LePage’s “Gestapo” and Obamacare

Governor LePage’s radio address yesterday was far, far over the top.

In his prepared remarks, from a communications office with one new staff member and an internal promotion — the governor made numerous errors in characterizing Obamacare and the mandate. His tone, like others, was hyperbolic.

But LePage went further, comparing the bureau that administers the freeloader fee (for those who can afford to buy insurance but don’t) to the actions of the Nazi secret police.

Yes, my state’s governor called the IRS “the new Gestapo.”

It is hard to express how wrong that is.

For one, health care keeps people healthy and alive. Obviously, that was not the work of the Gestapo.

So many millions have their own stories about the Nazis.

My dear uncle Max (of blessed memory), a gentle and warm man, left Germany as a young man. He saw the Nazis rise to power and urged his family to leave. They thought they were safe and didn’t leave – and then were murdered in the death camps. My uncle spent the war working for the OSS and helped defeat the Nazis; later he became  a businessman who was respected in his community.

I have a cousin whose parents hid in the Polish woods during the war; she was born in a Displaced Persons camp. It is remarkable that they and she survived. Many others, from my mother’s side of the family, were shoved into open train cars and taken to concentration camps. The entire Jewish population of their town, Czestochowa, Poland, everyone from infants to the elderly, were killed.

What did the Gestapo do? As the U.S. Holocaust Museum explains:

Under Himmler and his deputy, Reinhard Heydrich, the SS centralized the German political police forces within a new agency, the Gestapo (Geheime Staatspolizei; secret state police). Together with a newly unified nationwide criminal police force, these plainclothes detectives used ruthless methods to identify and arrest political opponents and others who refused to conform to the policies of the Nazi regime.

In the months after Hitler took power, SA and Gestapo agents went from door to door looking for Hitler’s enemies. They arrested Socialists, Communists, trade union leaders, and others who had spoken out against the Nazi party; some were murdered. By the summer of 1933, the Nazi party was the only legal political party in Germany. Nearly all organized opposition to the regime had been eliminated. Democracy was dead in Germany.

Frankly, Governor LePage doesn’t know what he is talking about. He doesn’t demonstrate knowledge about the health care law. He seems to believe common mandate myths.

Moreover, there isn’t a functioning country on earth that exists without tax collection. It is utterly normal. In fact, as Justice Holmes said, “Taxes are the price we pay for civilized society.”

Truly it is bizarre to compare the agency that deals with tax subsidies and payments to the Gestapo.

Amy Fried

About Amy Fried

Amy Fried loves Maine's sense of community and the wonderful mix of culture and outdoor recreation. She loves politics in three ways: as an analytical political scientist, a devoted political junkie and a citizen who believes politics matters for people's lives. Fried is Professor of Political Science at the University of Maine. Her views do not reflect those of her employer or any group to which she belongs.