Favorite

The Romney elephant 

Seven months out from the first voting, the first big Republican presidential debate Tuesday revealed the most disconnected lineup of candidates of modern times. Maybe it will change.

There was an odd illogic to the whole gaudy two-hour CNN show. All the candidates condemned the economic record of their own party—joblessness and mammoth budget deficits—although, except for Rep. Ron Paul, they pretended that it was the work of President Obama. Their remedies were even more of what got us the big deficits and unemployment: cut or eliminate taxes paid by the rich and corporations and then rid the banks, investment companies, manufacturers and energy companies of all government restrictions on their conduct. Except for Rick Santorum, they pretty much repudiated the foreign policies of the two George Bushes and John McCain—military intervention in Muslim lands—though not by name.

But the real whimsy involved the party's acknowledged front-runner, Mitt Romney, whom the rest of the field treated deferentially. The leader of the pack is the man who perhaps more even than Barack Obama is responsible for the health-insurance reform law, the Affordable Care Act, which Republicans everywhere are supposed to loathe as the toil of Satan. Former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty had referred to it Sunday as "Obamneycare," but when CNN interlocutor John King asked him about it Pawlenty almost apologized. He did not mean anything by it but was just pointing out that Obama had bragged that it was patterned after Romney's great work in Massachusetts.

Although they all condemned "Obamacare" and promised to repeal it (presidents don't have that power) if they are elected, none of the others touched on Romney's role although it was the mid-sized elephant in the room. They must all have hoped that Romney will founder on his own without their making so transparent the party's big dilemma, that its likeliest leader is father of the nation's first universal health insurance law.

Romney had tried to stand behind his proudest achievement but somehow distinguish it from Obama's. It may work—he is even with Obama in the polls—but it is hard to see how his so-far nonsensical explanation can carry the day. His plan, he says, was right for Massachusetts but maybe not for the whole country. But, as a sympathetic New Yorker article about his fight to achieve universal health insurance in Massachusetts pointed out last week, he hoped it would be the template for a national law for which he would lead the fight.

If Romney wins the nomination or is closing in on it as the battle in the federal courts to toss universal coverage because of the insurance mandate climaxes, can the Republican-dominated appellate courts fail to take notice of the glaring paradox? It would be undoing universal insurance—a reform long demanded by the public—because it included a bit of Republican orthodoxy.

The private insurance mandate actually did not originate with Romney. President Richard Nixon delivered the plan to Congress on Feb. 6, 1974. Everyone in America would be insured through either Medicare, Medicaid or a mandate for every business in the country, large or small, to offer private health insurance to its employees and pay 75 percent of the premiums with some government subsidy for a few years. Nixon fled the office soon afterward and President Gerald Ford futilely pled with Democrats to pass the bill.

The mandate to buy private insurance, though this time it was on individuals, not companies, was the centerpiece of Republican policy in the 1990s. The party's main think tank, the Heritage Foundation, outlined it in 1990. It was the only way to hold people responsible for paying for their own care. Sen. John Chafee was the lead sponsor of the Republican plan, which mandated private coverage, in 1993, but President Clinton refused to compromise and the whole enterprise failed.

Then came Romney, who thought the health-care crisis was Massachusetts' No. 1 problem. He enlisted Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, the Democratic lion who had fought for universal coverage for 35 years. Kennedy held out for a single-payer plan all those years but finally acknowledged that it was hopeless and that Nixon had fathered the only plan that ever had a chance of passage. He joined with Romney, who was persuaded by research that showed that without a mandate a third of the uninsured, mostly younger, would never be covered.

Romney and Kennedy went to Washington Jan. 14, 2005, to persuade the Bush administration, which needed to provide a waiver for the Medicaid aspect of the plan (the same as Obama's). They got it. Bush would continue federal funds flowing to subsidize people buying insurance.

Barack Obama needed more persuasion. He opposed the mandate during the 2008 presidential campaign.

Kennedy hired Romney's health expert to lead the Senate toward a Romney-style health law. In the late spring of 2009, as the Senate and House plugged along in writing an insurance law, they finally persuaded Obama that the Republicans were right all along and that without Romney's or Nixon's mandate on either individuals or businesses the country could never achieve anything close to universal coverage.

Favorite

From the ArkTimes store

Speaking of...

