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Can Mitt Romney Avoid the 'Obamacare' Trap?

Last week's Supreme Court ruling mostly declared the Affordable Care Act constitutional. Here's why the upcoming election is about more than just nationalized healthcare.

Members of this Court are vested with the authority to interpret the law; we possess neither the expertise nor the prerogative to make policy judgments. Those decisions are entrusted to our Nation’s elected leaders, who can be thrown out of office if the people disagree with them. It is not our job to protect the people from the consequences of their political choices. -- Opinion of John Roberts, chief justice, Supreme Court of the United States, National Federation of Independent Business v. Kathleen Sebelius, Secretary of Health and Human Services

Democrats and liberals, repeat after me: I shall no longer gnash my teeth over the United States Supreme Court’s Bush v. Gore ruling.

For it was President George W. Bush - whose appointment to the Court of Chief Justice John Roberts, a constitutional conservative – who indirectly permitted last week’s close ruling (link to PDF of the court's decision) in favor of the Affordable Care Act. Justice Roberts cast the deciding vote and wrote the majority opinion that upheld the individual mandate, which will tax – liberals: thou shalt not call it a “penalty” – those who do not buy health insurance.

Conservatives have sworn to fight the ruling and presumptive Republican Presidential nominee Mitt Romney – who some say invented the blueprint for nationalized health care back home in Massachusetts – promises to overturn it should he win election in the fall.

Conservatives and limited-government-minded individuals everywhere count the Court’s denial of the administration’s Commerce Clause argument and upholding of the Medicare opt-out provision as cold comfort. And while the enormously unpopular reform does provide some positives, the federal government has not established a fiscally sound track record when it comes to running expensive social programs.

Conservatives must exercise caution, however, before making an ACA repeal the centerpiece of the upcoming election, perhaps the most important in decades. Although the new law is expensive, bloated with pork and doesn’t even guarantee that every American will secure health insurance, no one – yes, even those heartless (sic) conservatives – wants to see a sick American denied access to healthcare. The way in which this bill was crafted, however, speaks volumes about the way this administration does business.

Just as W. never adequately proved that the Iraq war was justified, President Obama never demonstrated exactly how healthcare reform would create jobs and help the economy, a central claim he made in 2009 while Congress crafted 900 pages of dense party-line legislation that incorporates a variety of pet projects that have little, if anything, to do with healthcare.

Therein lay only one of the many arguments that Romney strategists should be making to undecided voters. As a sign in then-candidate Bill Clinton’s campaign office once read, “it’s the economy, stupid.” And in the Obama administration’s case, it’s not only the economy and healthcare reform, but foreign affairs, education reform and variety of other issues that affect every single American every single day.

Never mind that the ACA has no real teeth because the tax does not approach the cost of health insurance and many probably won’t buy it as a result. Never mind that the Court declared unconstitutional the government’s intention to yank Medicare funding from states that don’t comply with the ACA. And never mind Nancy Pelosi blithely announcing years back that Congress had to first pass the ACA to discover what’s in it.

The ACA won’t do anything to help the economy, which is the help that we so desperately need. Its rules state that businesses smaller than 50 employees don’t have to comply, thus discouraging expansion and job creation. The chief economist at the Wall Street Journal reports that those making less than 120k per year will shoulder an astonishing 75 percent of ACA costs. And while premiums for older adults will fall, guess whose will rise? Yup, those of young people, who are already subsidizing older Americans’ retirements and healthcare with little chance that those programs will be around to pay for their own.

As an example, want to take a guess at how many young Americans believe Social Security will be around when they retire? If you believe a recent Gallup poll, 14 percent. Fourteen percent.  The biggest irony of all is that our current healthcare system came about because of government price controls during World War II!

Democrats often paint Republicans as uncaring rich white folks who don’t care about helping anyone but themselves.  I am so tired of that ridiculous assertion, because nothing could be further from the truth: all we differ on is how to solve the domestic and foreign problems our nation faces. Republicans weren’t allowed at the healthcare deal table; now, we are stuck with the most important social legislation in decades that was written by one political party lead by a man with not a shred of real world business experience.

While many fiscal conservatives believe that the Court’s decision was flimsy – because even though the Court denied the Commerce Clause argument, if it looks like a horse and smells like a horse, it must be glue – there are more reasons than the ACA to reject Obama’s candidacy in November. A still-weak economy, dismal foreign affairs, broken promises (remember Guantanamo?), ridiculous courting of foreign dollars for campaign purposes, zero immigration reform – the list goes on and on.

Mr. Romney, please remember that the ACA is only one part of your campaign. Don’t let this election become a referendum on whether or not every American should have health insurance, because if you do, you will lose.

