Thursday, December 15, 2011

Mitt Romney Might Win His $10,000 Bet, but Only on a Technicality

On Substance, He Loses

The big news to come out of the Republican debate last Saturday was the bet that Mitt Romney proposed to Texas Gov. Rick Perry.  Mr. Perry had accused Mr. Romney of changing the paperback edition of his book to exclude the fact that he recommended his Massachusetts health care plan as a model for the nation.  The issue has been examined by PolitiFact and it found that Mr. Romney’s position was mostly, but not entirely correct.  But they are ruling only on the narrow issue of the two editions of Mr. Romney’s book.  They should focus on his position, and if they did they would certainly find Mr. Romney is a loser.

First of all let’s go to Mr. Romney’s position.  The core of the Massachusetts health care law was its requirement that everyone have health insurnance, the so-called “individual mandate”.  Mr. Romney contends that this is a Massachusetts issue, and that it may not apply to other states.

Romney fired back that "as (House) speaker, Gingrich said that he was for a federal individual mandate. That's something I've always opposed. What we did in our state was designed by the people in our state for the needs of our state. You believe in the 10th Amendment. I believe in the 10th Amendment."

 But the reason for the individual mandate is to prevent free riders, persons getting health care without the means or insurance to pay for it.  That has nothing to do with characteristics of Massachusetts, it is a universal issue.  If you support the individual mandate on its merits, logic requires you to support it for all states.  There is nothing unique in South Carolina that would say they don’t need the mandate as compared to Massachusetts.

So Mr. Romney is wrong.  His argument cannot withstand logic.  Furthermore there is video tape of his supporting the Massachusetts plan as a model and that he hopes it would be adopted by the nation. 

But the narrow issue here is what Mr. Romney did or did not do with the publication of the paperback edition of his books.  Basically he changed things.

Hardcover: "We can accomplish the same thing for everyone in the country, and it can be done without letting government take over health care."


Paperback: "And it was done without government taking over health care."

The deleted 11 words, "We can accomplish the same thing for everyone in the country" are the crux of Perry's argument. His campaign sent e-mail the day after the debate with a link highlighting precisely that change.

It looks suspicious, right? Perhaps Romney did extol every piece of his Massachusetts plan, individual mandate and all, for every state in the union.

But here's the original quote with full context from Page 177 of the hardcover
"My own preference would be to let each state fashion its own program to meet the distinct needs of its citizens. States could follow the Massachusetts model of they choose, or they could develop plans of their own. These plans, tested in the state 'laboratories of democracy' could be evaluated, compared, improved upon, and adopted by others. But the creation of a national plan is the direction in which Washington is currently moving. If a national approach is ultimately adopted, we should permit individuals to purchase insurance from companies in other states in order to expand choice and competition.

"What we accomplished surprised us: 440,000 people who previously had no health insurance became insured, many paying their own way. We made it possible for each newly insured person to have better care, and ultimately healthier and longer lives. From now on, no one in Massachusetts has to worry about losing his or her health insurance if there is a job change or a loss in income; everyone is insured and pays only what he or she can afford. It's portable, affordable health insurance — something people have been talking about for decades. We can accomplish the same thing for everyone in the country, and it can be done without letting government take over health care."

Romney's not really saying the Massachusetts law "should be the model for the country," the way that Perry describes it. He's in fact presenting a defense of state-level choice. It's like a shout-out to other state leaders: Hey, you can have what Massachusetts has!

So one can interpret his call that health care reform that gives everyone what Massachusetts now has does not endorse a national mandate only if one believes that you can require everyone to have health insurance without requiring health insurance.  The best that can be said is that Mr. Romney is endorsing the Massachusetts plan for every other state, but that the states themselves have to implement it rather than the federal government.

This is rhetorical nonsense.  Its only purpose is to give Mr. Romney a way out of his dilemma of implementing policy which is not a roadblock in his quest for the Republican nomination. And if the two editions of the book did not reflect a change in Mr. Romney’s position, why make the change?  The fact that the paperback edition is edited is proof enough by itself that Mr. Romney was changing his approach for purely political reasons. And deep down Mr. Romney probably knows this, the problem is, he just doesn’t care. 

No comments:

Post a Comment