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Posted at 6:45 PM ET, 01/ 7/2011

When opposition to health-care reform stops being polite and starts getting scary

By Ezra Klein


In the Wyoming state legislature, 10 congressmen and three senators have co-sponsored "The Health Care Choice and Protection Act." The intent? To make it a felony to implement the health-care reform law -- which is, you'll remember, the official law of the land. Here's the relevant bit:

Enforcement of federal laws prohibited; offenses and penalties.

Any official, agent, employee or public servant of the state of Wyoming as defined in W.S. 6-5-101, who enforces or attempts to enforce an act, order, law, statute, rule or regulation of the government of the United States in violation of this article shall be guilty of a felony punishable by a fine of not more than five thousand dollars ($5,000.00), imprisonment in the county jail for not more than two (2) years, or both.

Any official, agent or employee of the United States government or any employee of a corporation providing services to the United States government that enforces or attempts to enforce an act, order, law, statute, rule or regulation of the government of the United States in violation of this article shall be guilty of a felony punishable by imprisonment for not more than five (5) years, a fine of not more than five thousand dollars ($5,000.00), or both.

There's not much use in worrying about something like this as it wouldn't survive two seconds in a court of law. But the sentiments are worth considering: The argument is that this legislation isn't just policy that the authors disagree with, but rather a deeply, profoundly, un-American threat to liberty. It's so un-American, in fact, that a plain reading of the Constitution makes clear that the Wyoming legislature, which has sworn to protect and defend the document, must "adopt and enact any and all measures as may be necessary within the borders of Wyoming to prevent the enforcement of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act and the Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act of 2010."

Many of my friends on the right have legitimate technocratic differences with the Affordable Care Act. But many of the politicians they've stood with have not made a legitimate case against the bill. Rather, they've taken a bill that echoes past legislation Republicans have introduced and called it, as Sen. Jon Kyl did, "a stunning threat to liberty." They've told their supporters, as Sen, Chuck Grassley did, that they're right to fear that the health-care bill "determines if you're going to pull the plug on grandma." This is not merely legislation that they have some technical or philosophical disagreements with. It is, in the words of Speaker John Boehner, "a monstrosity."

Given the extremism of the rhetoric at the top, is it any wonder that there is incredible fear trickling down to the grass roots? If those are the stakes, then of course criminalizing any implementation of the bill makes sense. Frankly, if those are the stakes, then violent resistance might be required.

Those aren't the stakes, of course. They're just the words. And words slip sometimes. Things come out too angry, or too quickly, or too sharply. I've had my share of experience with this. But words matter. And the Republican Party hasn't been slipping up: It's been engaged in a concerted campaign to scare the population into opposing health-care reform. That may be good politics, but it can have bad consequences.

Photo credit: Melina Mara/Washington Post.

By Ezra Klein  | January 7, 2011; 6:45 PM ET
Categories:  Health Reform  
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Next: Reconciliation


Those that forget the past are doomed to repeat it:

Posted by: ctown_woody | January 7, 2011 7:19 PM | Report abuse

Too bad Hunter Thompson is no longer around.

Posted by: agoldhammer | January 7, 2011 7:42 PM | Report abuse

The right just can't help themselves.

Like Pat Buchanan preaching about the social conservative revolution that led to one downfall of the GOP, and Newt Gingrich shutting down government that led to another.

They are going to over reach, again, and will pay the price in November, 2012.

The Hill has a good piece today on the alleged government takeover of healthcare,

Posted by: gschwartz1 | January 7, 2011 7:48 PM | Report abuse

I'm a cynical person so this does not frighten me nor do I find this dangerous at all. But progressives and liberals should be learning a lesson here. Our opponents are capable of being very cruel in their rhetoric and have a significant following. One wonders, then, why we care so much to help the very people who engage in this sort of behavior and support GOP candidates. It's time to stop pretending that Americans are worthy of sympathy and charity. They aren't. /cynicism.

Posted by: Neal3 | January 7, 2011 8:07 PM | Report abuse

These Wyoming legislators are so determined to defend the constitution that they'll violate the supremacy clause to do it?

If somebody wrote this into a comedy sketch about right-wing whackjobs, it wouldn't play because it would be too over-the-top.

