Romney's Not-So-Modest Accomplishment - or - What Mark Levin Doesn't Get
Much thanks to Peter for playing devil's advocate (that is, my advocate) vis-a-vis Romney on last week's podcast with Mark Levin. But there's one point that Peter, Mark, and most at Ricochet, I believe, are not quite getting.
First, understand that the Republicans' current mantra of "Repeal and Replace" is misguided -- not the "Repeal" part; the "Replace" part. The Republican Party is in desperate need of humility on the subject of non-Medicare healthcare reform. We have precious few immediate or workable solutions to the problems of price, the uninsured, free-loaders, pre-existing conditions, and so on. (There's a reason a smart guy like Gingrich supported the individual mandate until the day before yesterday.)
Yet with this promise of "replace", Republicans are unwisely promoting an expectation that we'll pass some nifty "big ideas" of our own to replace Obama's bad "big ideas". That's a problem, since we've got stinkers, too. For instance, among the House's "conservative" solutions to the pre-existing conditions problem is a federally funded, irresponsibility-subsidizing scheme of "high risk pools" (info here, if you dare), a plan which is as unworkable as it is likely to grow and metastasize. Yep, our current predicament is that even in the event Obamacare is repealed, Mark Levin will still get his convoluted healthcare Leviathan, but it'll come from Republicans -- with a little bipartisanship thrown in to make it stick.
There's only one way out of this fix: Republicans must undo that pathological manner of thinking among Americans that has them looking to Washington for solutions -- particularly on matters as complex and varied and frustrating as healthcare.
Which brings us to Romney, that infuriating rascal I'm tasked with defending. (We all have our roles.) There's a bogus charge around here that "Romneycare gave us Obamacare". No so. In fact, the opposite is true: Romneycare nearly saved us from Obamacare. Recall the Scott Brown election. Brown voted for Romneycare as a state senator, then won the Kennedy seat by promising to vote against Obamacare. So contrary to conservative lore, the near salvation of the Brown election was not a rejection of the individual mandate or some other aspect of Obamacare -- save one: the national aspect of it. That's right. Gov. Romney convinced liberal Massachusetts (!) that it should stop looking to D.C. Cue the Hallelujah Chorus.
This is not to say Romneycare will "work" ("work" being defined differently by the people of Massachusetts than by the people of Texas, which is as it should be). Likely it won't now that Democrats have expanded the mandate way beyond its intended scope of catastrophic-care-only coverage -- which has increased prices, which will increase subsidies, and away they go. And maybe even in a pristine form (as, say, Gingrich supported for a decade or two) Romneycare would fail. In any case, it's a Massachusetts problem, not mine, and such are the pitfalls of state-level experimentation. Ah, federalism.
Further, this is not to say there's nothing useful for Republicans to do in Washington post-repeal. We can pass a few laws to help our states find answers: e.g., block granting Medicaid and eliminating both the subsidy for employer-provided health insurance and the restrictions on interstate insurance markets. Then our 50 states can muddle toward solutions -- in a frustrating, imperfect, trial-and-error sort of way ; i.e., the only way possible. (A suggestion: encourage HSA's.) But such modest federal action will be politically acceptable only if we manage to turn the gaze of Americans away from Washington and toward their state capitals.
That last part is not so easy to do, but we know it's possible: For all his faults, Gov. Romney did it.