New game plan: Pun­ish Oba­macare crit­ics

The Washington Times Weekly - - Commentary -

Shoot­ing the mes­sen­ger is a metaphor most Amer­i­cans are fa­mil­iar with, and it de­scribes the act of lash­ing out at the blame­less bearer of bad news. Wash­ing­ton Democrats, led by Rep. Henry A. Wax­man of Cal­i­for­nia, chair­man of the En­ergy and Com­merce Com­mit­tee, are gear­ing up to shoot any mes­sen­ger who dares speaks ill of Oba­macare — and the first tar­get is Amer­i­can busi­ness. Wash­ing­ton Democrats want the na­tion’s em­ploy­ers to stop alert­ing their work­ers, cus­tomers, share­hold­ers and the pub­lic at large to the fi­nan­cial im­pact of Pres­i­dent Obama’s new health care law — AT&T ($1 bil­lion), Deere & Co. ($150 mil­lion), Cater­pil­lar ($100 mil­lion), 3M ($90 mil­lion), AK Steel ($31 mil­lion) or Valero En­ergy (up to $20 mil­lion) — be­cause the truth is po­lit­i­cally in­con­ve­nient to Demo­cratic in­cum­bents and candidates try­ing to con­vince a skep­ti­cal Amer­i­can pub­lic that Oba­macare is right for them. But make no mis­take, th­ese hear­ings are noth­ing more than a po­lit­i­cal witch hunt de­signed to cover up the dam­age the Democrats’ takeover of health care will ren­der upon the Amer­i­can econ­omy.

Try­ing to in­tim­i­date and si­lence op­po­nents of their flawed health care “re­form” is not a new tac­tic, ei­ther. On Sept. 21, 2009, the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion’s Cen­ters for Medi­care & Med­i­caid Ser­vices (CMS) im­posed a gag or­der on all Medi­care Ad­van­tage and pre­scrip­tion drug plans, pro­hibit­ing them from com­mu­ni­cat­ing with se­niors about the pro­posed Medi­care cuts in health care re­form. The or­der was in re­sponse to a mailer sent out by Medi­care Ad­van­tage provider Hu­mana Inc. It seems the com­pany had the au­dac­ity to tell its cus­tomers that the $123 bil­lion in pro­posed cuts to Medi­care Ad­van­tage con­tained in the Se­nate Fi­nance Com­mit­tee’s ver­sion of health care re- form would likely re­sult in lower ben­e­fits and about 2.7 mil­lion peo­ple los­ing their Medi­care Ad­van­tage cov­er­age — for the record, the ac­tual cuts made to Medi­care Ad­van­tage by Oba­macare came in closer to $205 bil­lion. CMS deemed the in­for­ma­tion to be “mis­lead­ing” and “in­ac­cu­rate.” How­ever, af­ter an anal­y­sis by the non­par­ti­san Con­gres­sional Bud­get Of­fice and the in­de­pen­dent Medi­care Pay­ment Ad­vi­sory Com­mit­tee con­firmed Hu­mana’s facts, CMS was forced to re­scind its in­ap­pro­pri­ate and un­con­sti­tu­tional gag or­der. In­ex­pli­ca­bly, Mr. Wax­man has never seen fit to haul any­one from the ad­min­is­tra­tion be­fore his com­mit­tee to an­swer for what hap­pened.

The whole pur­pose, of course, of us­ing the “kill the mes­sen­ger” strat­egy — in the 1990s, the tac­tic was known as the pol­i­tics of per­sonal de­struc­tion — is to send a mes­sage of your own, namely, to speak the truth at your own peril. The Amer­i­can peo­ple should not be in­tim­i­dated. To para­phrase Jus­tice William Black­stone, the lib­erty of speech is es­sen­tial to the na­ture of a free state. In fact, James Madi­son’s orig­i­nal ver­sion of the Speech and Press clauses in the First Amend­ment, in­tro­duced in the House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives on June 8, 1789, was very clear; it said: “The peo­ple shall not be de­prived or abridged of their right to speak, to write, or to pub­lish their sen­ti­ments.” The ex­er­cise of this right is never more im­por­tant than at times when the gov­ern­ment pro­poses pro­found changes to our so­ci­ety, and I can­not think of a more pro­found change than plac­ing one-sixth of our econ­omy and the health care de­ci­sions of ev­ery Amer­i­can in the hands of the fed­eral gov­ern­ment.

The Amer­i­can peo­ple — and that in­cludes Amer­ica’s busi­ness leaders — have a right, an obli­ga­tion, to speak their minds on the health care “re­form” law, to speak the truth. My Demo­cratic col­leagues in the House swore an oath to pro­tect and de­fend this right, not to sti­fle it through threats and in­tim­i­da­tion. They should ad­here to that oath. As im­por­tant, as duly elected rep­re­sen­ta­tives of the peo­ple, they should lis­ten to what Amer­i­cans have been shout­ing for months — they do not want Oba­macare! Un­for­tu­nately, I do not hold out much hope. Lis­ten­ing to the Amer­i­can peo­ple is not some­thing the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion and con­gres­sional Democrats have shown much in­ter­est in do­ing. That doesn’t mean the Amer­i­can peo­ple should stop, though. Quite the op­po­site, the Amer­i­can peo­ple should keep shout­ing all the way to the bal­lot box in Novem­ber.

Rep. Dan Bur­ton of In­di­ana is the se­nior Repub­li­can on the House Com­mit­tee on Over­sight and Gov­ern­ment Re­form.

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