we can do is assume anything when it comes to Big Brother. All one needs to do is consider Argentina’s justification: the bad economy.
“This gives me chills,” said Gartner banking consultant Avivah Litan, who was in Argentina recently consulting with that nation’s government banking officials.
I think it is a reminder that our data can be looked at by anyone and probably is being looked at.
Before you brush this off and think to yourself, “Oh, well…let ’em. I’ve nothing to hide”, you should consider what this country was built on. It wasn’t build for a government that was this grossly demanding; it was built to serve the taxpayers or consumers – however you wish to look at it.
Either way, its role isn’t to babysit anyone, but rather, to oversee the decisions made by the people and represented in the form of our elected officials. This dynamic, even though Argentina’s government is significantly different than ours, simply too invasive. Not only that, but this has been happening in other countries already.
Last year, Brazil decided to do the same thing and since then, it’s taxed all of its overseas credit card purchases. More recently, Spain opted to outlaw any cash transaction that totaled $2,500. It wanted to ensure there were records available for so-called big ticket items.
Even those who say the measures are only temporary are failing to see the big picture. Once the foundation is in place, who will police it? Who will say when it’s enough and no longer necessary?
What or who determines when the government has crossed the line and who’s the say it won’t blossom into something more? These are all very important questions but with no answers.
Residents in Brazil have already begun bucking the trend by using cash. It’s long since been more of a cash society anyway and these latest moves are pushing the country away from from credit even more than it already is.
But that’s not the cash here in the States. In fact, more of us are using our debit cards for the smallest purchases. We’re abandoning cash more and more.
You might be surprised that only a quarter of point of sale purchases made in this country last year were made with cash – and that number is expected to continue falling. We are routinely turning to our credit cards and debit cards.
By 2017, that number is expected to be around 22 or 23 percent. Once you add smartphones into the mix, there’s no doubt that cash will be as antiquated as the landline telephones that used to be in every home in the country.
The only sure way to ensure it never comes to pass here in the U.S., say experts, is to let our voices be heard if and when it does appear to be heading that way. There’s no guarantee it will sway politicians, after all, we can’t even get them to hammer out a solution that will bypass the fiscal cliff.
For that matter, we can’t even get them to commit to what will actually happen if they don’t resolve the problems. Still, our voice is the most powerful tool we have when it comes to our rights.
That said, it’s important to remember that there are no laws that would prevent it from happening. It’s likely no one ever considered it a possibility. After all, when you bought your first cell phone all those years ago, would you have believed it if someone said it would one day be an extension of your wallet and a financial tool that would be both convenient and safe?
Of course not. And no one ever thought our government would want to take on the role of babysitting us, either. But here we are. The one exception, of course, being the access given to law enforcement officials when they have just cause. One analyst said,
The (U.S.) government does have access to this information now because it regulates the banks. There’s no secrecy laws like there are in Switzerland. There’s no privacy laws that would prevent this.
What are your thoughts? Do you think it’s possible the government would push for that kind of information from citizens?