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Can Mitt Romney Avoid the 'Obamacare' Trap?

Last week's Supreme Court ruling mostly declared the Affordable Care Act constitutional. Here's why the upcoming election is about more than just nationalized healthcare.

Members of this Court are vested with the authority to interpret the law; we possess neither the expertise nor the prerogative to make policy judgments. Those decisions are entrusted to our Nation’s elected leaders, who can be thrown out of office if the people disagree with them. It is not our job to protect the people from the consequences of their political choices. -- Opinion of John Roberts, chief justice, Supreme Court of the United States, National Federation of Independent Business v. Kathleen Sebelius, Secretary of Health and Human Services

Democrats and liberals, repeat after me: I shall no longer gnash my teeth over the United States Supreme Court’s Bush v. Gore ruling.

For it was President George W. Bush -- whose appointment to the Court of Chief Justice John Roberts, a constitutional conservative – who indirectly permitted last week’s close ruling (link to PDF of the court's decision) in favor of the Affordable Care Act. Justice Roberts cast the deciding vote and wrote the majority opinion that upheld the individual mandate, which will tax – liberals: thou shalt not call it a “penalty” – those who do not buy health insurance.

Conservatives have sworn to fight the ruling and presumptive Republican Presidential nominee Mitt Romney – who some say invented the blueprint for nationalized health care back home in Massachusetts – promises to overturn it should he win election in the fall.

Conservatives and limited-government-minded individuals everywhere count the Court’s denial of the administration’s Commerce Clause argument and upholding of the Medicare opt-out provision as cold comfort. And while the enormously unpopular reform does provide some positives, the federal government has not established a fiscally sound track record when it comes to running expensive social programs.

Conservatives must exercise caution, however, before making an ACA repeal the centerpiece of the upcoming election, perhaps the most important in decades. Although the new law is expensive, bloated with pork and doesn’t even guarantee that every American will secure health insurance, no one – yes, even those heartless (sic) conservatives – wants to see a sick American denied access to healthcare. The way in which this bill was crafted, however, speaks volumes about the way this administration does business.

Just as W. never adequately proved that the Iraq war was justified, President Obama never demonstrated exactly how healthcare reform would create jobs and help the economy, a central claim he made in 2009 while Congress crafted 900 pages of dense party-line legislation that incorporates a variety of pet projects that have little, if anything, to do with healthcare.

Therein lay only one of the many arguments that Romney strategists should be making to undecided voters. As a sign in then-candidate Bill Clinton’s campaign office once read, “it’s the economy, stupid.” And in the Obama administration’s case, it’s not only the economy and healthcare reform, but foreign affairs, education reform and variety of other issues that affect every single American every single day.

Never mind that the ACA has no real teeth because the tax does not approach the cost of health insurance and many probably won’t buy it as a result. Never mind that the Court declared unconstitutional the government’s intention to yank Medicare funding from states that don’t comply with the ACA. And never mind Nancy Pelosi blithely announcing years back that Congress had to first pass the ACA to discover what’s in it.

The ACA won’t do anything to help the economy, which is the help that we so desperately need. Its rules state that businesses smaller than 50 employees don’t have to comply, thus discouraging expansion and job creation. The chief economist at the Wall Street Journal reports that those making less than 120k per year will shoulder an astonishing 75 percent of ACA costs. And while premiums for older adults will fall, guess whose will rise? Yup, those of young people, who are already subsidizing older Americans’ retirements and healthcare with little chance that those programs will be around to pay for their own.

As an example, want to take a guess at how many young Americans believe Social Security will be around when they retire? If you believe a recent Gallup poll, 14 percent. Fourteen percent.  The biggest irony of all is that our current healthcare system came about because of government price controls during World War II!

Democrats often paint Republicans as uncaring rich white folks who don’t care about helping anyone but themselves.  I am so tired of that ridiculous assertion, because nothing could be further from the truth: all we differ on is how to solve the domestic and foreign problems our nation faces. Republicans weren’t allowed at the healthcare deal table; now, we are stuck with the most important social legislation in decades that was written by one political party lead by a man with not a shred of real world business experience.

While many fiscal conservatives believe that the Court’s decision was flimsy – because even though the Court denied the Commerce Clause argument, if it looks like a horse and smells like a horse, it must be glue – there are more reasons than the ACA to reject Obama’s candidacy in November. A still-weak economy, dismal foreign affairs, broken promises (remember Guantanamo?), ridiculous courting of foreign dollars for campaign purposes, zero immigration reform – the list goes on and on.

Mr. Romney, please remember that the ACA is only one part of your campaign. Don’t let this election become a referendum on whether or not every American should have health insurance, because if you do, you will lose.

Susanne Krivit July 06, 2012 at 01:25 PM
This is partisan rhetoric parading as reasonableness. If the author of this column wants to provide advice to the Romney campaign, I suggest she contact them directly. For fact based information concerning the ACA take a look at the C-HIT website: c-hit.newhavenindependant.org. The article “Health Care Law Stands: What It Means For CT And You”.
Leon Karvelis August 14, 2012 at 11:57 AM
What is not addressed in this one-sided, breast-beating tome is the fact that what is disparagingly referred to as "Obamacare" was a plan created by the conservative Heritage Foundation think-tank, initially endorsed by Newt Gingrich, and first implemented by a Governor of Massachusetts named Romney. It is a plan that places national health insurance squarely in the hands of the private sector health insurance companies and is not a "government takeover" of health insurance as alleged by many opponents. In fact a "government takeover" in the form of "Medicare for All" would have been easier to implement and would have provided enormous administrative relief to employers, doctors and patients. Nevertheless, tens of millions of uninsured people will now have coverage and we can begin to address the cost differential wherein we spend twice as much for health care as any other nation in the developed world with little difference in outcomes. Disparaging Obama for having the political guts to address this issue falls flat in the face of the facts and the utter unwillingness of the Republican Party and its candidates to elaborate any reasonable alternative to ACA. Throwing around baseless charges and wringing hands over a Supreme Court decision provides no public policy solution to this serious national need. It merely defines so-called "conservatives" as the public policy sea-anchors marching into the past that they are.

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