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CARSON: Dr. Ben’s prescription for shutdown pain

President Obama listens as Dr. Ben Carson addresses the 2013 National Prayer Breakfast in Washington. Theresa Caldwell hopes liberal and conservative blacks "share a belief in the power and possibility of African-Americans." (Courtesy of C-SPAN)President Obama listens as Dr. Ben Carson addresses the 2013 National Prayer Breakfast in Washington. Theresa Caldwell hopes liberal and conservative blacks “share a belief in the power and possibility of African-Americans.” (Courtesy of C-SPAN)
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A few weeks ago, I arrived from Europe at one of the Washington area's international airports. The wait in the customs line approached an hour, because there was only one customs agent working as more than 20 of the booths stood empty.

I was told by a Transportation Security Administration (TSA) agent that this was a result of sequestration and it was designed to inflict maximum inconvenience on travelers so they would realize no part of the federal budget can be cut without horrible consequences. In similar fashion, the current government shutdown over disagreements about Obamacare has caused many "nonessential" governmental workers to be furloughed.

It would not be unreasonable to ask this question: In order to cope with a federal debt close to $17 trillion, why is the government furloughing TSA and customs agents, preventing children from taking White House tours and generally doing everything it can to inflict pain and discomfort on the American people when it could have simply trimmed nonessential personnel and services from the budget with little or no inconvenience? The latter solution would make much more sense, even if we trimmed personnel by attrition, which would certainly be my preference. Over the course of time, it would make a tremendous difference not only for today, but for our progeny as well.

Those who feel that the opposition to Obamacare is similar to the kind of disagreements that have resulted in threats of government shutdown in the past need to realize that this new governmental initiative affects one-sixth of our entire economy. It also represents one of the most dramatic alterations of federal policy impacting all of our lives in history. Those attempting the well-rehearsed radical tactic of demonizing anyone who opposes them should instead consider the tried-and-true practice of civil discussion and compromise; that is, unless they don't think they are capable of defending their positions in an open and honest conversation.

The Obamacare battle is not politics as usual with the expected partisan bickering to which we have grown accustomed. When it comes to ascribing blame for the current shutdown, we the people must be wise and should resist being led like sheep by members of the political class and the media. We should ask ourselves, why do we have three branches of government? The answer, of course, is that it was established to prevent excesses by any single branch that might not be in the interest of the people.

A very legitimate argument could be made that Obamacare is such an excess. Among other deleterious effects, it has led to many job losses and reduction in work hours and wages, termination of health insurance that had been provided by employers, economic stagnation, division among the populace and retrenchment of entrepreneurial endeavors and business expansion throughout the nation. These things are not in the interest of the people, yet the White House and Senate Democratic leaders have no qualms about forcing the health care law on the majority of Americans who disagree with it.

Fortunately, the Founders of this nation foresaw such an occurrence and created a system that could impede rapid societal changes without appropriate study and agreement by the voters. The House of Representatives is fulfilling its obligation to stand strong against the imposition of laws and measures that hurt the American people.

Like Karl Marx, many people in political leadership positions today have adopted the attitude that it is necessary to force their ideas on the people who they think are simply not smart enough to understand what is "good" for them. This migration away from personal freedom and toward government dominance started long before the current administration took power. The effects are now blatantly obvious even to those who have been asleep at the wheel for decades.

Traditionally, if someone is under investigation for wrongdoing, they are not placed in charge of a large program with duties that include the very kinds of things for which they are being investigated. The Internal Revenue Service is currently being investigated by the House Ways and Means Committee for illegal political activities.

Nevertheless, the IRS has been placed in charge of enforcement of the provisions of Obamacare. Common sense should dictate that the tax agency should be barred from this position until the investigation is complete and its employees have been exonerated of wrongdoing. If they are not cleared, changes to the organization should be made before it is qualified for an oversight role. This point should be the focus of requests for a delay in the implementation of Obamacare.

Placing the government in charge of our most important asset — our health — and using the IRS as the enforcement arm fundamentally changes the relationship between the people and the government. The federal bureaucracy was never meant to reside at the pinnacle of power in this nation. The complicity of many in the media in endorsing Obamacare and ignoring IRS wrongdoing must not be allowed to the lull the American people to sleep. If we don't wake up, we will definitely experience a fundamental change of our nation.

Ben S. Carson is professor emeritus of neurosurgery at Johns Hopkins University.

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