Posted by: nikkiru | January 7, 2011 8:24 PM | Report abuse

They love the Constitution, minus the embarrassing racial parts but plus the completely crazy new legal theories they just made up.

Posted by: NS12345 | January 7, 2011 8:55 PM | Report abuse

By the way, I wonder how Wyoming's health insurance exchange and Medicaid expansion is going to look...

Posted by: NS12345 | January 7, 2011 9:08 PM | Report abuse

These folks also seem to forget that the Founders state right in the Preamble that the Constitution was established to promote the general Welfare, and later on Congress is given the power to promote that Welfare. For me, nothing is more important to my own general Welfare than access to health care.

I'm curious why there hasn't been a lawsuit filed by citizens of these states against their own state officials on the grounds that attempts to repeal the ACA will deny them of their own constitutional right to general Welfare, in the form of access to health care .

Posted by: lesgoog | January 7, 2011 9:13 PM | Report abuse


In this post you write, "that a plain reading of the Constitution makes clear ...". But according to you, there can never be a plain reading of the Constitution, and it is never clear, because the document is like 100 years old or something.

And if your concern is rhetoric, perhaps you should reconsider using the phrases "opposition to health-care reform" (for those who simply disagree with the Obama/Journolist version of health care reform), "scary," "unAmerican," and "concerted campaign to scare the population." Be the man you're calling Republicans to be.

Posted by: NathanBenefield | January 7, 2011 10:09 PM | Report abuse


"there can never be a plain reading of the Constitution, and it is never clear, because the document is like 100 years old or something."

Please, tell me you're doing a parody of some vacuous know-it-all who slept through civics class.

Posted by: nikkiru | January 7, 2011 10:28 PM | Report abuse

So, Mr. Klein... does this mean it's ok for Arizona law enforcement officials to start enforcing federal immigration law?

You liberals care to get on the same sheet of music?

Posted by: jwvansteenwyk | January 7, 2011 11:03 PM | Report abuse

Sure these people are nuts, sure they make no sense, sure they are being enticed by overheated, irrational rhetoric.

The country has lost it's collective mind. That's a bigger problem than any given policy.

Posted by: LosGatosCA | January 8, 2011 1:11 AM | Report abuse

Let's see. Gallup has 46% of Americans in favor of repeal and a teenage wasteland inhabitant like Ezra Klein says that's nasty? What an ignorant little crock and since when doesn't a plurality have any meaning---even if it goes against the statist socialist morons posting on this thread?

Posted by: djman1141 | January 8, 2011 1:37 AM | Report abuse

You do your best to keep your children healthy, but sickness and accidents are a part of life. Getting health insurance for your children gives you peace of mind knowing they have health coverage when they need it. Search one the web "Wise Health Insurance" for kids they are the best.

Posted by: jeremytaylore | January 8, 2011 3:04 AM | Report abuse

I could never understand why major newspapers employ immature little pantywaist pundits who have never worked a real day in their lives and would not have the first idea how to survive had they ever needed to make it on their own.

Posted by: drjohn3 | January 8, 2011 10:11 AM | Report abuse

To djman1141. You state that 46% want to repeal healthcre based on the gallop poll. That would mean 54% want the healthcare plan. Other than in the US Senate, that would be the majority. What you also overlook in these polls, which most of the Koch Tea partyiers tend to do, is that of the 46% who want to repeal healthcare, 13% want it repealed because they want a stronger single payer option.
Also, we are already a socialistic country. When Social Security was being debated, the richest 1% and those that they convinced to fight against their best interests stated that if social security passed, we would slide right into socialism. When medicare was being debated, the richest 1% and those that they convinced to fight against their own best interest that if it passed, we would slide right into socialism. When enacting a minimum wage law, the richest 1% and those that they convinced to fight against their own best interest that if a minimum wage law passed, we would slide right into socialism. You know what djman? We didn't. And we won't. Also, the non-partisan congressional budjet office crunched the numbers and came out the new healthcare would bring down the deficit by 143 billion dollars in 10 years. Repealing it would add 230 billion ove the same 10 years. And I thought bringing down the deficit was a top priority to the Tea party?
When I hear on the news that all the tea party members have ripped up their Social security check and their medicare cards or sign a document that they will never accept those "evil socialistic government handouts", then I will listen to your rhetoric.

