by Dr Ed Gutteling, MD
On the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin wall, it is a sad reflection on our own country that a new wall is being proposed to control our own citizens by force. Ridiculous, you say? I disagree. It is our own wall of shame.
In 1961, the infamous "Berliner Mauer" was put up to separate East and West Berlin. The officials of the Deutsche Demokratische Republik called it the "Antifaschistischer Schutzwall," the "anti-fascist protection wall," but in the usual authoritarian double-speak, it was not to protect the citizens of the DDR from external threats, it was to keep them from fleeing the workers' paradise for freer, greener pastures. West German Chancellor Willy Brandt called it the Wall of Shame.
Before its erection, 3.5 million people had avoided the emigration restrictions of the DDR and escaped to the west, approximately 20% of the entire East German population. By 1960, East Germany was left with only 61% of its population of working age, compared to 70.5% before the war. The loss was disproportionately heavy among professionals and skilled workers. This became so damaging to the political credibility and economic viability of East Germany that the re-securing of the German communist frontier was imperative.
The communists called these folks "traitors to the working class," who by abandoning the country were in essence both stealing from those left behind (by taking their skills elsewhere) and selfishly avoiding their duty to work for the benefit of the community. The death penalty was therefore justified. The workers' paradise must prevail, at any cost.
Even after its erection, around 5,000 people attempted to escape over the wall, with estimates of the resulting death toll varying between around 100 and 200. Such was the strong call of freedom.
In 1987, President Reagan gave his famous speech at the Brandenburg Gate, calling out "Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!" But the communist system was already unsustainable, and in 1989, the walls did come down, and freedom and individual liberty was restored to those citizens. In the USA, we also celebrate that day of freedom.
Why then is our government now trying to erect a state wall around its citizens, this time regarding health care? Ridiculous, you say? I am not making this up.
The recent bill that passed in the House is quite explicit about this. If it becomes law, the state will force everyone to buy health insurance or suffer a penalty.
As recorded by ABC News' Jake Tapper on November 9, President Obama said that penalties are appropriate for people who try to "free ride" the health care system.
"What I think is appropriate is that…if you have the ability to buy insurance, and you choose not to do so, forcing you and me and everybody else to subsidize you…there's nothing wrong with a penalty."
Without personal health insurance, one puts only oneself at risk, not others. But in the twisted doublespeak world of collectivists, in escaping from a government mandate one is burdening everyone else by refusing to contribute to their plan and "forcing" others to carry your load. Sounds a lot like Marxist "traitors to the working class."
A letter from the Federal Joint Commission on Taxation makes clear that Americans who do not maintain "acceptable health insurance coverage" and who choose not to pay the bill's new individual mandate tax (generally 2.5% of income) are subject to numerous civil and criminal penalties.
The bill describes the penalties as follows:
• Section 7203—misdemeanor willful failure to pay is punishable by a fine of up to $25,000 and/or imprisonment of up to one year.
• Section 7201—felony willful evasion is punishable by a fine of up to $250,000 and/or imprisonment of up to five years."
If one willfully does not comply, then by law the state can use force to compel you to pay. If you refuse, then the state can by force put you in prison behind walls for five years.
Health insurance will no longer be an individual choice any more, it will be a societal obligation, mandated by law and the threat of force from the state, and attempted escape will put you behind walls with armed guards keeping you there threatening deadly force if you try to leave. Think of it as our health care Berlin Wall.
That any US citizen should face prison for not buying health insurance is simply incredible, but that is what the House Democrats have passed, as endorsed by President Obama. They do not care about the damage to personal liberty, or even the damage to the economy. For the good of society, such sacrifices are necessary in order to move towards the ideal goal: universal state-mandated health coverage, whether you want it or not. The workers' paradise must prevail, at any cost.
Where are our courageous statesmen, our political leaders who will call out about this: "Mr. Obama, tear down this wall!"
Dr. Gutteling is one of the last endangered orthopedic surgeons left on the Big Island of Hawaii.