Greg Sargent already took a crack at Mitt Romney’s new “Plan for a Stronger Middle Class,” but one thing that he didn’t get to shouldn't be ignored: Romney is apparently still campaigning on a “repeal and replace” plan on health care reform.
I don’t know that he’s the last Republican to still be pretending that there’s a “replace” bill to come, but I do know that hardly any Republican Senate candidates are saying anything about “replace” on their campaign web sites, and of course the House of Representatives has now gone around eighteen months since promising a “replace” bill in which they haven’t even come close to delivering one – not even bothering to hold hearings – despite all those votes to repeal the Affordable Care Act.
Of course there’s no bill. And of course Romney has no plan that “controls costs and improves care.” Well, he does have one: It’s the Massachusetts plan that he signed into law and that’s working just fine there. But he can’t admit that, can he? And so, well, nothing. But “repeal and replace” must test well, and so the pretense continues.
Team Romney has shown one ability: They can read a poll. By my count, this is at least the third policy area in which the Romney campaign has attempted to exploit a public opinion split. In health care, “Obamacare” is relatively unpopular, but doing nothing is even more unpopular, so Romney is for repeal and doing something (but won’t say what). On taxes, Romney specifies tax cuts (always popular!) while vaguely gesturing in the direction of making up the cost by repealing deductions and credits — which he won’t specify, since many of those provisions are extremely popular and since the mathematics of the tax code would, as the Tax Policy Center said yesterday, lead inevitably to higher taxes for most Americans. And then there’s spending. It’s a well-known public opinion finding that Americans like spending cuts in the abstract but dislike cuts for almost every program and issue area, and Romney is promising overall cuts without admitting to cutting any specific program.
In real life, if Republicans do win control of Congress, you can probably expect repeal with no replace, targeted spending cuts on things Republicans really hate but overall nowhere close to the level Romney has promised, and tax cuts with no offsetting reductions. Of course, that also adds up to huge increases in the budget deficit, but anyone who has watched Republican politics and policy in the last thirty years knows to expect that — as we can also expect them to rediscover the virtues of balanced budget approximately five minutes after the next Democrat reaches the Oval Office. (Don’t forget – repealing the Affordable Care Act increases the deficit too, no matter how much hand-waving the GOP engages in.)
At any rate, I’m pretty sure no one takes “repeal and replace” seriously two years after Republicans adopted the slogan, and long after “replace” was exposed as a mirage. Hey, if you prefer the 2008 status quo on health care, by all means support ACA repeal. Just don’t expect anything else from the Romney Republicans.