We might as well call NPR National Propaganda Radio, not National Public Radio. Have you noticed the nature of their coverage of the ACA lately, as we approached the March 31 enrollment deadline? First of all, it was one of their lead stories again and again, almost as if they had signed up be part of the White House’s propaganda machine. As we approached the deadline, they kept asking, will they make it? Will they make it to seven million? Then, on the big day: “Yes! They made it!! Despite all the technical troubles, all the naysayers, opponents, stubborn states, Republicans, and everyone else who doesn’t like change that’s good for them, they made it. Good for you!”
Let’s hear it for Team Blue. They found a way to make the country eat its spinach.
Is that a 1984ish image or what? We all stand together under the Great Leader’s halo.
NPR wasn’t the only participant in this cheerleading charade, of course. As Putin annexes Crimea, and savage civil conflict from Libya to Pakistan threatens millions, the discussion here at home is whether the ACA will make its enrollment target or not. If the enrollment figure is greater than seven million, the Democrats claim success. If the enrollment figure is less than seven million, the ACA’s opponents can say the reform effort failed. How can we let government marketing lure us into this reductionist assessment of ACA’s implementation? You know in advance that Team Blue will put the ball across the goal line in the end. Team Red will have to hang their heads, humiliated again.
What we are witnessing here is not only government propaganda overtaking our national media. That has been happening for some time. We are also witnessing a national tragedy, and a national perversion. We are witnessing coercion of seven million people to purchase an expensive contract they would not otherwise have purchased. When it’s time for all those individuals who did not enroll to pay their fines, we’ll watch government extend its coercive efforts to their sorry rear ends as well. How can we let cheerleading for the home team – that is, the team in the White House – obscure what is right in front of us?
When we say that the ACA coerced seven million people into buying an expensive insurance contract, people who favor the legislation can draw us into a numbers argument quite quickly. We don’t know how many of the seven million were previously uninsured, or how many decided to trade existing contracts for a better deal on the exchanges. We don’t know what proportion of the seven million bought a contract on the exchanges because of the penalty attached if they did not. Everyone’s situation is different. Consequently the extent of coercion is hard to measure.
The ACA’s key provision, however, is the individual mandate. Its key goal has never been vague: reduce the number of people not covered, by imposing a penalty for refusal to purchase. This type of coercion is wrong, even if the the Supreme Court says the penalty is nothing but a tax. Taxes are imposed on all of us, to fund activities we agree we want to fund. You cannot enact a tax whose sole purpose is to force citizens to do something they would not do, if left free to decide for themselves.
If government can take my money for that reason, it can take my property for any purpose whatever. If the ACA and the Supreme Court hold that a fine is a tax, in a case so central to our lives, then without any trek into absurdity, all fines are taxes, and all taxes are fines. Think what has happened here. If the government doesn’t like what you are doing, or what you are not doing, it can place a levy on your property, and call it a tax if it likes. It does not have to call you into court, or follow any of the other strictures of due process. It can simply take your property, via the Internal Revenue Service, because you have broken one of its rules. Read the Bill of Rights, and ask yourself if this practice is consistent with any of the limitations on governmental power you see written there.
The ACA’s impact on freedom holds the act’s true significance. We have to stop counting enrollees. National Propaganda Radio and the White House may be clever in their cheerleading campaign, but they’re not that clever. We have to stop our impulse to analyze the ACA according to the numbers, as if the numbers tell the story. The more people who purchase insurance under the ACA’s compulsion, the greater the indictment of the act. This act has to go. We have to find some way to advance its self-destruction. We must not let it stand, any more than the country could let the Dred Scott decision stand over one hundred fifty years ago.
That decision split hairs to show how a free man was actually a slave. The ACA takes every free citizen of this republic and says to that person: you will do this thing, or you will pay. Think of how significant that is. The government will fine you, not for committing a crime, but for declining to so something you don’t care to do. That is slavery, and if we don’t recognize it as such, we have lost our sense of what freedom entails.