July 13, 2012

LePage: IRS not far from Gestapo

By Steve Mistler smistler@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

BY STEVE MISTLER

State House Bureau

Gov. Paul LePage Thursday attempted to clarify his recent comment comparing the Internal Revenue Service to the Gestapo, the Nazi secret police, during a fundraiser in Vermont. However, the governor may have reignited a controversy that's made national headlines.

During an interview with a reporter from the Burlington weekly Seven Days, LePage said that the IRS wasn't as bad as the Gestapo, the Nazi police force that imprisoned and murdered millions during World War II, but that the agency was headed in that direction.

"What I am trying to say is the Holocaust was a horrific crime against humanity and, frankly, I would never want to see that repeated," LePage said. "Maybe the IRS is not quite as bad -- yet."

Seven Days reporter Paul Heintz asked, "But they're headed in that direction?"

LePage responded, "They're headed in that direction."

Heintz then asked LePage if he knew what the Gestapo did during World War II. LePage said, "Yeah, they killed a lot of people." Heintz asked if he thought the IRS was going to kill a lot of people.

"Yeah," LePage said.

"They're headed in the direction of killing a lot of people? Are you serious?" Heintz asked.

LePage said he was "very serious," adding that the agency would be rationing health care.

"They ration health care in Canada," LePage said. "That's why a lot of people from Canada come down to the U.S."

LePage first compared the IRS to the Gestapo on Saturday, during his weekly radio address. He later backtracked on the comments following an outcry from Jewish groups. The head of the IRS workers union also demanded an apology, saying such rhetoric could endanger employees.

LePage's most recent remarks came Thursday, at a fundraiser for Vermont gubernatorial candidate Randy Brock. Brock later accused Heintz of not asking fair questions, an assessment repeated by LePage spokeswoman Adrienne Bennett. She did not attend the event but said Thursday it was clear that Heintz "had an agenda."

Heintz asked LePage if he thought his comments were insensitive.

LePage said, "Well, let's put it this way. I apologize to Jewish Americans if they feel offended. But I also apologize to Japanese Americans that were put in prison during World War II, and I also apologize to those people that were accused of being communists during McCarthyism, because that's not the American way."

Heintz then asked if he thought the IRS would imprison people.

LePage said: "I don't know. I don't know. I just know that I'm a product of the American dream. I came from nothing and have been modestly successful. I have not had to worry about the IRS telling me I have to do things. I'd like to have my independence."

'Rationing health care'

When the reporter later asked Brock about LePage's comments, LePage jumped back into the interview to clarify his remarks.

"Do I think that the IRS is intentionally going to kill someone? No," LePage said. "Do I think the (Affordable Care Act) is going to force rationing on American people? Yes."

LePage said he was referring to the rationing of health care that he says occurs in Canada.

Congressional Republicans have made similar claims about rationing in the Affordable Care Act. The claims center on the health care law's Independent Payment Advisory Board, which critics say can ration care and deny Medicare claims.

However, the Affordable Care Act only empowers the IPAB to make system-wide recommendations to reduce Medicare spending, not on individual cases, according to an analysis by the Kaiser Family Foundation. The analysis also notes that IPAB was designed to reduce Medicare spending and that the board's recommendations can be overruled by Congress.

(Continued on page 2)

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