Patterson: The Little Sisters of the Poor aren’t asking for much - East Valley Tribune: East Valley Voices

Patterson: The Little Sisters of the Poor aren’t asking for much

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East Valley resident Tom Patterson ( is a retired physician and former state senator.

Posted: Sunday, January 12, 2014 6:30 am

The Little Sisters of the Poor, who operate a nonprofit hospice and nursing home, as a matter of conscience don’t want to be in the position of providing abortifacients and contraceptives under Obamacare, as most employers are required to do.

To their credit, they choose not to accept the Obama administration’s face-saving sop of signing a legal contract with their insurer, requiring the insurer to provide those services the nuns decline. They rightly conclude the moral implications are unchanged by the obvious chicanery.

But the Obama administration is having none of it. The Justice Department insists their refusal has no “legal basis” and that they must either knuckle under or pay the $2.5 million fine.

It’s ironic, isn’t it? So many of those seeking exemptions from Obamacare have sailed right through. Unions get excused from paying the tax on their “Cadillac” insurance benefits while others did not. Big business get a one-year year reprieve on the employer mandate but individuals were not so fortunate. Even Congress got a special dispensation when it was determined that abiding by the terms of Obamacare might endanger their ability to attract the best and the brightest to their service. Seriously.

These exemptions are big money deals. Those not receiving favors have to pick up the slack for the fortunate few. For the nuns, on the other hand, it was a simple expression of conscience with little practical impact. Yet they got the heavy hand of the law, strictly applied.

So how are these decisions made, how are winners and losers determined, whether it’s who gets to flee Obamacare or who is subject to exacting overregulation?

Here’s a hint: it’s not an open process prescribed by law under the Constitution. Instead, decisions are made by the powerful and well placed to ensure that their friends are rewarded and those who defy them learn better.

Ask J.P. Morgan, recently rung up for $13.2 billion by the Department of “Justice” for their handling of toxic mortgage bank securities. That’s pretty rich, since the mortgage crisis originated in government policies demanding that banks grant mortgages to borrowers unable to meet traditional underwriting standards. Moreover, J.P. Morgan inherited the bad debt from companies it acquired at the strong urging of the Feds.

But nevermind. Citibank, which also mishandled toxic debt, got a bail-out, their fifth in recent decades at last count. But this is a bank cozy with the White House, where Robert Rubin, Jack Lew and other heavy hitters bounce back and forth. J.P. Morgan’s CEO meanwhile made some candid remarks critical of the administration’s handling of the economy. So one got a fine, the other a bailout. See how this works?

BP Oil was fined $100 million for damage to birds and wildlife resulting from an oil spill, as was Exxon. The Exxon spill killed an estimated 250,000 birds, the BP spill probably fewer. Hundreds of energy companies have been fined for inadvertently killing birds as are utility companies who get dinged when birds roost on high-voltage wires.

But the real bird killers are wind turbines. Since they don’t have to report bird kills, statistics are hard to come by, but the carnage is in the range of 600,000 bird deaths per year. The Obama administration studiously ignored wind farms for years. Finally, under mounting criticism of the disparate treatment, they responded by … passing a federal rule giving favored wind companies the legal right to kill bald and golden eagles for 30 years! Eat your heart out, oil companies.

The examples go on and on. The EPA last year issued a new ethanol mandate with a solitary exception for a refinery in Louisiana that enjoyed a connection to Sen. Mary Landrieu, up for reelection this year. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has been throwing the book at defenseless small family farms with as few as one employee. The IRS, with apparent impunity, harassed conservative political groups, crippling them during a critical election.

Americans should be ashamed if the Sisters lose out because of a lack of political clout. We are

becoming a nation of decrees not of laws.

• East Valley resident Tom Patterson is a retired physician and former state senator. He can be reached at

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