Street cops aren’t supposed to use chokeholds on people. Maybe the time has come for the federal government to stop doing the same thing to businesses it doesn’t like.

The choke hold in question may not be physical, but it amounts to the same thing.

Businesses the government wants to put out of business (such as gun and ammo sellers, especially those doing business online) are being “choked out” by applying pressure to banks to sever their relationships with them.

Imagine not being able to cash a check or make a deposit – much less obtain a necessary loan.

That’s how Operation Choke Point (yes, that’s the actual name of this atrocity) works.

Rather than do it the rule-of-law way and file charges – much less actually prove that a crime has been committed before punishment is levied – the Obama Just Us (Justice) Department has been siccing FDIC thugs on banks, threatening them with Inspector Javert-like scrutiny (including endless audits) as a way to get them to cut ties with the targeted business.

“Federal law enforcers are targeting merchant categories like payday lenders, ammunition and tobacco sales and telemarketers – but not by pursuing those merchants directly,” notes Jason Oxman, CEO of the Electronic Transactions Association. “Rather, Operation Choke Point is flooding (financial institutions) with subpoenas, civil investigative demands and other burdensome and costly legal demands.”

The banks, of course, are innocent of any criminal wrongdoing. Yet they are treated as presumptively criminal.

And so are the targeted businesses.

No one has been convicted of anything or even formally charged.

Cue the Queen of Hearts from Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland: Sentence first – verdict afterward!

The administration argues that it is merely pursuing financial evildoers. Much in the same way the Bush administration announced its self-given power to arrest, cage and even torture people it simply decreed to be “terrorists.” No trial required.

No evidence required.

Just the government’s say so. Nothing more.

Obama’s notoriously corrupt and politically punitive Just Us Department says it is merely “…committed to ensuring that our efforts to combat fraud do not discourage or inhibit the lawful conduct of honest merchants.” But what else does it do when a bank knows it can be paid a visit at any time by a federal thug who can simply demand the bank cease dealing with a given business… just because we (i.e., the government) say so? How does it not “inhibit” or “discourage” the conduct of legal business when that business can be”choked out” at any time by the federal government, using banks as a proxy?

The Obama administration is either being incredibly disingenuous – or they are quite literally out of their minds. If the government can “choke out” a legal business basically at whim, based on political animus, without having to produce evidence of criminal activity first (let alone prove it) then we are truly though the Looking Glass and down the rabbit hole.

Sentence first – verdict afterward!

This is incredibly un-American. And incredibly dangerous. Whether it’s a putative “terrorist” or a business the government says it thinks may be doing something illegal (as opposed to something it doesn’t like, such as selling firearms or ammo) the government should be obliged to prove specific criminal wrongdoing or at least adduce tangible evidence so suggesting before it has the legal authority to apply pressure.

Much less levy punishment.

A bill on the floor of the House – there will be a vote on it next week – would do just that by breaking the choke hold of Operation Chokepoint. It is H.R. 766, sponsored by Missouri Rep. Blaine Luetkemeyer and Texas Rep. Jeb Hensarling.

Specifically, the bill’s language would henceforth require that federal bank regulators produce what amounts to specific probable cause of wrongdoing – “material reason” – before they have legal authority to pressure any bank to terminate its relationship with a business. Political animus, whim and various other inscrutable criteria would no longer cut the proverbial mustard.

This is a must-do for Congress if the rule of law is to retain any meaning, as opposed to the rule of whomever controls the laws.

It’s not merely a question of reigning in the Obama administration, either.

Pernicious precedents established by one administration (e.g., the Bush administration) are commonly used as pretexts for future abuses by subsequent administrations.

While it it important to take the Obama administration’s hands off the throats of American businesses, it’s perhaps even more important to establish in law that future presidents and future administrations never get their hands on anyone’s throat to begin with.