Scott Walker got two things right recently. He got tough, and he got specific.
Walker’s toughness is one of his most valuable traits. In 2011, he withstood wily, obstructionist Democratic state senators who literally decamped Wisconsin for Illinois to prevent a quorum and thereby stymie Walker’s legislative agenda. He endured loud protests by some 100,000 ferocious, union-fueled demonstrators. Some of them urinated on his office door. Others scattered bullets on the state-capitol grounds. Walker survived chillingly specific death threats against him, his parents, and his children. The latter included details of the bus routes his sons took home from school.
Undaunted, Walker pushed ahead with landmark labor reforms. With equal courage, he won a vicious recall election, signed tax cuts and school-choice bills, terminated taxpayer funds to Planned Parenthood, and then faced down Democrats and free-spending union bosses at the polls last November. Walker easily secured reelection and, early this year, approved legislation that made Wisconsin a right-to-work state.
Despite his titanium core, however, Walker’s exterior demeanor is low-key, unassuming, and modest. The phrase “Sylvester Stallone trapped in Mister Rogers’s body” overstates both characteristics, but that vivid image telegraphs the point.
Walker’s toughness is rarely evident in his campaign appearances, and it was totally absent in his restrained performance in Fox News Channel’s August 6 GOP presidential debate. So it was a welcome contrast to see Walker rebuff union protesters who confronted him on the stump at the Iowa State Fair on August 17.
In addition to loud Leftists who heckled him, one man gave Walker a lot of lip while waving a sign that read, “Warning: Don’t let Scott Walker do to America what he did to Wisconsin.”
“Again, unintimidated,” Walker replied. Obviously pumped up, he continued:
I am not intimidated by you, sir, or by anyone else out there. I will fight for the American people — over and over, and over, and over again. You want someone who’s tested? I’m right here. You can see it. This is what happened in Wisconsin. We will not back down. We will do what is necessary to defend the American people going forward.
Walker’s assertive response — with just a flash of anger — recalled the electrifying moment in February 1980 when a debate organizer tried to disable candidate Ronald Reagan’s mic at a Nashua, N.H., political forum. Grabbing the mic stand, a visibly irritated Reagan uncharacteristically raised his voice and growled: “I am paying for this microphone, Mr. Green.”
The crowd roared, and America saw that the warm, gracious national grandpa actually was built around a core of solid steel. The rest is history.
Let’s hope for more such Stallone moments from the governor of Wisconsin.
Walker also did himself and the nation a service by setting forth the GOP contenders’ first serious plan to repeal and replace Obamacare.
To date, Walker has offered pleasant generalities about increasing individual liberty and shifting power from brain-dead Washington back to the largely sentient states. That’s all well and good. But, as the Beatles once sang, “We’d all love to see the plan.”
“The Day One Patient Freedom Plan” is Walker’s concrete proposal to scrap and substitute Obamacare. It begins with five of the most beautiful words in the English language: “Repeal ObamaCare in its entirety.”
After expunging Obama’s primary assault on the American Way, a President Walker would implement a system that reverses Obamacare’s massive damage. As Walker explains, “The plan’s main objective is to lower costs, expand choice to individuals and families, and return power back to the individual.”
Here are the highlights of the Patient Freedom Plan:
‐It would offer refundable tax credits to individuals who lack employer-based coverage, “to make health insurance more affordable and portable.” These tax credits would go directly into the pockets of consumers, to help them shop for insurance “that works best for them.” Unlike Obamacare, the plan would not funnel the credits directly to insurance companies.
These tax credits are not affluence-tested. This is an unfortunate departure from the strictest free-market tenets. However, this would have the salutary effect of keeping the IRS from verifying incomes listed on insurance applications. The credits are age-adjusted, however, which makes actuarial sense.
The credits would unfold as follows:
Walker illustrates how this approach would work:
For example, a 35-year-old woman who makes $35,000 per year and has no children gets $0 in ObamaCare subsidies — she’s too young and too middle class. Under my plan, this same woman would receive a $2,100 tax credit that she could use to shop for insurance in the open market and put any savings into a health savings account.
‐Walker makes health savings accounts available to any American who wants one. Today’s crabbed restrictions on HSAs, included at their inception as poison pills by the late Senator Edward Moore Kennedy (D., Mass.), would vanish. Individuals could place $6,250 in HSAs annually. Families could set aside $12,500. Anyone who opens an HSA would receive a one-time refundable tax credit of $1,000. In addition to paying toward health insurance and medical procedures, HSAs would be heritable under Walker’s plan. The assets in these accounts could be passed along to children, parents, or grandparents, not just spouses. This seriously would help those of modest means care for themselves and their loved ones without government rushing breathlessly and ineptly to their “rescue.”
‐Americans could purchase coverage across state lines. This will expand patient choice, competition among insurers, and transparency and “require states to scrutinize the costs of their regulations.”
‐Medical-lawsuit reform would help lower costs and reduce litigation-driven defensive medicine. As Walker puts it, “My plan would incentivize states to pass meaningful lawsuit reform and encourage them to establish specialized expert reviews to determine if and when a doctor made a mistake, or commonsense legal defenses for doctors who demonstrate that they followed established clinical practice guidelines in a case.”
‐So-called association health plans would become a reality under Walker. Other than federal greed, it is difficult to imagine the argument against this simple idea:
“Obamacare hoards power at the federal level,” Walker states. “My plan would change the existing federal rules to allow for new purchasing arrangements so farmers, small businesses, religious groups, individual membership associations, and others could join together, pool members, and offer health insurance policies for the group.”
‐Walker’s plan also provides limited-government solutions to the challenges of preexisting conditions, Medicaid reform, and promoting state-level answers to the problems that Washington makes worse.
“Americans have been thirsting for a well-conceived conservative alternative to Obamacare for six years,” writes Jeffrey H. Anderson, health-care-policy expert and executive director of the 2017 Project. “Finally, a leading Republican has offered one.”
Walker’s specific blueprints on taxes, economic growth, education, and counterterrorism all would be welcome in the weeks ahead. And, from time to time, Walker would be wise to flash some titanium.