Knowledge is Power
Amid all the “Affordable Care Act” dishonesty, one stupid lie that has come up again and again, is that Obamacare was a Republican idea to begin with, and that “we” are simply opposing it now because Obama, racism, etc.
The individual mandate which was included in Obamacare is so close to what Stuart Butler of the Heritage Foundation initially suggested that we can honestly say there is no appreciable difference between the two. The only real difference is whether Republicans supported the idea or not. When it was branded as a conservative idea from a conservative think tank, then Republicans embraced the idea as requiring “personal responsibility” from all those deadbeats out there who were getting a free ride on the taxpayer’s dime. These were the days when “reforming welfare” was a big deal, and Republicans tended to lump a lot of things under the dreaded “welfare” label, to give some rhetorical context.
But when Democrats agreed to the idea — in the 1990s, and then later when Obamacare was being debated — Republicans decried the idea and refused to support it (to put all their histrionics and hyperventilating over Obamacare’s mandate in the mildest terms I can manage). That, it seems, is really the only thing which has changed over time. The idea itself hasn’t changed in any appreciable way from what was proposed in 1989. Republicans’ support of the idea, however, waxes and wanes depending on who proposes it.
The individual mandate is actually an idea that originally came from the very conservative Heritage Foundation in response to “HillaryCare” in the 1990′s, and was even referred to as part of a “Health Care Social Contract.” Personal responsibility and a social contract aren’t liberal ideas or conservative ideas, they’re common sense ideas.
It can be difficult to remember now, given the ferocity with which many Republicans assail it as an attack on freedom, but the provision in President Obama’s health care law requiring all Americans to buy health insurance has its roots in conservative thinking.
Charles C. W. Cooke addresses this fantasy, but I wanted to delve just a bit deeper.
The modicum of truth to this dishonesty comes from the fact that in 1989, and writer and thinker for The Heritage Foundation once advocated for an individual mandate. Not the Republican party. ONE thinker for ONE conservative organization. He didn’t advocate for forcing people to buy health insurance under penalty, and he certainly didn’t advocate for the federal government to determine what a health insurance policy HAD to cover, etc. He merely advanced the idea, at the time, that “some form of requirement to purchase insurance was needed ” to avoid instability. And then he changed his mind about it.
>Nevertheless, the myth persists. ObamaCare “adopts the ‘individual mandate’ concept from the conservative Heritage Foundation,” Jonathan Alter wrote recently in The Washington Post. MSNBC’s Chris Matthews makes the same claim, asserting that Republican support of a mandate “has its roots in a proposal by the conservative Heritage Foundation.” Former House speaker Nancy Pelosi and others have made similar claims.
Stuart Butler didn’t support a mandate as instituted by Obamacare, and he certainly didn’t come up with the idea.
Moreover, I agree with my legal colleagues at Heritage that today’s version of a mandate exceeds the constitutional powers granted to the federal government. Forcing those Americans not in the insurance market to purchase comprehensive insurance for themselves goes beyond even the most expansive precedents of the courts.
And there’s another thing. Changing one’s mind about the best policy to pursue — but not one’s principles — is part of being a researcher at a major think tank such as Heritage or the Brookings Institution. Serious professional analysts actually take part in a continuous bipartisan and collegial discussion about major policy questions. We read each other’s research. We look at the facts. We talk through ideas with those who agree or disagree with us. And we change our policy views over time based on new facts, new research or good counterarguments.
To boot, as Cooke points out, this vast support for the mandate by Republicans at the time wasn’t so very vast:
Truth be told, Republicans were so taken with Heritage’s design that a grand number of two of them ever went so far as to introduce a federal bill based on it and Mitt Romney used it as the basis of reform in deep-blue Massachusetts. Oh, and Newt Gingrich once said something nice about it — in 1995. This, suffice it to say, is hardly a ringing endorsement.
People who don’t read much (I’m referring to liberals here) may simply be completely unaware of the vigorous debate that occurs on the right. The National Review often devotes an its entire magazine for the writers to debate a certain issue – and the opinions often run the gamut. So it really isn’t very striking that at one point in time, a conservative adopted an idea that, in hindsight, doesn’t truly jive with “conservative” ideology.
This Forbes article delves into the issue in more detail than you may be interested.
Ramesh Ponnuru puts it all in perspective- basically conservatives had a huge disagrement on it, but it was MOSTLY just The Heritage Foundation and no on else.
Honestly, this is all a distraction. Because, this is the problem:
The Affordable Care Act was never going to make care more affordable, except for those receiving a big subsidy at the expense of taxpayers or other insurance buyers. A non-listening press might have known better if it had paid attention in the most admirable moment of John Kerry’s 2004 presidential campaign, when the candidate disabused a generation of liberal reporters by saying that covering the uninsured might be desirable for other reasons, but health-care costs would be driven out of sight once the government began subsidizing another large group of Americans to overconsume.
I don’t know if John Kerry has ever said something as correct as that.