Sunday, October 13, 2013
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I’ve noted before how our crowded media environment has led politicians to resort to wilder and wilder rhetoric and crazy hyperbole to try to draw attention to their side.
But I have to say, the current fight over the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare) has created some truly grade-A hysteria among its opponents, both on the right and the left.
For instance, Virginia gubernatorial candidate Ken Cuccinelli has been fond of using his stump speech to claim that the resistance of some states to implementing the Affordable Care Act is analogous to the states that refused to honor fugitive slave laws in the pre-Civil War period.
Venerable conservative George Will, whom I used to actually respect, parroted what has apparently been distributed via fax, text and email as the latest anti-Obamacare talking point.
“I hear Democrats say, ‘The Affordable Care Act is the law,’” he groused, “as though we’re supposed to genuflect at that sunburst of insight and move on. Well, the Fugitive Slave Act was the law, separate but equal was the law, lots of things are the law, and then we change them.”
New Hampshire State Rep. Bill O’Brien apparently got the memo, too. He called Obamacare “a law as destructive to personal and individual liberty as the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850, that allowed slave-owners to come to New Hampshire and seize African-Americans.”
To be fair, some on the left are as prone to overheated rhetoric over the ACA as those on the right. Michael Moore, for example, lambasted Obamacare because it didn’t ban the health insurance industry altogether and create a single payer system. “If you’re going to ban slavery,” he said, “ban slavery.”
Yes, because a law that keeps insurance companies from denying you coverage based on pre-existing conditions is exactly like a law requiring that human beings who achieved freedom be returned to owners who would most likely beat them half to death with a bullwhip before castrating them for running away.
And having to have health insurance is exactly like being forced to pick cotton from sunup to sundown, having your wives and daughters subject to rape, and living under constant fear of having your family broken up and sold to someone hundreds of miles away. It’s eerie how similar those two things are.
For some Republicans, however, comparing the ACA with slavery doesn’t create the horror they’re looking for. Nothing will do for them but to equate it with the Holocaust, because after all, nothing makes you look more reasonable and level-headed than the knee-jerk Hitler reference.
Ted Cruz, in his famous “Green Eggs and Ham” faux filibuster, compared Republicans who doubted the efficacy of his “defund Obamacare or we shut down the government” strategy to the European powers who rolled over for Hitler in the 1930s.
Yes, because creating an online health care marketplace where people can compare and contract different plans is exactly like forcing people into an unheated cattle car with no room to sit or lie down and no sanitary facilities and taking them hundreds of miles to a hellhole where they’ll be tattooed with numbers on their arms and either worked to death or herded into extermination chambers and asphyxiated en masse with Prussic acid. Those are entirely the same thing.
Here’s the thing about the health care system: You really can’t opt out of it. At some point, you’re going to get sick, and you will receive medical care. We don’t just let sick people die for lack of money, because despite the efforts of the Teahadists, we’re still a civilized country. And if you don’t have the means to pay for it, then the rest of us foot the bill.
While the ACA isn’t perfect, it is one means of making sure that more people have the ability to pay for the medical care they get. It was arrived at by grueling negotiation and multiple compromises, and it was found constitutional by the Supreme Court.
Equating it with slavery or the Holocaust makes you look like the kind of teenage drama queen for whom cleaning her room before she goes out is The End of Life As She Knows It.
Lose the tantrums and grow up.