To the editor,
In his response (July 5) to the decision by the Supreme Court upholding the constitutionality of the Affordable Healthcare Act (ACA), Taylor Armerding salvages what he can, noting that the decision “gives voters a refreshingly clear choice this fall,” since “Republican Mitt Romney has promised to repeal [!] Obamacare on his first day in office.” Singling out the most controversial feature of the act, the so-called individual mandate (IM) that requires individuals to purchase basic health insurance or face a penalty, Armerding predicts that “voters will be reminded that Obama was against the mandate before he was for it.”
Presumable they will also be reminded that Mitt Romney was for the individual mandate before he was against it. The IM was after all a centerpiece of MassCare, the healthcare reform law enacted during Romney’s term as governor. And Romney was an enthusiastic supporter of the IM. If you doubt this, listen to his own voice on YouTube (“Mitt Romney First Introduces the Individual Mandate at Heritage in Jan. 2006”). In 2007, after MassCare passed, Romney described the IM as “ultimate conservatism,” and credited the conservative Heritage Foundation with originating the idea. In 2009, during the initial debates over the ACA, Romney wrote an Op-Ed piece for USAToday, urging Obama to adopt the IM and assuring him that congressional Republicans would flock to support the ACA if he did so (www.usatoday.com/printedition/news/20090730/column30_st.art.htm). As late as April 2010, Romney was glowing in his praise for the ACA’s inclusion of the IM.
Obama for his part was never actually against the IM; but initially his preference was for other policy solutions. What made him change his mind? Perhaps it was a pragmatic calculation that Romney might be right: the IM might be workable, and Republicans might be more inclined to support a bill that included it. He was wrong on the second point, of course; but at least he attempted pragmatic bi-partisanship.
The more troubling question is this: What made Romney change his mind about the IM? Until he explains this remarkable about-face, we’ll be stuck with the image of Romney shaking his Etch-A-Sketch, changing his fundamental positions out of pure electoral expediency, and asking the American people to elect – well, a blank slate.