Contrasting the shutdown to the rollout
Obamacare punishes not hundreds, but millions
Here is a quick pop quiz. Which presented more harm to human life and personal freedom: the 16-day partial shutdown of the federal government last month or the rollout of Obamacare this month? Obamacare is the greatest single expansion of federal regulatory authority in American history. In one stroke, it puts 16 percent of American economic activity — virtually all of health care and health insurance — under the thumb of federal bureaucrats. It dictates the minimum insurance coverage that everyone in the United States must have.
It punishes severely, without a hearing, anyone who deviates below the prescribed minimum. It forces nearly all Americans to acquire coverage in a one-size-fits-all policy, including coverage for events that cannot occur.
Obamacare was passed by both houses of Congress with support from Democrats only, using parliamentary tricks, rather than straight up-or-down votes. All the Democrats voted for it after President Obama promised them and the American people ad nauseam that if they like their current doctor and if they like their current health insurance, they would be able to keep them under Obamacare.
The law was found constitutional by the Supreme Court only after the chief justice — who acknowledged in his opinion in the case that Congress lacks the authority to compel people to engage in interstate commerce by
Morocco’s King Mohammed VI arrives in Washington this Thursday, and since he has made clear his interest in deepening the U.S.-Moroccan relationship, he will likely be received by President Obama. He will emphasize issues on which the United States and Morocco agree, but he should also be prepared to deal with issues on which his country and policies are squarely at odds with American values and interests. Namely, these are ongoing human rights abuses and the status of the Western Sahara, both of which are currently contributing to instability in the region.
It is far from certain, however, whether Mr. Obama will even raise these issues during their meeting. If the meeting with the king concludes without the president raising them, his failure to do so will be taken as U.S. approval of Morocco’s policies.
Freedom House, in the watchdog group’s most recent annual report, ranked Western Sahara with the “Worst of the Worst.” In terms of political, civil rights and humanitarian abuse, this puts the kingdom in the same category as North Korea, Somalia, Sudan, China for its mistreatment of occupied Tibetan people, and Syria for its ongoing abuse of its own people.
Morocco talks about reform, but continues to jail dissidents. Most recently, for example, the king’s security forces arrested Ali Anouzla, one of Morocco’s foremost journalists and a critic of the king.
Morocco’s continuing occupation of the Western Sahara and mistreatment of those living there — in spite of international and United Nations’ insistence that the people of the region be given a right to vote on their status — is of even greater significance. When Spain left what had been known in colonial times as the Spanish Sahara in 1975, Morocco seized it and has occupied it ever since. The U.N. recognizes Western Sahara as a “non-self-governing territory,” and many simply call it the “last colony of Africa.” The African Union has refused to allow the annexation of Western Sahara to be a hurdle to Sahawaris’ participation in African affairs, and has made Western Sahara a full member of the union.
Western Sahara’s status has not been fully forgotten by the international community, though. Christopher Ross, a former U.S. ambassador to Algeria and Syria, is now serving as the U.N. secretarygeneral’s special envoy and has been engaged in active “shuttle diplomacy” in an effort to help resolve this long-standing dispute. Former Secretary of State James A. Baker preceded Mr. Ross in this effort, but neither have made much progress — and won’t — until and unless the president makes clear that the United States wants it resolved. forcing them to purchase a good they don’t want — changed his mind on the ultimate outcome of the challenge. In order to save the law from imminent constitutional extinction, he created a novel legal theory, and he persuaded the four progressives on the court to join him.
They ruled that the punishment for the failure to obtain the level of health care coverage that the law requires is actually a tax. Then the court ruled that because Congress can constitutionally tax any event, it can tax nonevents (like the failure to purchase health insurance), and so the entire scheme is constitutional because it is really just a tax law.
The Supreme Court, lawyers sometimes say, is infallible because it is final; it is not final because it is infallible. I am a student of the court, and I revere it. It can change the laws of the land, but it can’t change the laws of economics. When Obamacare ordered all insurance carriers in the land to cease offering health care plans that provide insurance coverage below the federally mandated minimum, they naturally began to cancel those plans. When the new health care exchanges that Obamacare established failed to find coverage for those formerly insured by the substandard plans, those who had these plans and liked them suddenly were told that on Jan. 1, 2014, when Obamacare becomes effective, they will have no health insurance. The old insurance coverage will be illegal, and there is no new coverage for them.
