Maine Governor Paul LePage, criticized the Supreme Court's healthcare ruling in his weekly radio message, saying the decision made "America less free. We the people have been told there is no choice... buy health insurance or pay the new Gestapo..."
The Morning Sentinel reports that LePage's comment that the IRS is the "new Gestapo," is a reference to the individual mandate provision in the healthcare law that requires Americans not insured by their employers or Medicaid to buy health insurance or pay an annual penalty. The mandate was challenged in a lawsuit, but was upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court.
The Gestapo was the Nazi regime's secret police that imprisoned and murdered thousands of opponents of the Nazi regime.
Talking Point Memo (TPM) reports Le Page, said: “Perhaps what is most disturbing about this ruling, though, is that the federal mandate is considered a tax. Now that Congress can use the taxation power of the federal government to compel behavior or lack thereof, what’s next? More taxes if we don’t drive Toyota Priuses or if we eat too much junk food or maybe even pea soup?”
The Huffington Post notes that LePage has a history of making controversial remarks. During his 2010 run for governor, he raised eyebrows at a GOP forum by saying he would tell Obama to "go to hell."
After the Tea Party-backed Republican won the election, he ignored a January 2011 NAACP event in honor of Martin Luther King Jr., saying he would not be "held hostage" by special interests and that NAACP could "kiss my butt."
At a Maine 2012 GOP convention, LePage drew a standing ovation when he said that able bodied recipients of welfare should "get off the couch and get yourself a job."
According to the Morning Sentinel, Maine Democratic Party Chairman Ben Grant, responded to LePage's remarks, saying: "We've come to expect a bunch of nonsense from Gov. LePage, but this is a step too far. There appears now to be no limit to the extreme language he will use to misinform, degrade and insult people. Somebody needs to explain to him that he's the governor of a state, and not a talk radio host. I demand a full apology on behalf of all those who suffered at the hands of the real Gestapo."
He added: "There is nothing that degrades politics more than purported leaders who so cavalierly invoke the worst in human history when they can't get their way in legitimate, modern policy disagreements."
According to The Huffington Post, Maine's House and Senate Democratic leaders have also reacted to LePage's remarks. Rep. Emily Cain (D-Orono), said: "This goes beyond political rhetoric. The experience of the Holocaust survivors and the veterans of World War II who witnessed the true terror of the Gestapo should not be trivialized for political shock. The Governor must apologize. We urge our Republican colleagues to join us in condemning this language.”
Senator Justin Alfond (D-Portland), said: “The Governor’s comparison of the IRS to the Gestapo is shameful and ignorant. His comment trivializes an historic atrocity and mischaracterizes Obamacare for the sake of political divisiveness. This is yet another instance of the Governor choosing hostile language over substance. He’s gone too far and owes not just the people of Maine an apology for his degrading language but to the families who were the victims of the real Gestapo.”
The individual mandate in the Obama administration's healthcare law is generating a lot of friction with Republicans saying it is unfair while Democrats say that the mandate was originally proposed by Republicans from the conservative Heritage Foundation in 1989 in response to calls for a single-payer health care system.
LePage, in his address, also talked about the expansion of Medicaid in which the federal government would fund 100 percent of the expansion between 2014 and 2016 and gradually lower its funding to 90 percent.
TPM reports LePage said that Maine would not move forward with expanding Medicaid programs, an option made possible by the Supreme Court ruling. LePage said: “We cannot afford our current programs, so to require Maine to expand coverage even more is fiscally irresponsible."
LePage said that Maine already incurs one of the highest welfare costs in the US. According to the Morning Sentinel, a recent report said that uncompensated care ("hospital bills people can't pay or won't pay") in the Maine health system doubled in five years from $94 million to $194 million. LePage argued that further expanding Medicaid could make it impossible for the state to pay hospitals the $500 million it already owes in reimbursement.
LePage said :"With these looming uncertainties circling around this issue, Maine cannot move forward right now with Obamacare."
The governor, further criticized Obamacare, saying it "raises taxes, cuts Medicare for the elderly, gets between patients and their doctors, costs trillions of taxpayer dollars, and kills jobs."
He said: "Even more disheartening is that reviving the American dream just became nearly impossible to do. We are now a nation which supports dependency rather than independence. Instead of encouraging self-reliance, we are encouraging people to rely on the government."