Gandhi, the Whiskey Rebellion, and Obamacare


The farmers were put to the test

By the Feds, who thought they knew best

But the solution was risky

For those who made whiskey

When they expanded off to the west. 

Synopsis: I’m a Family Practitioner from Sioux City, Iowa. In 2010 I danced back from the brink of burnout, and honoring a 1 year non-compete clause, travelled and worked in out-of-the-way places in Alaska, Nebraska, Iowa, and New Zealand. After three years working with a Community Health Center, I am back having adventures in temporary positions until they have an Electronic Medical Record (EMR) system I can get along with. I spent the winter in Nome, Alaska, followed by assignments in rural Iowa. This summer included a funeral, a bicycle tour in Michigan, cherry picking in Iowa, a medical conference in Denver, and working Urgent Care in suburban Pennsylvania. Any patient information has been included with permission.

This summer I worked in Pennsylvania in the area of the Whiskey Rebellion.  I took the time to read the Wikipedia article.

My high school American History course treated the Whiskey Rebellion as a joke, taking about 3 paragraphs, alleging that the disturbance ended with not a shot fired.

The Articles of Confederation gave the country a weak central government, and the new nation foundered with poor law enforcement and inadequate revenues.  Native Americans increased violence on the borders, perceiving, understandably, that the invading Europeans (and unwitting Africans) lacked effective military.  Thus the country dispensed with the Articles of Confederation and adopted the Constitution.  And Congress quickly passed a tax on whiskey.

The tax imposed a disproportionate burden on small producers, located at the time mostly in the rural and western areas.  The big distillers supported it.

In Western Pennsylvania the small distillers held rallies and staged marches, and discussed long and hard whether to use violence.  They tarred and feathered some tax collectors, and besieged others with gunfire and loss of human life, mostly on the part of the rebels.  Eventually, George Washington himself led a force of 5,000 Federal troops to Pittsburgh, and the insurrection melted.  Those soldiers never fired a shot.

At the end the Federal Government had enforced laws not only for taxing whiskey but also for conscripting troops.

The Whiskey Rebels either quit distilling, moved, or paid taxes.

(As a sidelight, the failure of the Whiskey Rebellion jump started westward expansion, when the small distillers moved outside the US, illegally, into Indian Territory, alcohol softening up the resistance of the Natives.)

But the distillers in Kentucky didn’t protest or march.  They just kept on distilling.  I suspect that threats of violence or bribes resulted in the Feds having literally no tax collectors for the state.  And the moonshiners still conduct their business, quietly and profitably.

The Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) effectively hijacked the US medical system, and things have gotten very bad for doctors.  Any doctor who participates with insurance or Medicare/Medicaid spends an inordinate amount of time on clerical duties with no improvement in patient care.  We have four choices:  comply, move, quit, or stop taking insurance.  I hear repeated calls from the doctors, up in arms, that we need effective leadership.  And I hear lots of whining from doctors literally counting the days to retirement.

I look at Gandhi’s civil disobedience and at the Whiskey Rebellion and at the ACA and I think that the docs have put themselves down the wrong road.  We need to stop clicking boxes and take care of patients.  If enforcement becomes impossible, we could win.

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One Response to “Gandhi, the Whiskey Rebellion, and Obamacare”

  1. Charlie Says:

    Once again our fathers fathers
    might have had the right idea.

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