At this point, residents of South Carolina are already getting tired of those TV ads and documentaries detailing the destruction wrought by Romneycare. They are jaded by the flashing screens of middle class sob stories from respectable Massachusetts taxpayers – taxpayers who never requested handouts – being forced to struggle with skyrocketing health insurance costs as a result of the market-distortions engendered by Romneycare.
Every South Carolina resident can recite the now infamous closing line of the anti-Romney ads by heart: “shall we nominate the grandfather of Obamacare to run against its father?”
Oh, wait. Those ads never ran.
Amidst this week’s contretemps over Romney’s tenure at Bain Capital, for some reason, we are obscuring the real albatross around Romney’s neck; the issue of healthcare. While Romney’s record at Bain might provide Obama with his biggest campaign weapon, Romneycare will disarm Romney, and by extension, all Republicans, of our biggest campaign weapon, namely, Obamacare. And while Bain might provide Romney’s Republican opponents with a useful political argument (Romney’s electability problems in the general election), it does not provide them with a prudent and virtuous ideological argument. Romneycare, on the other hand, provides the Mitt-alternatives with inviolable ideological arguments as well as political ones.
Romneycare is the antecedent to Obamacare. It dramatically distorted the free-market of private insurance; it dumped a few hundred thousand people onto federally funded Medicaid; it set up gov’t-run exchanges that disincentivize success and offer larger subsidies than those proposed in Obamacare; it placed unreasonable mandates on employers to fund their employee’s healthcare. The net result of Romneycare was the archetypical outcome of every statist policy; the price of a vital service was purposely distorted as a means of enticing more people to become dependent upon government.
Yes, it was all orchestrated by state government, not the federal government. Such a rationalization, according to Mitt, will ameliorate all of Romneycare’s vices – vices that are identical to those inherent in Obamacare. Somehow, regressive statism is desirable simply because Romney had the “right” to implement it as governor of a state.
Moreover, as a political argument, how will Romney be able to employ our most potent weapon in a way that won’t be perceived as hypocritical? Try to imagine a general election debate over healthcare between Romney and Obama:
Romney: “Obamacare is a disaster.”
Obama: “If you like your health care plan, you can keep your health care plan. People outside of the exchange will be unaffected by the changes. Further, Mr. Romney, we actually got the ideas of subsidized healthcare exchanges and the individual mandate from you. Weren’t they pretty successful in Massachusetts?”
Now, had Romney disavowed his Massachusetts disaster, he would be in a good position to articulate the failures of government-run healthcare vis-à-vis controlling costs. He could point to the skyrocketing costs of insurance premiums in Mass. as the canary in the coal mine for the rest of the nation.
He could observe the fact that the rest of the nation is indeed incurring the inimical effects of market distortions that he originally, yet erroneously, implemented in his home state a few years earlier.
He could apply political jujitsu against Obama’s class warfare by explaining how it is Obama’s regressive ‘progressive’ policies that are summarily driving up the cost of healthcare on “the middle class,” with the intent of forcing them on government-run health programs.
He could implore the nation to learn from the mistakes of Massachusetts in mandating guaranteed issuance and community rating. Community rating forces insurance companies to charge all customers similar premiums, irrespective of their station in life and risk potential. These mandates are the biggest drivers of healthcare insurance inflation and are an anathema to all our conservative beliefs. They failed in Massachusetts. They will fail nationally as well.
Obamacare has raised the cost of private health insurance premiums by 9% in just one year, even before its enactment. One study estimates that Obamacare will raise the cost of individual health insurance premiums by 55%-85%, while a healthy young male may experience a rate increase of between 90% and 130%. Worse, many employers plan to drop healthcare coverage.
Sadly, not only has Romney failed to disavow the Massachusetts travesty, he defends it in the exact manner which Obama defends his signature accomplishment. He had this to say at the FoxNews-Google Debate in September:
“Let me tell you this about our system in Massachusetts: 92 percent of our people were insured before we put our plan in place. Nothing’s changed for them. The system is the same. They have private market-based insurance. We had 8 percent of our people that weren’t insured. And so what we did is we said let’s find a way to get them insurance, again, market-based private insurance. We didn’t come up with some new government insurance plan.”
There you have it. Romney, just like Obama, denies the fact that government interventions in the private market will invariably harm all consumers and businesses. Perforce, he will have no response to Obama other than the vapid “that was state, this is federal” argument. Yup, something so terrible on a federal level is so superlative on a state level.
In other words, Romney will completely disarm us of our most successful electoral weapon. We should be able to harness the anti-Obamacare sentiment even more deftly this year than in 2010, as the higher premiums stimulated by the bill are being actualized. Yet, we will squander this paramount opportunity because none of the other candidates seem to care. As Philip Klein ominously predicts, “should he [Romney] become the nominee, the Massachusetts program will no longer be a problem just for him, Romneycare will become a thorny issue for the entire Republican party.
One of the most inscrutable aspects of the primary campaign is the failure of the super PACs to concoct half-hour documentaries on Romneycare. Guaranteed issue, community rating, government-run health exchanges, and Medicaid expansion are bigger imprecations to the free-market than Romney’s career at Bain. Romney's career as a venture socialist governor is what should concern us; not his career as a venture capitalist in the private sector.
After three years of campaigning against Obamacare, we are on the verge of elevating the Thomas Edison of anti-free-market healthcare to the party’s highest honor.
With the presidential election going downhill, it is probably time to apply our Tea Party energy to the congressional elections. In the coming days we will redouble our efforts here at Red State to elect conservative members to the Senate and House.