Saturday, March 31, 2012

Reflexive Opposition to B.O.

"Well, looks like Romney," a friend of Rush Limbaugh e-mailed the blowhard, "so I wish us much luck.  Look at what happened.  The Tea Party rises up, the Tea Party delivers the House of Representatives to the GOP, the Tea Party nearly takes out the Democrat Senate in 2010, and our nominee is gonna be a former RINO governor of Massachusetts who invented Romneycare....the Tea Party did everything, and we get a RINO?"

Of course, the individual mandate at the core of "Obamacare" wasn't dreamed up by Governor Romney.    Although the Heritage Foundation was not the first to float the concept of an individual mandate, the concept was promoted by the conservative think tank, that to which Rush Limbaugh has afforded the highest honor, contending it "was every bit as involved in Reaganism as reagan was, and nothing's changed."

In October, 1989 Heritage's Stuart Butler wrote

[N]either the federal government nor any state requires all households to protect themselves from the potentially catastrophic costs of a serious accident or illness. Under the Heritage plan, there would be such a requirement...

Society does feel a moral obligation to insure that its citizens do not suffer from the unavailability of health care. But on the other hand, each household has the obligation, to the extent it is able, to avoid placing demands on society by protecting itself...

A mandate on households certainly would force those with adequate means to obtain insurance protection.

In March of 1992 Heritage's Butler offered a plan in which

All citizens should be required to obtain a basic level of health insurance. Not having health insurance imposes a risk of delaying medical care; it also may impose costs on others, because we as a society provide care to the uninsured. The risk of shifting costs to others has led many states to mandate that all drivers have liability insurance. The same logic applies to health insurance...

The obligation to obtain basic health insurance should be placed on the individual, not on the employer...

In our scheme, every person would be required to obtain basic coverage, through either an individual or a family insurance plan.

When a health care program with a mandate and exchanges was instituted by the Massachusetts legislature and its Repub governor, the Heritage Foundation practically fell all over itself praising it.     Although Obamacare, strikingly similar to Romneycare, is not identical to Heritage's proposal, American Conservative senior editor Daniel McCarthy told Politifact

Every think tank on the left and right knows that its recommendations will undergo some deformation before they make their way into law, if they ever do.     Heritage might prefer state insurance exchanges with greater individual choice, including for workers already covered by their employers. But I don't imagine Ed Feulner would be complaining at all if a Republican president or a Republican Congress had passed a plan that deviated from the Heritage blueprint to the same degree that Obama's bill has. While it's not true that 'lots of' the specifics in the Obama plan were dreamed up by Heritage, the overall approach is similar to policies Heritage has long championed, including the individual mandate as well as the insurance exchanges. This is only controversial because the wrong party happened to pass the law, and it's poison for any conservative to be identified with it. 

Before the primary season began, and for much of the early phase, there was reasonable and considerable skepticism that the issue of health care reform would sink the Romney candidacy.    But the ex-governor effectively finessed it, as Salon's Steve Kornacki explains:

when Obama became president, the right – as it invariably does when a Democrat occupies the White House – committed itself to reflexively opposing him. This meant branding his healthcare plan socialism and fighting it with all the hysteria that could be mustered. It didn’t really matter how the program was structured; whatever Obama proposed would amount to a government takeover of healthcare in conservatives’ minds. The details weren’t what mattered; the fact that it was authored by Obama did.

This simultaneously endangered and shielded Romney. If he admitted that RomneyCare and ObamaCare were the same thing and defended his program, he’d have been guilty of a capital offense against conservatism. But by pretending that his law is something completely different and railing just as loudly as every other conservative voice against ObamaCare, he’s made it virtually impossible for his foes to build a case against him – as Santorum has been discovering.

Before he disowned the mandate popularized by the Heritage Foundation, Mitt Romney  failed to gain the GOP presidential nomination in 2008 when he was viewed as a conservative alternative to the leading candidate (McCain).      Now thought of as the least conservative of the three leading Repub contenders and the one associated with a program very unpopular with the GOP base, Mitt Romney is poised to be nominated.     But, as Kornacki describes, the Repub position on health care has little to do with ideology or principle and a lot to do with the demon they believe holds the White House.

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