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OPINION

The Obamacare Inquisitions: A Brief, Brutish History

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Townhall.com.
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Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius is just the latest creepy keeper of the Obamacare enemies list. The White House has been keeping tabs on individual and corporate critics of the federal health care takeover for more than a year. It started with the health czar's Internet Snitch Brigade. Remember?

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Last August, the White House Office of Health Reform called on its ground troops to report on fellow citizens who talked smack about the Democratic plan. Team Obama issued an all-points bulletin on the taxpayer-funded White House website soliciting informant e-mails:

"There is a lot of disinformation about health insurance reform out there, spanning from control of personal finances to end of life care. These rumors often travel just below the surface via chain emails or through casual conversation. Since we can't keep track of all of them here at the White House, we're asking for your help. If you get an email or see something on the web about health insurance reform that seems fishy, send it to flag@whitehouse.gov."

Then-health czar office spokeswoman Linda Douglass appeared in an accompanying video singling out conservative Internet powerhouse Matt Drudge. Why? Because his website featured a video compilation of Obama and other Democrats -- in their own words -- exposing the "public option" as a Trojan Horse for government-run health care and the elimination of private industry.

The Obama dog whistle rang out loud and clear: Report online dissidents immediately.

Calling on the White House to cease and desist, GOP Sen. John Cornyn pointed out that "these actions taken by your White House staff raise the specter of a data collection program. ... I can only imagine the level of justifiable outrage had your predecessor asked Americans to forward e-mails critical of his policies to the White House." The flagging operation was shut down, but a plethora of federal disclosure exemptions protect the Obama administration from revealing what was collected, who was targeted and what was done with the "fishy" database information.

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In February, the White House coordinated a demonization campaign against Anthem Blue Cross in California for raising rates. Obama singled out the company in a "60 Minutes" interview, and Sebelius sent a nasty-gram demanding that Anthem "justify" its rate hikes to the federal government. A private company trying to survive in the marketplace was forced to "explain" itself to federal bureaucrats and career politicians who have never run a business (successful or otherwise) in their lives. Sebelius went even further. She called on Anthem to provide public disclosure on how the rate increases would be spent -- a mandate that no other private companies must follow.

We already have a federal pay czar requiring companies to justify their pay raises and claiming authority to claw back bonuses already paid. Will the White House next demand that other businesses -- not just health insurers -- justify price increases deemed unreasonable, excessive or "extraordinary"?

On Capitol Hill, Democratic chief inquisitor Henry Waxman trained his sights on executives from Deere, Caterpillar, Verizon and AT&T in a brass-knuckled effort to silence companies speaking out about the cost implications and financial burdens of Obamacare. He scheduled an April 21 show trial of corporate heads who dutifully reported writedowns related to the Obamacare mandates. Obama Commerce Secretary Gary Locke joined in on the witch-hunt, pummeling the companies on the White House blog and TV airwaves for their "premature" and "irresponsible" disclosures.

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After the Democrats' own congressional staff pointed out that the companies "acted properly and in accordance with accounting standards" in submitting filings that were required by law, Waxman called off the hounds. But it was a temporary reprieve. Sebelius' threat last week against individual market health insurers who raise rates to cope with new federal coverage mandates will be far from this desperate administration's last.

As health costs skyrocket, doctors abandon the profession, hospitals lay off workers and private insurers shut down, the only way to quell the Obamacare backlash will be through an even more thuggish campaign to demonize, marginalize and silence nationwide dissent.

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