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Hush Over The Hub: NSA foes fall silent on Obamacare

by: daniel clark | published: 09 24, 2013

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By the start of October, the Obamacare “data hub” is expected to be operational. Now that libertarianism is supposed to be all the rage, you’d think we’d be hearing outbursts of righteous anger at least as intense as the ones that have been directed at the NSA surveillance program. So why aren’t we?

According to the Health and Human Services’ regulation authorizing the hub, it is a means of gathering “personally identifiable information (PII) on individuals who apply for Obamacare through a Health Insurance Exchange,” as we will all eventually be nudged into doing. The PII that will be gathered “includes, but may not be limited to” names, addresses, birthdates, Social Security Numbers, taxpayer status, gender, ethnicity, e-mail addresses, phone numbers, citizenship or immigration status, incarceration status, “Indian status,” employer information, “limited health status information” such as pregnancy or disability status, and “household income, including tax return information from the IRS, income information from the Social Security Administration, and financial information from other third party sources.”

Those to whom this information will be disclosed include unspecified federal and state agencies, and “a non-profit entity operating an Exchange for a State government.” This latter entity is what the administration calls a “navigator.” Among these navigators will be such left-wing interest groups as Organizing for America (formerly Organizing for Obama), the Service Employees International Union, and the Planned Parenthood Federation of America.

Although there are valid objections to be made about certain aspects of the NSA surveillance program, the oft-repeated claim that “the NSA is listening to your phone calls” remains entirely unsubstantiated. It is unquestionably true, on the other hand, that the Nanny State plans to compile a dossier on you. Libertarians falsely warned that the NSA was specifically targeting Americans for its surveillance, just because the FISA court only has jurisdiction over communications that enter the United States. Yet HHS, which makes no secret of its intent to control Americans’ behavior, can announce a plan to gather and disseminate our personal information, and these same privacy watchdogs just sit there and wag.

If you were to ask Rand Paul, Gary Johnson and other leaders of the libertarian movement what they think about the hub, they would surely condemn it in absolute terms, and they’d mean it. It obviously doesn’t animate them, however, the way that privacy issues regarding national defense and security do. The reason for this selective intensity is that libertarians, in their own way, are just as guilty of playing go-along-to-get-along as the Jellyphants in the GOP establishment are.

The fecklessness of the Republican leadership has given rise to speculation about a political realignment, by which the traditional dichotomy between the major political parties will be replaced by libertarians of both parties on one side, and authoritarians of both parties on the other. That might be a plausible theory, if not for the fact that there are no such things as libertarian Democrats.

What libertarians are really doing is dissociating themselves from pro-defense conservatives who oppose authoritarian domestic policies, and embracing anti-defense liberals who, domestically, are the most extreme authoritarians in American politics. When libertarian Republican congressman Justin Amash introduced a bill to end the NSA’s collection of phone metadata, it was a bipartisan effort between him and John Conyers, the congressman who defends his vote for Obamacare by mocking those who said that he should “read the bill.” Among the cosponsors were Barbara Lee, Jim McDermott, Jerrold Nadler, and the rest of the Code Pink wing of the Democratic Party.

One would hope that proponents of constitutionally limited government, when they find themselves coincidentally allied with a bunch of Marxists, would react like George Bailey did after shaking hands with Mr. Potter. Instead, they behave more like Gomez Addams, slobbering all over Morticia’s arm whenever she speaks to him in French. They actually express feelings of validation when pointing out their areas of agreement with the likes of Dennis Kucinich, Bernie Sanders and Ralph Nader.

This alliance doesn’t require libertarians to drop their objections to the policies of the totalitarian Left, only to de-emphasize them. Once they’ve spent all their energy in a fiery campaign against the NSA, the Pentagon, neoconservatives, and America’s foreign policy in general, they’ll be happy to offer a token statement that, oh yeah, they’re against that data hub thing, too.

In other words, they’re compromising their stated principles in exchange for some of the political clout that their ideological adversaries bring into their alliance. John McCain couldn’t have done it any better.

-- Daniel Clark is a writer from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He is the author and editor of a web publication called The Shinbone: The Frontier of the Free Press, where he also publishes a seasonal sports digest as The College Football Czar.

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