As for health reform, shoemaker puts his foot down

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A shoe gets a polish at Buddy’s shoe repair in Hixson.

The federal health care statute debated before the federal Supreme Court will be met by skepticism among Chattanooga residents if it takes effect — and resistance by others.

We checked with the cobbler who resoles our shoes and repairs our handbags to see what he thinks about what Obamacare, the statutory takeover of the health insurance industry by the officials in Washington.

 Michael Scallia won’t have any of it.

“I’m definitely against it,” he said. “Well, just because when they mandate you to go into business with a corporation, that violates your 13th amendment rights, which is: No involuntary servitude shall exist within the United States.”

Mr. Scallia, 39, and his wife, Flower, do not have insurance, and run the family business that Mr. Scallia took over from his dad, Buddy, 75, retired though still available. “Every now and then he’ll fix a purse or something,” the son said. The placard outside the shop, “This Italian cobbler has a peach of a wife,” originally referred to Buddy and his wife, Barbara. Now, says the younger Scallia, it refers to the leather-minded heirs.

Mr. Scallia is an outspoken critic of commercial government and says he like to find a way to help Americans get back their long-lost rights under constitutional law.

Mr. Scallia becomes expansive in expressing his disregard of Obamacare and what it implies of servitude among Chattanoogans.

Government is instituted to secure the rights of the people, he insists. Mr. Scallia and several of his friends have formed a group called the Order of Constitutional Defenders. He dislikes when elected officials and their police officers act ultra vires, or, as Mr. Scallia puts it, “outside the scope and power of their lawful authority.”

We wondered what other small-business operators in the Hixson Pike storefront building felt, so we wandered about.

Steve Flegal, owner of Affordable Computers, said he can’t comment because he is mystified by what the health reform law says and hasn’t heard a clear explanation of its provisions. “I’m not sure whether to be worried about it or not,” he says. “Somebody show me on a website somewhere” what it will do. “I don’t know enough about it to talk about it.”

His man behind the front counter seems less perplexed. Obamacare is “unconstitutional,” he declared.

Inez Hartline is skeptical of Obamacare as it is debated before the U.S. Supreme Court.

ON THE OTHER SIDE of Buddy’s is an alterations shop run by Inez Hartline, 70. Asked what she thinks of the U.S. government’s taking care of everybody’s health, she retorted, “But they’re not!” She dislikes coercion. “I don’t think you should be forced into anything.”

Mrs. Hartline comes from hardy Alabama stock. Her father was a hardworking farmer who married a woman 20 years his junior. Mrs. Hartline’s mom had 16 children. It’s interesting to note how Mrs. Hartline counts heads. The number 16 includes twins her mom miscarried. Her mother brought 14 children into the world, five of them sons.

Mrs. Hartline said she is not sure what Obamacare might mean for Chattanooga. She has always taken care of her own self. She’s been doing alterations since age 12. In a life of subsistence on Sand Mountain, her parents cut dresses for her sisters from fertilizer bags, with the girls being able to choose patterns from various parts of a bag. Mrs. Hartline already is a federal dependent, situated in a Medicare program run by AARP.

JELLED IS HOW to describe the Obamacare ideas of a neighboring entrepreneur. Van Nguyen, 41, and his wife, Ashley, have run Eternity Hair Salon for six years and are feeling the effects of the federal economic recession.

Van Nguyen combs the locks of his wife, Ashlie, at his shop in Hixson in North Chattanooga.

The immigrant from Saigon 21 years ago sees Obamacare as antithetical to American ideals. “You have no freedom no more. You don’t want to, but you have to buy [health insurance], you know. This country is supposed to be about freedom.”

It’s dandy for “everyone” to be able to have insurance, he says. But Mr. Nguyen fears coverage will cost more in the future, even with the taxpayer footing the bill. “Because you cannot shop around, which one better, which one is worse,” he says. “Good deal, bad deal, you know.”

The businessman, who cannot afford health insurance, said he dislikes not being free to choose. “Only one option, and that you have to buy,” he says.