In a sane climate, Mitt Romney would be running for president on his one big success as a politician: achieving something close to universal private health insurance coverage as governor of Massachusetts. Romneycare cut costs, improved health care outcomes and is quite popular there.
Alas, President Obama’s election has driven many Republicans so crazy that the putative nominee makes an unconvincing show of despising his own brainchild.
Has there ever been a more unconvincing faker in American politics? Romney acts as if he thinks voters are morons. But then, right-wing hysteria over the Supreme Court’s upholding “Obamacare” shows he could be correct.
Mandating health insurance wasn’t Romney’s own idea. The conservative Heritage Foundation saw it as a way to realize the practical and moral benefits of a socialized, government-run health care system like Canada’s through private, for-profit insurance companies — the best of both worlds.
Romney even wrote a 2009 USA Today column advising President Obama about the mandate’s advantages: “Using tax penalties, as we did [in Massachusetts], or tax credits, as others have proposed,” he wrote, “encourages ‘free riders’ to take responsibility for themselves rather than pass their medical costs on to others.”
The president put it this way in reacting to the Supreme Court’s validating Obamacare: “People who can afford to buy health insurance should take the responsibility to do so.”
So is it a tax, or is it a penalty?