Why were these substandard plans canceled when the president repeatedly promised that they could be kept? Didn’t the president know that he was not being truthful when he signed a bill into law that mandated minimum coverage, yet promised that plans that failed to meet that minimum coverage could survive the law? How is it that emails from the West Wing to the White House and legal briefs filed by the Department of Justice defending Obamacare in various federal courts acknowledged that millions would lose the doctors and the coverage that they liked?
One of the reasons many Americans had their policies canceled this month is the failure of those policies to conform to the new federal minimum requirements. At the heart and soul
Mr. Obama should make it clear to the king that he agrees with the U.N. that the status of the Western Sahara should be decided by referendum. The U.N. established a peacekeeping mission in 1991 to support just such a referendum, aptly called the U.N. Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara, but the referendum has yet to take place.
Most such U.N. missions include a human rights monitoring component, but this one does not. The United States sought to challenge this anomaly last spring at the United Nations, but backed down of Obamacare is the power of bureaucrats to tell everyone what coverage to have. At the core of Obamacare is the removal of individual choice from the decision to purchase health care coverage. The goal of Obamacare is highend coverage for everyone — brought about by Soviet-style central planning, not in response to free-market forces.
From the perspective of the central planners who concocted Obamacare, minimum insurance coverage is the sine qua non of the statute. They want you to pay for coverage you will not need or ever use, so that the insurance carriers when Morocco objected. Instead of agreeing to let the people of the region determine their own future, the king has offered what he calls “autonomy” to the Western Sahara. The irony of offering “autonomy” to a group of people living in an area seized and held by military force is hard to miss. America’s Founders would likely not have accepted such an offer of “autonomy” within the British Empire in 1776, and the Western Saharan people don’t want such an arrangement today. They want their country back.
In his 2009 speech in Cairo, Mr. Obama warned that we should not “ignore sources of tension, [rather] … we must finally confront together,” and went on to outline four issues, including democracy, that must remain at the heart of the dialogue between the United States and countries in the Middle East. He eloquently argued that government actions must reflect the will of its people, noting how people yearn for freedom of expression, rule of law and transparent governance. He argued that these are not only American but international values, and that governments that protect these rights are “more stable, successful and secure.”
If he meant what he said back then, Mr. Obama should ask that the Moroccan king support the U.N.-led process and agree to a deadline — preferably in early 2014 — to bring this occupation to an end. He should also insist that the king order the release of all political prisoners, immediately.
We should welcome the king’s visit. Morocco is a friend and ally of the United States, but that friendship should not come at the price of a requirement that we ignore our values or remain silent in the face of even a friendly nation’s violations of human rights. In a mature relationship between allies, the king must expect the president of the United States to raise these questions, and the president should do so.
Mr. Obama has spoken out in favor of democracy and human rights, but now he has a real chance to demonstrate that he means what he says. will have extra cash on hand to fund coverage for those who cannot afford high-end policies. This is where the laws of economics enter. By forcing all carriers to offer only high-end policies, the statute forced the carriers to raise their rates. By raising rates, the substandard policies — with their lower rates — could no longer be offered. If the government forced everyone to buy a Mercedes when most are perfectly happy with an Acura, soon the Acuras would disappear from the market, and most of us would be walking to work.
Now back to our pop quiz. When Congress was unable to agree on a budget for this current fiscal year because Tea Party Republicans saw this mess coming and wanted to dull its sting, and congressional Democrats refused to negotiate with them, the federal government partially shut down. The Democrats and the mainstream media went wild. They claimed the government would default on its obligations and that millions would suffer without the conveniences normally offered by the federal government. Yet, the only inconvenience we really heard about was the inability of a few hundred folks to visit federal parks and monuments. All federal services — defense, the courts, the airports, customs and meat inspectors — continued to operate the same as before the shutdown.
Yet, when Obamacare was rolled out earlier this month, more than 5.5 million innocent Americans lost their health insurance. The president knew of this in advance and lied about it repeatedly, and caused it with the one-size-fits-all mentality of his signature piece of legislation. Last week, he caved and said that folks who have the old substandard policies could keep them for another year. This was too little and too late. He can no more change federal law than he can change the laws of economics, and he knows that.
In modern times, we have endured great lies told in the White House. One great lie was about a third-rate burglary, and it ended in a presidential resignation. Another great lie was about a private sexual affair, and it ended in a presidential impeachment. The current great lies are about the health and freedom of 5.5 million Americans. How will this mess end?