Barbara Rock July 05, 2012 at 12:51 PM
And where did you get your degree in economics? The Affordable Care Act will indeed change the structure of the healthcare industry, including creating private sector jobs in insurance companies and state jobs for the insurance marketplaces. But jobs are not the main thrust of the act, anyway. The main thrust is the concept that citizens deserve affordable access to healthcare even if they can't afford it or have pre-existing conditions, just as citizens are entitled to clean air and water. The Dems believe it is part of the social contract between citizens and the government that they not be condemned to debilitation or death because of the high cost of health care, while the Republicans think there is no social contract in the first place. You pretend to be independent but I see a bias toward the Republican or libertarian point of view--government is always the problem, never the solution. While it is true that government tends to be inefficient in allocation of resources, resulting in mis-pricing, when there is no private market that will provide a needed service, the government is the last resort. It is heartless to suggest otherwise. You never know which poverty-striken child in ill health may be able to change science and technology in the years to come, thanks to state-provided health care.
Lisa Bigelow July 05, 2012 at 01:22 PM
Dear Barbara, I actually do have a degree in mathematics and economics. SUNY Plattsburgh, '94. Anyway, as you state, "the government tends to be inefficient in allocation of resources, resulting in mis-pricing." And yes, I am a registered Republican with independent leanings. And as I note, the law does provide some important protections -- providing coverage for kids up to age 26 as well as for pre-existing conditions, for example -- but there must be a better solution than this bill of bloated pork (Obamacare for pets -- have you read about this?). Even Harry Reid said that any legislator who doesn't have a pet project somewhere in the ACA isn't doing his job. You just can't make it up. Don't assume that fiscally conservative legislators are "heartless" and don't want to help. It's time to listen to those who have financial concerns about the direction this country is heading. Thanks for reading and commenting! Lisa B.
See the truth July 05, 2012 at 01:52 PM
The Patch is delivering less useful information and more conservative psycho-babble on a daily basis. Losing interest.
teri kopp July 05, 2012 at 03:04 PM
So it's not useful info if it's a different opinion than yours? Spoke like a true liberal, or a socialist. Did you celebrate Independence Day or the 4th of July? Perhaps Labor Day on May 1? This ACA is moving us in that direction very quickly. I am an independent and I am sick to death of have to bear the weight of the world on my financial shoulders just because we work hard for our money. Health care...especially for children, has always been available to the poor so what are really talking about here? My daughter is 20 and is NOT able to be on our plan because she isn't a full time student. She can't find good employment with benefits because of high unemployment. Let the states handle Medicaid because in 3 years it will be the state's issue to deal with when the federal aid expires and it will along with many other things of Mr. Obama is re-elected... God forbid!
MAC July 05, 2012 at 11:07 PM
Lisa and teri, I agree! People like Barbara and chris are willfully blind to simple facts, and think they can add 2 + 2 and get = 5, like the STATISTS and career politicians do! The liberal drones who demand "universal health care" and laud OBAMATAX should all read your article. It is full of facts which show that the 2,700 page monstrosity the DEMS rammed through is nothing approaching "affordable," and has more to do with CONTROL over all American's lives than with improving health care access. A few of your many very pertinent points are: ..."Never mind that the ACA has no real teeth because the tax does not approach the cost of health insurance and many probably won’t buy it as a result."... ..."those making less than 120k per year will shoulder an astonishing 75 percent of ACA costs. And while premiums for older adults will fall, guess whose will rise? Yup, those of young people, who are already subsidizing older Americans’ retirements and healthcare with little chance that those programs will be around to pay for their own." ..."The biggest irony of all is that our current healthcare system came about because of government price controls during World War II!"... Then there is the unmentioned fact that the CBO has already calculated, before most of the "act" is even in effect, despite the 20-some new and raised TAXES, that the COST is going to be at least twice what congress projected, and is going to blow up the DEFICITS!!
Joe Smyser July 12, 2012 at 06:01 PM
Did you really compare George Bush not justifying the Iraq war with Obama not stating how ACA will create jobs? Think about that one please. One of them involves sending citizens to WAR over virtually nothing while the other is a reformed healthcare system that will help the poor.
George July 13, 2012 at 09:53 PM
We all need to get a grip on the Act and understand that it is NOT healthcare reform. It DOES NOT make healthcare affordable. It DOES restructure the insurance industry. It DOES shift the cost of care from policy holders to businesses and ALL private taxpayers, especially those in higher-paying brackets. It DOES leave at least 20 MILLION uninsured who will continue to receive care in hospital emergency rooms, a most inefficient way of providing care. People need to stop referring to the Act as health legislation and realize it is insurance reform. As for its effects on the economy, time will tell. I know what I see happening in my business; it's likely that within 18-24 months I will no longer be a taxpayer.

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