The Internal Revenue Service might not be as bad as the Gestapo, but the federal tax collection agency is headed in that direction, Gov. Paul LePage said Thursday during a visit to Vermont.
“The Holocaust was a horrific crime against humanity and, frankly, I would never want to see that repeated,” LePage said during an interview with Seven Days, an alternative weekly newspaper. “Maybe the IRS is not quite as badyet.”
“But they’re headed in that direction?” asked reporter Paul Heintz, who posted the audio recording of the interview online.
“They’re headed in that direction,” LePage said. “The Supreme Court decision robbed an awful lot of freedom because now we are going to be told what we have to do. Never in the history of our country have we been told that we had to do something, particularly buy something from the commercial market.”
LePage was in the Green Mountain State on Wednesday and Thursday to attend fundraisers for Vermont Republican Randy Brock, who is running for governor. Brock stood next to LePage during the interview.
“Do you have a sense of what the Gestapo actually did during World War II?” asked Heintz after a Thursday morning fundraiser at a South Burlington hotel.
“Yeah, they killed a lot of people,” LePage replied.
“They’re headed in the direction of killing a lot of people?” Heintz asked, referring to the IRS.
“Yeah,” LePage said. “You know why? Rationing. They ration health care in Canada, that’s why a lot of people in Canada come down to the U.S.
“Believe it or not, there is not enough money in this world when you’re $16 trillion in debt to have the federal government pick up everybody’s tab. There were only 50 percent of Americans that paid into the system. The 50 percent cannot support 100 percent.”
Asked whether he agreed with LePage’s comparison of the IRS to the Gestapo, Brock said, “Each of us has friends who make comments that they stand by. Those are their comments. They’re not necessarily my comments.”
He also criticized the reporter for asking questions that were “pointed and intended to lead in a certain direction.”
LePage said later in the interview, “Do I think the IRS is intentionally going to kill someone? No. Do I think that the ACA is going to force rationing upon the American people? Yes.”
LePage’s latest comments comparing the IRS to the Gestapo, Adolf Hitler’s secret police force in Nazi Germany, came less than a week after the governor initiated a barrage of criticism by calling the IRS “the new Gestapo” in his weekly radio address focused on the recent Supreme Court ruling largely upholding the Affordable Care Act, the Obama administration’s signature health care reform law.
Jewish groups, Democrats, the leader of the union representing IRS employees and others called for LePage to apologize.
On Monday, the governor said in a prepared statement: “It was not my intent to insult anyone, especially the Jewish community, or to minimize the fact that millions of people were murdered. Clearly, what has happened is that the use of the word Gestapo has clouded my message.”
LePage’s office also acknowledged that the governor apologized privately to Emily Chaleff, executive director of the Jewish Community Alliance of Southern Maine. And on Thursday, LePage spokeswoman Adrienne Bennett confirmed that the governor’s upcoming weekend radio address will contain a public apology.
Reached Thursday, Chaleff said a public apology “will go very far in helping to remedy the situation.”
“We feel like the comparison really minimized the memory of millions of people, Jewish and non-Jewish, who were murdered,” she said. “It diminished their memories and it’s not at all an appropriate comparison with a legal tax-collecting agency of the U.S. government.”
Meanwhile, Maine Democratic Party Chairman Ben Grant said LePage’s latest comments about the IRS “crossed a threshold.”
“Governor LePage’s fitness to hold office must now be seriously and openly questioned,” Grant said.
The head of the National Treasury Employees Union also expressed dismay at LePage’s continued comments about the IRS.
“It is extremely disappointing and distressing to witness not only the continuing refusal of Maine Gov. Paul LePage to apologize for his gratuitous insult directed at Internal Revenue Service employees, but to see him continue his attacks at a fundraising event today,” Colleen Kelley said in a press release Thursday.
Maine Republican Party Chairman Charlie Webster repeated Thursday that, by focusing on LePage’s comments, Democrats are trying to divert attention away from other topics.
“Rather than talk about the things that people in Maine care about, the Democrats have this obsession with the governor, and they want to look at everything he says and find ways to say he’s not representing the average Mainer,” Webster said. “The governor is talking about the fact that he believes, as many of us do, that government is out of control and Obama has made it worse.”
LePage’s claim that the Affordable Care Act will lead to rationing of health care is a frequently repeated criticism of the health care reform law. PolitiFact.com, a fact-checking website affiliated with the Tampa Bay Times newspaper, said recently that the Affordable Care Act “rations care no more nor less than the current health care system does.”
PolitiFact points out that no health insurance plan in the existing market, whether private or through Medicare or Medicaid, allows unlimited health care services.
PolitiFact also notes the rationing claims largely originate from the Affordable Care Act’s creation of the Independent Payment Advisory Board, a panel charged with developing a plan to stem Medicare cost increases if the increases exceed particular targets.
While the panel’s recommendations would apply to the entire Medicare program and not individual patient treatment decisions, Affordable Care Act opponents have said they fear the group’s recommendations would result in cutting payments to doctors, which would affect patient care.
Under the Affordable Care Act, the IRS will have no role in determining the health care services patients receive. Instead, the agency will provide tax credits to help individuals and small businesses pay for health insurance and assess penalties on individuals who remain uninsured and businesses that don’t provide employees with insurance.