Comments

Showing 1-1 of 1

Add a comment

 
Subscribe to this thread:
Showing 1-1 of 1

Add a comment

More by Ernest Dumas

  • Real reform

    Arkansas voters, once perversely skeptical of complicated ballot issues like constitutional amendments, have become almost comical Pollyannas, ratifying the most shocking laws.
    • May 25, 2017
  • Goodbye, Mr. Trump

    It is hard to escape the feeling that the fortunes of President Trump and the country took a decisive, and for Trump a fatal, turn May 9-10, when the president fired the director of the FBI over its investigation of Russian efforts to swing the presidential election to him and the very next day shared top-secret intelligence with Russian officials in an Oval Office meeting closed except to a Kremlin press aide toting electronic gear to capture the intimate session for Russians but not Americans.
    • May 18, 2017
  • McCain is right

    Who knew that the crusty old warmonger John McCain was both an earnest and eloquent defender of human rights, a cause that is in what we hope is only a momentary decline here and around the world?
    • May 11, 2017
  • More »

Readers also liked…

  • Guns, God and gays

    Many more mass shootings like the one last week in Roseburg, Ore., will stain the future and no law will pass that might reduce the carnage. That is not a prediction but a fact of life that is immune even to Hillary Clinton.
    • Oct 8, 2015
  • AEC dumps ALEC

    No matter which side of the battle over global warming you're on, that was blockbuster news last week. No, not the signing of the climate-change treaty that commits all of Earth's 195 nations to lowering their greenhouse-gas emissions and slowing the heating of the planet, but American Electric Power's announcement that it would no longer underwrite efforts to block renewable energy or federal smokestack controls in the United States.
    • Dec 17, 2015
  • No tax help for Trump

    The big conundrum is supposed to be why Donald Trump does so well among white working-class people, particularly men, who do not have a college education.
    • Aug 11, 2016

Most Shared

Latest in Ernest Dumas

  • Real reform

    Arkansas voters, once perversely skeptical of complicated ballot issues like constitutional amendments, have become almost comical Pollyannas, ratifying the most shocking laws.
    • May 25, 2017
  • Goodbye, Mr. Trump

    It is hard to escape the feeling that the fortunes of President Trump and the country took a decisive, and for Trump a fatal, turn May 9-10, when the president fired the director of the FBI over its investigation of Russian efforts to swing the presidential election to him and the very next day shared top-secret intelligence with Russian officials in an Oval Office meeting closed except to a Kremlin press aide toting electronic gear to capture the intimate session for Russians but not Americans.
    • May 18, 2017
  • McCain is right

    Who knew that the crusty old warmonger John McCain was both an earnest and eloquent defender of human rights, a cause that is in what we hope is only a momentary decline here and around the world?
    • May 11, 2017
  • More »

Visit Arkansas

Paddling the Fourche Creek Urban Water Trail

Paddling the Fourche Creek Urban Water Trail

Underutilized waterway is a hidden gem in urban Little Rock

Event Calendar

« »

May

S M T W T F S
  1 2 3 4 5 6
7 8 9 10 11 12 13
14 15 16 17 18 19 20
21 22 23 24 25 26 27
28 29 30 31  

Most Viewed

  • Virgil, quick come see

    There goes the Robert E. Lee. But the sentiment that built the monument? It's far from gone.
  • Conspiracy theorists

    Back in 2000, I interviewed Rev. Jerry Falwell on camera in connection with a documentary film of "The Hunting of the President," which Joe Conason and I wrote.
  • Real reform

    Arkansas voters, once perversely skeptical of complicated ballot issues like constitutional amendments, have become almost comical Pollyannas, ratifying the most shocking laws.
  • Not leaders

    As soon as I saw the Notre Dame graduates walking out of their own commencement ceremony as Vice President Mike Pence began to speak, I thought, "Oh no, here we go again."

Most Recent Comments

  • Re: Conspiracy theorists

    • Here's the conspiracy Gene Lyons knows is true: Trump conspired with the Russians - criminally…

    • on May 24, 2017
  • Re: Trump unfit

    • And now, although it is probably too late on this feed - the horrible bomber…

    • on May 24, 2017
  • Re: Trump unfit

    • Sorry, sorry - I mis-spoke or mis-wrote - the ACTUAL headline on the article was…

    • on May 23, 2017
 

© 2017 Arkansas Times | 201 East Markham, Suite 200, Little Rock, AR 72201
Powered by Foundation