Nevertheless, some things are wrong everywhere. One such thing is a massive government infiltration into the private economy, one that coerces the purchase of a commodity (health insurance) as a condition of living in the state. For one thing, such an exercise in steroid statism establishes a rationale in law for government intrusion into every aspect of private life: If health care is deemed a corporate asset, then “bad” behavioral choices must be regulated, lest someone get more than his share. Romney portrayed Romneycare as a model, at least for other states, if not for the nation. But no free-market, limited-government conservative thinks this officious onslaught is a model to be emulated anyplace.
Then there is the Romney line that the people in his state like Romneycare. Well, why shouldn’t they, at least for a time? The program schemed to exploit Medicaid’s byzantine rules in order to shift hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars from the rest of the country to Massachusetts. This was not a case of a state going its own way; it was a redistribution of wealth by which Massachusetts got Americans across the country to pay its obligations. And those obligations are metastasizing: Romneycare has driven up medical costs, driven up premiums, and increased taxes on all Americans as well as on citizens of the Bay State. As the Cato Institute (among others) points out
, Romney’s claim not to have raised state taxes is false, although most of the rise occurred after he left office — but only because of his unrealistic cost projections,
Obamacare is the issue that inspires the conservative base. Republicans simply must have the base’s enthusiastic support if they are to beat a lavishly funded incumbent who will pull no punches, none, in striving to keep his job. There is no serious person who doubts that Romneycare was the building block for Obamacare: The experts who helped design the former were consulted in the creation of the latter. Yet Romney continues to insist that Romneycare is a smashing success, one he suggests he’d do again without hesitation.
Of course he now says he’d fight to repeal Obamacare, but is Romney really the best candidate to be making that fight? How convincing will he be in decrying wealth redistribution, runaway government spending, and freedom-killing government mandates while he continues championing an overbearing state program that stands as a monument to all those things?
I keep hoping to hear those three words: “I was wrong.” But they’re not coming. Romney supporters on the right keep rationalizing that he is just doing what he must do to stay viable: resisting a colossal flip-flop that would be more damaging than all the others. The candidate, however, says no, and attests that he is defending Romneycare because he believes in it. I usually worry that politicians lie. I’m worried that this one is telling the truth.
— Andrew C. McCarthy, a senior fellow at the National Review Institute, is the author, most recently, of The Grand Jihad: How Islam and the Left Sabotage America.