But ending on that note wouldn’t be wise. So Romney is also saying that it’s un-American for the federal government to pass and impose an individual mandate. A violation of the 10th Amendment, don’cha know. His problem, of course, is that he didn’t mention the 10th Amendment when he, like so many other Republicans, was praising, passing and selling both state-based and national individual mandates in the 1990s and early-aughts. So how exactly is he going to sum this up for the Republican primary? “The individual mandate is great policy, but as president, I pledge to oppose it”? “I believe in states’ rights first and a functional health-insurance market second”?
As for the rest of the speech, it was vague and contradictory in the same places as his op-ed, so my analysis from yesterday holds up. Romney’s plan to equalize the tax treatment between health insurance purchased by employers and individuals wasn’t spelled out. And his curious decision to undercut the federalism in his plan remained the most glaring policy deficiency in the proposal. The first question Romney was asked, in fact, was about how he’d prevent a “race to the bottom” among the states. He replied that the voters would do it for him. If they didn’t like how their governor or legislature was handling health care, they’d kick them out. His answer was so off it raises the question of whether he’s even read his own plan.
Romney’s proposal permits insurance to be sold across state lines. The way the race to the bottom works is that South Dakota — to pick a not-so-random state — wipes out their insurance regulations to attract jobs and tax revenue from insurers who want to headquarter in a low-regulation state and sell their product in other states. But there’s no way for voters in Colorado or California to punish politicians in South Dakota. And it’s not like this is some theoretical concern. It already happened in the credit-card industry. So Romney’s ultimate pitch on health care is that “the plan I passed in Massachusetts was great policy, but as president, I pledge to oppose it and enable the insurance industry to undermine any state that attempts to implement it”? “I believe in the rights of whichever state wants to give the insurance industry the most sweetheart deal first, and a functioning health-care market second”? Is that really a winning message?