Dr. Quackenbush, Your Country Needs You

By J.F. McKenna

Inevitably, the outraged mind seeks refuge.

Shortly after the Supreme Court’s decision on Obamacare, mine went looking for Groucho Marx, the movies’ all-time best punster and most under-appreciated social satirist. He turned up in a memory bank tagged “Marxist Quips.”

Boorish man berating Groucho: Sir, you try my patience!

Groucho: Don’t mind if I do. You must try mine sometime.

I wonder how the late Groucho—dba Dr. Quackenbush—would analyze the Roberts’ Court’s approval of the feds’ requiring individual Americans to purchase health insurance or suffer a tax penalty. What would he say about Uncle Sam’s trying the nation’s patients?

Imagination left me with this:

Groucho: A health care tax, eh?Fine. If I don’t get cured, can I have a piece of the Liberty Bell concession?

That doesn’t seem too off the mark. The now-sanctified 2010 Patient Protection Act and Affordable Health Care Act, many health care experts say, not only will alter the landscape of health care delivery and quality but also will redefine the meaning of affordability and individual liberty.

Pennsylvania Sen. Pat Toomey summed up the impact of the court ruling as well as anyone: “The Supreme Court’s decision doesn’t change the fact that President Obama’s health care law is terrible policy that will impose new taxes, increase the cost of health and cost our country jobs.”

What is changed, and not for the better, is the individual-government pact. The court has opened the door for Uncle Sam to impel the citizen to take an action he might otherwise choose to ignore.

After health care, what’s next? Dietary standards? A public-safety requirement for each citizen to carry a cell phone at all times? As everyone from Jonathan Swift to George Orwell has written, it’s a short distance from raison d’etat to reductio ad absurdum. All you have to do is bypass the sign marked Regnant Populus.

For weeks and months to come, much will be written about the long-term consequences of this decision. For decades, certainly, the philosophical impact of Roberts’ Rule will be ground into our functioning as a nation and a people.

Which reminds me that a cerebral neighbor of “Marxist Quips” is “Great Observations: Save for Future Use.” In it is a paragraph from John Steinbeck’s novel Sweet Thursday. Feel free to borrow it, anytime.

Looking back you can usually find the moment of the birth of a new era, whereas, when it happened, it was one day hooked on to the tail of another.


J.F. McKenna is a business journalist, communications consultant and former editor and associate publisher of the national manufacturing magazine Tooling & Production. Reach him at jf_mckenna@yahoo.com .



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