Nan A. Talese/Doubleday, $27.95, 299 pages
During a business conference in Krakow in 2002, Paul Glaser, a Dutch businessman, reluctantly joined his colleagues in a visit to the Auschwitz concentration camp. In a display of confiscated luggage, “a large brown suitcase . . . glued [him] to the spot.” The suitcase was from the Netherlands and the label attached read “Glaser” in large letters. The suitcase gave Mr. Glaser the impetus to reveal his family’s secret, that his origins were Jewish and that his aunt, Rosie, had led one of the most extraordinary lives of the 20th century.
Paul Glaser had grown up as a strict Catholic. He knew his mother came from a Catholic family, but about his father’s background he knew nothing. His research ultimately led him to Sweden and his father’s sister, Rosa Glaser.
Rosie was born in 1914 of Dutch parents in the German town of Cleves near the Dutch border. Rosie knew she was Jewish, but she and her younger brother, John, grew up in a secular household. She was pretty, independent, lively and passionate about dance. By the time she was 25, she had taught ballroom dancing all over Europe and had an active love life.
Rosie’s first love was killed in a plane crash; she married (and divorced) Leo, the owner of the dancing school where she taught; she had an affair with a charming, irresponsible young man and, by 1942, she was engaged to a Swiss businessman she met in one of her classes.
After the Germans marched into the Netherlands, Jews were no longer allowed “to eat in restaurants, visit hotels, go to the cinema, walk along the beach, take a stroll in the park” or to travel. Rosie refused to wear the yellow star identifying her as a Jew, or to honor the new restrictions. Forced to give up the dancing school she had started after her separation from Leo, she opened a secret school in her parents’ attic.
She was betrayed twice, once by her ex-husband and once by her lover, and sent to prison and to two concentration camps in Holland. Thanks to her straightforward nature, her ability to dance and sing for prisoners and guards, and her fluent German, she worked as a nurse, secretary and model for garments made by inmates for potential buyers. She seduced the Dutch SS officer in charge of prisoners’ destinies at Camp Westerbork and spent “relaxed and cozy evenings” with him.
Rosie was deported to Auschwitz in 1943, where she was assigned to the Experiment Barracks. After undergoing a series of medical experiments, including painful sterilization and typhoid injections, she refused to volunteer for further experiments. She was sent to Birkenau extermination camp “to accompany and reassure the prisoners before they went for a so-called shower” and then “to drag the still warm-corpses outside.”
After six weeks, she marched up to the group leader and spoke to him in German, telling him she wanted to be transferred to the factory where shells and grenades were manufactured.
Her luck held out; she soon was given an administrative job in the factory’s office.
Rosie offered to play the piano and dance for the SS officers’ evening get-togethers. She suggested teaching the officers the latest dance steps and became her boss’ mistress, “a little love in the midst of despair, in that factory of death, that demonic enterprise.”
Rosie survived Birkenau and the death march west away from the advancing Russian army. She was rescued by the Swedish Red Cross, married a Swede and started a new life, disgusted by the way she and her family had been treated by the Dutch, noting that the “proportion of Jews murdered in the Netherlands was higher than in any of its neighboring countries, including Germany. . . . I was unlucky not because I had been born Jewish, but because I had been born Dutch.”
Paul, who “had always thought there had been much resistance during the war, that the Dutch government had done as much as possible for its oppressed citizens,” was shocked to discover that “many of my fellow citizens participated and profited. There was more betrayal than resistance.”
In writing “Dancing with the Enemy,” Mr. Glaser’s sources were Rosie’s diary, her letters, photos and old films, and a variety of other documents, including poems, songs and official reports from the Dutch State Police. He interviewed his mother, cousins and Rosie herself. The book is divided into chapters alternating between first-person accounts by Rosie of her life and by Paul as he uncovers his Jewish background. Unfortunately, the writing in “Dancing with the Enemy” is not as good as the riveting story. Rosie’s and Paul’s voices are not distinct. Without a bibliography, it’s impossible to tell what is authentic and what is the author’s interpretation of his source materials. No translator is given credit for the English version.
What is undeniable, however, is Rosie’s fearless strength in facing her fate and her refusal to become a victim. She refers little to the brutality she encountered, but frequently mentions the little kindnesses extended by the Germans. The will to survive is powerful indeed.