Wednesday, February 8, 2012

They Call Me Romney Two-Face

A major qualm that a lot of Democrats and Republicans have with Mitt Romney is that he's gone back and forth on a lot of issues in a way that's much more pronounced than your average politician would. The one that is most glaring is his take on the Affordable Care Act. I suppose it represents an about-face for most of the GOP as well, as you'll see.

First things first, the health care bill. Romney's Massachusetts health care law is Obamacare. Period, full stop. The idea of an individual mandate was created as a Republican alternative to the Clinton health care plan in the 1990s. In fact, the entire Affordable Care Act is really as Republican a bill as any universal health care plan could conceivably be. It is made up of a whole host of ideas proposed by Republicans in the past 15 or 20 years and the entire framework is drawn from Romney's health care law. But Romney insists that there are major differences between his bill and the ACA. What differences, you may ask? That remains to be seen. One of the architects of Romney's health care law, Jon Gruber, talks about the bill in an interview:
"They are very, very similar. You can think of the Affordable Care Act as a more ambitious version of the Massachusetts reform. Both reforms have the same core principles: Non-discrimination in insurance markets, health insurance mandates and subsidies so insurance is affordable. In Massachusetts, we stopped there. The national bill – the Affordable Care Act – has two additional features. One is it’s paid for and two, it takes on cost controls. Romney’s reform was paid for with funding from the federal treasury. The Affordable Care Act is paid for through offsets in the federal budget. And the Affordable Care Act tackles the increase in costs in a serious way, which the Massachusetts bill didn’t do. So you can think of the Affordable Care Act as the Massachusetts bill-plus."
I ask any Republican who is opposed to this bill to offer some kind of explanation as to why, specifically, they don't like the Affordable Care Act. Because it seems to me, in view of the evidence, that the only real reason is that it was passed by Barack Obama and a Democratic Congress. I've explained before that the individual mandate is a good thing because it eliminates the free-rider problem of uninsured people going to emergency rooms and having their tabs picked up by taxpayers. In fact, I've heard this before somewhere...
"If you don't want to buy insurance, then you have to help pay for the cost of the state picking up your bill, because under federal law if someone doesn't have insurance, then we have to care for them in the hospitals, give them free care, so we said, no more, no more free riders. We are insisting on personal responsibility. Either get the insurance or help pay for your care." 
That was Mitt Romney defending the individual mandate. So, really, it begins to become painfully clear the problem I, and many other people, have with Romney. He's clearly a very smart guy, and when he isn't pandering to the increasingly radical Republican Party base, he actually sounds like a pretty reasonable moderate conservative. Paul Krugman says that Romney is a smart guy but also is a "moral coward." While Krugman may be right about Romney in that respect, it really reflects more poorly on the current state of a Republican Party that has become so radicalized, so counter factual, so incredibly hypocritical that it becomes impossible for a moderate conservative like Romney to get on their ticket without having to hide from his past legislative achievements.