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Topics: Obamacare

Op-Ed: Obamacare isn't about health care, it's about power

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Photo - Former South Carolina Republican Sen. Jim DeMint became president of the Heritage Foundation earlier this year. (AP Photo)
Former South Carolina Republican Sen. Jim DeMint became president of the Heritage Foundation earlier this year. (AP Photo)
Opinion,Op-Eds,Obamacare

Members of the House of Representatives are scheduled to vote Thursday to repeal all of Obamacare. Given that the House voted to repeal the law last year, some commentators and observers have questioned the need for another repeal vote.

However, the scandals coming to light over the last week perfectly make the case for why Congress must eradicate the law from the statute books.

On Friday, the Internal Revenue Service finally disclosed that it had spent years targeting Tea Party and other conservative groups, delaying their applications for non-profit status and giving those applications additional scrutiny — solely because of those groups' political beliefs.

Also on Friday, the Washington Post revealed that Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius personally asked health industry groups to contribute to Enroll America, a pro-Obamacare front group working to "educate" the public about the law's supposed benefits.

While we don't yet know all the details about these scandals, we do know that the IRS grossly abused its power at a time when Obamacare grants it massive new authority. The Treasury Department's Inspector General has said Obamacare represents "the largest set of tax law changes in 20 years," with at least 42 provisions adding to or amending the tax code.

Obamacare taxes most people with health insurance, and most people without health insurance. Likewise, the law taxes many employers who provide health insurance, and most employers who don't provide health insurance.

Obamacare's heavy reliance on the IRS seems somehow fitting, as the entire law relies on a scheme of government controls and regulations to work its will on the health care system. The law imposes price controls on insurance companies and extends a system of price controls for pharmaceutical companies. Obamacare also places a board of unelected, unaccountable bureaucrats at the center of its plans to control health care costs.

A 2010 Congressional Research Service report found that the number of new bureaucracies "that will ultimately be created" by Obamacare "is currently unknowable." Little wonder that Vice President Biden boasted shortly before the law was passed, "We're going to control the insurance companies."

That's what Obamacare is about. It's not about health care. It's about government control and power. And the record of this administration shows its willingness to use this power in arbitrary and harmful ways.

Secretary Sebelius' recently disclosed fundraising campaign tried to make an end-run around Congress, forcing private companies to give money for a pro-Obamacare marketing campaign that Congress itself has refused to fund.

It isn't the first time the secretary has skirted the law, either. HHS' infamous waivers, the majority of which went to individuals in union health plans, weren't mentioned in Obamacare. And in recent weeks, Democrats who support the law have criticized the secretary for taking funds from other programs to fund Obamacare implementation.

Just like the IRS, HHS has also targeted the First Amendment rights of private organizations. In 2009, the department applied an infamous "gag order" on Medicare Advantage plans, ordering them not to communicate with seniors about how Obamacare's cuts to Medicare Advantage would affect their coverage.

If past experience is any guide, IRS and HHS could use their newfound Obamacare powers to target their political opponents. Will individuals who choose not to buy insurance under Obamacare's mandate find themselves subjected to government audits?

Will corporations who choose not to "donate" to Sebelius' fundraising campaign find themselves targeted by Obamacare regulators — or even the IRS itself? Given the events of the past week, few can answer these questions with an unequivocal "no."

There's one easy way to stop the rot, and that's to repeal Obamacare once and for all. At a time when this week's revelations show how the government has abused its existing powers, it's exactly the wrong time to give the government yet more authority. Congress should instead focus on repealing Obamacare and restoring freedom.

Heritage Foundation President Jim DeMint is the former Republican senator from South Carolina.

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