Former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney recently posted a comment on NRO about how he would undo Obamacare — a comment that shows he is still a very long way away from understanding where he needs to be on what is likely to be the crucial domestic issue of the 2012 elections. His short post misses the mark in two important ways.
First, Romney says he would begin to undo Obamacare with an executive order: “If I were president, on Day One I would issue an executive order paving the way for Obamacare waivers to all 50 states,” he wrote. “The executive order would direct the Secretary of Health and Human Services and all relevant federal officials to return the maximum possible authority to the states to innovate and design health-care solutions that work best for them.”
Governor Romney has to know he can’t use an executive order to wipe out two massive new entitlement programs, $550 billion in new and higher taxes, vast Medicaid expansion, and mandates on individuals, businesses, and the states to comply with the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. Waivers are not a solution.
Second, he says: “Of course, the ultimate goal is to repeal Obamacare and replace it with free-market reforms that promote competition and lower health-care costs. But since an outright repeal would take time, an executive order is the first step in returning power to the states.”
Take time? The Republican House passed a repeal bill within a few weeks of taking power. If there were a majority in the Senate supporting repeal, then a new president could have a bill to sign on his desk within a month or two of taking office. Why on earth would you want to send states on a wild chase to start implementing Obamacare in a different way?
Governor Romney’s post shows he is still trying to defend his indefensible position that RomneyCare was right for Massachusetts but that he wouldn’t impose it on the rest of the country. RomneyCare gave President Obama the model for the Obamacare monstrosity, a fact which is clear and where the president has shown a rare willingness to share credit.
How is Romney’s new solution on waivers different from President Obama’s position? It isn’t. The president said recently he would be happy to grant waivers to any states that wanted to go about putting health care under government control in a different way. Romney’s plan to issue an executive order to implement Obamacare is derivative of the president’s position.
The voters will see little daylight between Romney’s approach to health reform and the president’s. If Romney were to get the Republican presidential nomination, Obamacare would collapse as an issue. And it would be much, much more difficult to undo this legislation that would turn citizens into subjects and turn states into contractors of a vastly more powerful federal government.
This is a debate we must have, and Governor Romney still seems to have a difficult time grasping its central importance.
Posted on National Review Online: Critical Condition, March 29, 2011.