Posted by: miller415 | January 8, 2011 10:21 AM | Report abuse

I seem to recall multiple years of law school spent working through the finer point of the Constitution's Supremacy Clause and preemption doctrine, but apparently we just needed to cite jwvansteenwyk and NathanBenefield.

Federal laws preempt state laws that contradict them. That means states can't flat out say "we're going to make it a crime to follow this federal law." At least not without seceding. On the other hand, states can't take it upon themselves to enforce federal law in ways the federal government doesn't want to.

States are allowed to do more than the federal government, although there's a lot of debate and litigation over where that crosses over into being "contradictory." But that's the kind of stuff lawyers and judges will fight about -- nothing about it is obvious.

One bone to throw here -- I remember liberals also being excited about these kinds of laws when blue states were passing them in response to the PATRIOT Act. They were just as illegal then.

Posted by: NS12345 | January 8, 2011 10:27 AM | Report abuse

drjohn3, didn't know the silver spoon heir Tucker Carlson worked for the Washington Post? Or are you talking about columnist like George Will? Please be clearer when talking about columnist that never worked a day in their life.

Also, I didn't know columnist did not receive a paycheck!

Hey, Ez, did you marry an heiress or something? Don't tell me your married to Tucker Carlson's sister or Liz Cheney? Now if it was one of the Bush twins....

Posted by: miller415 | January 8, 2011 10:40 AM | Report abuse

Ezra, you obviously haven't been paying attention. Leftists are the perpetrators of violence to achieve their goals.

"Any means necessary" + "Ends justify means" = Lefty justification for violence

Posted by: soma_king | January 8, 2011 12:42 PM | Report abuse

Cheney might lose some of his health benefits.

Need I say more?

Posted by: BillfromNY | January 8, 2011 1:46 PM | Report abuse

This, indeed, isn't a slip. It's part of McConnell's fundamental incite into politics. In general, people don't have complex theories about policy, they do have broad heuristic notions and significant tribal partisan loyalities.

The Republicans take it has their mission to play on those more diffuse notions as strongly as possible in order to move latent sympathizers into active opposition. Hence they rely on extreme language and symbols. Their problem is that it leaves them no technocratic grounds for compromise, and makes forming any coherent post 18th century agenda very difficult. But the latter is a problem for the 2012 nominee to worry about.

Posted by: sfmandrew | January 8, 2011 3:31 PM | Report abuse

--*When opposition to health-care reform stops being polite and starts getting scary*--

You must be talking about the moment when, after I've refused to comply with the government "mandate" to buy health insurance, and after I've refused to comply with IRS notices pertaining to penalties following my refusal to comply with said government edicts, the police come knocking on my door.

Is that what you're talking about, Klein?

Posted by: msoja | January 8, 2011 4:15 PM | Report abuse

This is not new. In May the New Hampshire legislature voted down a similar bill making it a felony to enforce the ACA.

The margin was 121 for the bill and 182 against. I don't know the exact partisan makeup of that vote, but there were 174 Republicans in the house at the time, so it's safe to conclude that most of them voted for the bill.

Personally I'd like to hear why voting for such a bill doesn't count as levying war against the United States. We have gone too long without facing up to the dangerously radical nature of too much GOP opposition to Democratic policies.

Posted by: goaway5 | January 8, 2011 4:29 PM | Report abuse

Sadly, this was way too prescient.

Posted by: nolo93 | January 8, 2011 4:34 PM | Report abuse

Sadly, this was way too prescient.

Posted by: nolo93 | January 8, 2011 4:35 PM | Report abuse

Gvmt officials shot dead today.

It is time for the Palin's and Beck's to shut up and put a stop to anti gvmt rhetoric.

Posted by: lauren2010 | January 8, 2011 5:15 PM | Report abuse

--*It is time for the Palin's and Beck's to shut up and put a stop to anti gvmt rhetoric.*--

As usual, you don't know what you're talking about.

