Why the GOP Will Wish It Could Lead with Ron Paul After This ObamaCare Ruling


As readers of Reason have been reminded far and near, Mitt Romney, no matter how tough he's talking now, has some credibility issues when it comes to attacking ObamaCare as a potential president.

Not that everyone shouldn't know this by now, but Peter Suderman summed it up back in May 2011:

ObamaCare, which includes a health insurance mandate, is a near carbon copy of RomneyCare: a hefty Medicaid expansion coupled to equally large middle-class insurance subsidies, new regulations that all but turn health insurance into a public utility, and an individual mandate to buy a private insurance plan. Indeed, the same Obama administration that Romney accused of being fundamentally anti-American has on multiple occasions explicitly cited the plan that Romney signed into law as the direct model for their plan.

Romney's only real contrast between his plan and the president's plan boiled down to a single, simple distinction: Obama's overhaul was a federal overhaul; Romney's was state-based. Romney would have us believe that the same system of mandates and regulations that constitutes an unconscionable imposition on individual liberty at the federal level is somehow a natural and great part of the American way of life at the state level. 

Suderman again, from earlier this month:

The GOP candidate's promises to do away with the president's health law have never been terribly convincing: His plan to offer states waivers to avoid the law probably won't work. His promises to push for repeal have always come across as hollow when paired with his defense of his own law.

That's even more true now. Not only did Romney accept the mandate in Massachusetts, he forcefully defended it while his staff insisted on its inclusion. And despite widespread distrust of Romney's commitment to unwinding the federal health care overhaul, Romney decided to appoint as a senior adviser someone who profits from ObamaCare and professionally urges conservative legislators to fall in line with one its key directives despite contrary advice from every major policy shop that opposes the health law.

Does this sound like someone whose commitment to opposing ObamaCare and its mandate is in any way reliable? It's almost as if Romney doesn't really find ObamaCare or its underlying structure particularly objectionable, and is merely pretending to vehemently oppose the law because he believes that's what the voters his campaign is targeting want to hear.

Indeed, though even the Tea Party, supposedly so energized by ObamaCare hate, seems willing to sigh and take Romney.

But even if we believed Romney will for political expedience barrel through with anti-ObamaCare Tea Party talking points for political gain whether or not he is credible or really believes it, he can't really "repeal it in day one" without Congress's going along, nor would his "state waiver" plan likely do what he claims it will.

A House repeal vote is scheduled for July 9. Good luck, congressional Republicans. Timothy Carney argues, interestingly, that given the "tax" nature of the decision, reducing that "tax" to zero counts as budget reconciliation and thus can't be filibustered, thus requiring only 51 Senate votes to essentially repeal that part in the Senate. And good luck with that, Senate Republicans.

The fate of ObamaCare, as some bemoan and some cheer, a matter for the politicians now. While some darkly suspect Roberts was pressured by Obama forces to give in, others suspect he was in fact knowingly helping Romney forces to allegedly help ensure enough angry energized Republican voters to smash Obama in November. Perhaps Obama the health care martyr would be a better energizer of his base, while the GOP can count on its forces rising to beat Obama the health care dictator.

Romney certainly can presume most anti-ObamaCare potential voters (there are still lots of them) probably thinking they have nowhere else to go. But who would have been a more effective anti-ObamaCare standardbearer? Ron Paul, of course.

Paul's comments on the decision:

"I strongly disagree with today's decision by the Supreme Court, but I am not surprised.  The Court has a dismal record when it comes to protecting liberty against unconstitutional excesses by Congress.    

"Today we should remember that virtually everything government does is a 'mandate.'  The issue is not whether Congress can compel commerce by forcing you to buy insurance, or simply compel you to pay a tax if you don't.  The issue is that this compulsion implies the use of government force against those who refuse.  The fundamental hallmark of a free society should be the rejection of force.  In a free society, therefore, individuals could opt out of "Obamacare" without paying a government tribute.

"Those of us in Congress who believe in individual liberty must work tirelessly to repeal this national health care law and reduce federal involvement in healthcare generally.  Obamacare can only increase third party interference in the doctor-patient relationship, increase costs, and reduce the quality of care.  Only free market medicine can restore the critical independence of doctors, reduce costs through real competition and price sensitivity, and eliminate enormous paperwork burdens….

And Paul talking up the problems with ObamaCare earlier this week:

supporters of Obamacare are willfully ignorant of basic economics. The fundamental problem with health care costs in America is that the doctor-patient relationship has been profoundly altered by third party interference. Third parties, either government agencies themselves or nominally private insurance companies virtually forced upon us by government policies, have not only destroyed doctor-patient confidentiality. They also inescapably drive up costs because basic market disciplines — supply and demand, price sensitivity, and profit signals — are destroyed … Obamacare, via its insurance mandate, is more of the same misdiagnosis."

Ron Paul, as above, has demonstrated understanding of why health care costs are so damn high (hint: RomneyCare has not actually contained costs), and it's because of the absurd and complicated system of third party payments and supply reductions imposed by government mandate.

Paul also knew that the Court would validate the mandate, back in March, and wrote in the sort of rhetorical move that should appeal to leftists a bit worried about government forcing us to buy a product from huge powerful corporations, in his book Liberty Defined, "A better description of…the past forty to fifty years is the takeover of medical care by the corporations. We now have a form of corporatism veering toward fascism….Regardless of party, corporate special interests  are protected….Corporations, unions, and government stand between patients and their doctors regardless of motivation. The quality and cost of medical care can never be improved by forcing on the American people greater debt-financed involvement in medical care."

Paul argues against not only the expansion of government involvement in medicine inherent in ObamaCare but also the past government incursions on the market for making both insurance and health care costs rise, thus making him the only consistent voice for the principles of government involvement in health care reined in not only by a more consistent interpretation of proper congressional power, but economic sense as well.  

Thus, while Paul is himself more federalist than many libertarians like, he doesn't accept Romney's excuse that mandating insurance purchase in Massachusetts was the right thing to do whereas doing it federally is not. Such mandates would never be the right thing to do, and fall under no proper understanding of what government is even for.

Romney may be able to get away with the two party game of blaming the latest extension of crappy governing principles on the other guy, but neither he nor any other prominent Republican seem to actually understand why our health care system was such a mess that ObamaCare could even pass–or are prepared to explain the moral, legal, constitutional, and economic reasons why nearly all government interference in health care is a bad idea. Only Ron Paul could do that.

With the Court granting Congress potentially limitless power to do anything under the taxing power, this decision reminds us that we need a sea change not just in the Nine Supremes. (It is worth noting that there is a reasonable libertarian-friendly interpretation of today's decision, which some cheer and some jeer, that in rejecting the Commerce Clause arguments Roberts has indeed stabbed post-New Deal pro-state jurisprudence in the heart even if the blood didn't stain the mandate)

The change, as Ron Paul always recognized, needs to be in the political philosophy and action of the people as a whole. And Paul was the only GOP candidate who consistently and fully understands and can be relied to act on the principled reasons why ObamaCare was and is wrong.

Alas, the Tea Party sold out that One True Voice against ObamaCare and the reasons we got ObamaCare, and without some version of his ideas animating national politics, ObamaCare may eventually be killed, but the forces that have led to massive and growing health care expenses will remain. That will merely trigger the next feckless state-run solution to a problem that would be far better served by less government involvement, not more.

My book on the meaning of Ron Paul writ large, Ron Paul's Revolution: The Man and the Movement He Inspired.