THE PLANK NOVEMBER 23, 2009
One of the most fascinating aspects of the health-care reform debate are the creative, highly targeted arguments that outside groups are marshalling to try and kill it. My current favorite is from the Gun Owners of America. (If you think the NRA is a bunch of accommodationist wusses, this group's for you.) Saturday, the organization issued a warning to its members, featuring this motivational bit:
Of course, all this increased spending – and taxes – means that you will have less money to spend on pursuing your real passions: like providing for your family and purchasing guns and ammunition!
The mandates in the legislation will most likely dump your gun-related health data into a government database that was created in section 13001 of the stimulus bill. This includes any firearms-related information your doctor has gleaned... or any determination of PTSD, or something similar, that can preclude you from owning firearms.
And, the special "wellness and prevention" programs (inserted by Section 1001 of the bill as part of a new Section 2717 in the Public Health Services Act) would allow the government to offer lower premiums to employers who bribe their employees to live healthier lifestyles – and nothing within the bill would prohibit rabidly anti-gun HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius from decreeing that "no guns" is somehow healthier.
(Please note that the ellipses in the second paragraph are theirs, not mine. Far be it from me to leave out any of these rhetorical nuggets.)
Let's break this call to arms down into its two primary parts:
1. GOA pulls the common stunt of dragging an outlandish hypothetical straight from the fevered dreams of Ron Paul and spinning it as a perfectly reasonable, intended outcome of reform. Yes, there is (to my knowledge) nothing in this bill that specifically prohibits Sebelius from declaring non-gun-ownership to be an indicator of good health. There is also nothing in the bill that specifically prohibits her from donning a diamond tiara and declaring herself Queen of Festivus. Of the two, however, only the no-guns-equal-wellness maneuver would be tantamount to political suicide for Sebelius's entire party.
2. GOA is also apoplectic over the possibility that, post-reform, the government's health-care database will "most likely" make it easier to prevent people with grave psychological problems from owning firearms.
Let's set aside for a moment whether this kind of mass-scale coordination is remotely feasible, much less "likely," and just allow GOA's basic objection to sink in: As the group sees it, that whole seriously-mentally-ill-people-shouldn't-own-guns crap is precisely the sort of jack-booted thuggery that threatens the very fiber of this great nation. The only thing that makes such fascism currently palatable is that the existing system is so easy to game. (Let's hear it for the gun-show loophole, people!) But if Obamacare passes, look out.
Say what you will about the level of public discourse in this debate; it's providing an illuminating glimpse into the psyches of some of reform's more colorful opponents.