|A small tax penalty is clearly equivalent to the extermination of 6 million jews, homosexuals and other "undesirables."|
Today I thought I would do a roundup of the some false analogies related to the Affordable Care Act, more popularly known as "Obamacare." As a quick reminder, a false analogy is when one makes a comparison that isn't really apt or correct. The examples I am going to look at below are all versions of hyperbole in which the comparison is inappropriate because it is wildly exaggerated.
The first comes from an interview between Steve Inskeep of NPR and conservative political columnist George Will. In discussing the Republican efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act Will makes the following comparison:
I mean I hear Democrats say the Affordable Care Act is the law, as though we're supposed to genuflect at that sunburst of insight and move on. Well, the Fugitive Slave Act was the law, separate but equal was the law - lots of things were the law and then we changed them. And this is a part of the bruising, untidy, utterly democratic technique for changing laws.For those who don't know, the Fugitive Slave Act was a law passed in the US in 1850 that required that all captured slaves (even those captured in states where slavery was illegal) had to be returned to their owners. Furthermore it enacted various penalties for those who harbored escaped slaves or failed to return them to their owners. Overall it was one of the more shameful pieces of legislation passed in the US. Will, naturally, compares this law to a law that gives everyone access to healthcare. That this comparison is completely hyperbolic should be fairly obvious. What is surprising is that other conservatives have made the same analogy.
This story from Salon gives another example, this time from Rep. William O'Brian of New Hampshire. In an interview with the Manchester Union Leader he made the following comment, “Just as the Fugitive Slave Act was an overreach by the federal government, so too we understand that Obamacare is an assault on the rights of individuals.” The author of the Salon story, Steven Lubet, does a very nice job of explaining why this analogy is so bad, writing:
So let’s get this straight. The Fugitive Slave Act facilitated one of the greatest wrongs in human history, while the Affordable Care Act imposes a small tax penalty on individuals who choose to forgo health insurance. There is no “just as” relationship between the two statutes, other than in the fevered imagination of Tea Partyers like William O’Brien [or conservative commentators like George Will - Ian]. Even if one philosophically opposes Obamacare’s individual mandate, the imposition on personal liberty is minimal. Nobody who truly understands slavery – or who cares about honesty in American history – would ever compare the rendition of slaves to national health insurance.The upshot of all of these is that in order to compare the Affordable Care Act to slavery or Hitler requires a willful ignorance of history. And that is why these analogies are false.