Posted by: msoja | January 8, 2011 7:43 PM | Report abuse

True or False:
1. Health-care individual mandate is not a tax as asserted by Obama.
2. Health-care reform reduces costs and the federal deficits, in Obama’s parlance.
3. Health-care reform 10 year accounting layout uses 10 years of taxes to fund six years of subsidies, is more honest than the standard business accounting and makes the SEC proud and American businesses shameful of their lax accounting standards.
4. In Health-care reform, Social Security and Medicare revenues are double-counted to the tune of $398 billion.
5. In Health-care reform, a new program funding long-term care frontloads taxes but backloads spending, gradually going broke by design.
6. Health-care reform law presumes that Congress will spend less on Medicare than it really will, in particular through an automatic 25% cut to physician payments that Democrats have already voted not to allow for this year.
7. Passed Health-care reform “will not cost a dime”, in President Obama’s parlance.
8. An Obama fan, Warren Buffett, said Senate Health-care bill was better than nothing, but still was a failure because the country needs to control Health-care cost curve down, and the Health-care bill didn't do it. Buffett advised to start over and get it right with a bill that says "we're just going to focus on costs and we're not going to dream up 2,000 pages of other things."
9. Health-care reform is so good that several states negotiated and received special exemptions and now colleges, including American Council on Education and 23 big companies, likeMcDonald’s, which asked federal regulators for a blanket Health-care reform waiver.
10. Major parts of Health-care reform is modeled after the much Obama-touted 2006 Massachusetts Health-Care plan which now shows runaway spending, price controls, even limits on care and medical licensing. Health care spending increased from 16 percent of the state budget (in 1990), to 22 percent (in 2000) and to 35 percent (in 2010 after 2006 Health-Care plan). Around 90 percent of the spending is for Medicaid.
11. Unable to control health care costs. Massachusetts Gov. Patrick ordered the rejection of premium increases for small employers (50 workers or fewer) and individuals but the insurers appealed and hearing examiners ruled the rejection illegal. State Government has now settled with one insurer allowing premium increases and more settlements are expected.
12. Senator Chuck Grassley co-sponsored an individual mandate in June 2009 then condemned it as unconstitutional a few months later
13. Senator Obama attacked Senator Clinton's Individual mandate in Ohio 2008: "The main difference between my plan and Senator Clinton's pla is that she'd require the government to force you to buy health insurance and she said she'd 'go after' your wages if you don't" but in 2009 Delivery Address to a Joint Session of Congress on Health Care: “…That’s why under my plan, individuals will be required to carry basic health insurance..."

Posted by: sun127 | January 8, 2011 8:47 PM | Report abuse

Ezra, where was the out raged about the Corn Husker Kick Back, or the Louisiana Purchase? How about the exclusions that are now be gifted to those that pay, sorry support this administration? The sleaze, back door dealings, intimidation and all of the rest of the Chicago style politics brought to Washington used to cram Obamacare down the protesting throat of the Nation are to be admired?

Obamacare is just the latest power grab by the Democratic Progressive Union Socialist Communist Party. Come 2012 with a new Senate and President we can repeal Obaminationcare.

Posted by: Bubbette1 | January 8, 2011 9:12 PM | Report abuse

Republicans had to shut down their show for a week. They wanted another ratcheting of the fringe. Had their propaganda all set to go on Fox News Propaganda.

Posted by: mikeVA1 | January 9, 2011 12:25 AM | Report abuse

This is also treason. Why did they not simply vote to secede from the Union? This is one of those welfare states that receives massive transfer payments from the federal government. Can't wait to see the federal government cut them off.

As far as change is concerned, when a black liberal from Chicago runs on a platform of "Change" and gets elected with 53% of the vote and also sweeps the House and Senate - how is it not following the people's will when he told you all that health care reform was his top priority. The problem here is not government but the imbecile voters in this country who elect the idiot politicians and other clowns to run the show.

Posted by: vududoctor | January 9, 2011 9:41 AM | Report abuse

Ok, to all of you pundits out there whom none live in WY and based on your comments know nothing about us. I am in the state legislature and this one is going to be DOA.

Mr. Klien, come visit sometime we are all not 'wing-nuts'. As for the rest of you; when you flip on that light switch and the light does come on. Just think of that as: “we still like the rest of you.”

Posted by: digitalmotorhead | January 9, 2011 8:44 PM | Report abuse

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