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If Barack Obama's campaign slogan is "It could have been worse," Mitt Romney's seems to be "It won't be as bad." Mitt Romney's comment on Meet the Press about maintaining 'guaranteed issue' in his 'repeal and replace' health plan means there will be no repealing and far less replacing. When combined with comments about his opposition to tax cuts which will effectively raise the net tax burden for many, they reinforce an aversion to free market solutions that causes many conservatives to cringe when faced with the prospect of supporting his candidacy.
What Mitt Romney fails to acknowledge or perhaps does not understand is that 'guaranteed issue' is the reason why health insurance premiums are dramatically higher in liberal northeastern states like Massachusetts than they are in the rest of the country. "Guaranteed issue' provides that an insurance company must issue a policy no matter the health of the applicant. What it guarantees is that healthy people wait until they become sick before applying for coverage. Consequently, 'guaranteed issue' forces insurance companies to assume that each new policy applicant has cancer and price coverage accordingly in order to ensure that they have sufficient capital to pay anticipated claims. Imagine if insurance companies priced homeowners insurance as if every house was located in a flood zone, or automobile insurance as if every driver had a history of alcohol abuse and reckless driving. While Mitt Romney may feel empathy for people who are born with expensive illnesses, they comprise a sliver of the population and their coverage requirements can be dealt with in much more cost effect ways.
In addition, Mitt Romney expressed an interest in maintaining the provision that children be allowed to stay on their parents' health insurance policy, as he put it, "up to whatever age they might like." Does Mitt Romney envision maintaining his 60 year-old children on his health insurance policy when he reaches 80 years of age? This is hardly the warm embrace of free market solutions he spoke of in his convention acceptance speech.
Further, Mitt Romney added,
"I can tell you that people at the high end, high-income taxpayers, are going to have fewer deductions and exemptions. Those numbers are going to come down. Otherwise they'd get a tax break. And I want to make sure people understand, despite what the Democrats said at their convention, I am not reducing taxes on high-income taxpayers."
During the tax debate that occurred after the 2010 midterm elections, Congressional Republicans proudly reminded us that raising taxes on high-income taxpayers would be raising taxes on the small businesses that are the engine of economic growth in America. Mitt Romney is proposing that Congressional Republicans break their pledge to small business. By reducing federal income tax rates but not by an amount sufficient to account for the elimination of deductions for state and local taxes as well as mortgage interest, Mitt Romney will ask Congressional Republicans to reverse the pledge they made to small business not to raise their taxes. Further, if Mitt Romney was a true free marketeer, he would join the rest of the Republican party and the conservative movement and endorse a flat tax or at the very least, a significant flattening of the Internal Revenue Code similar to what was proposed in the House budget offered by his running mate.
By reversing course and endorsing parts of Obamacare, Mitt Romney is running the campaign Barack Obama should have run by saying he and Mitt Romney are not so different after all. Barack Obama will become the first American President to preside over a net job loss and yet he is LEADING most swing state polls. This is not because voters mistrust Mitt Romney because he is a rich guy who does not understand their struggles. It is because voters do not trust that Mitt Romney has values that are inviolable. Repealing Obamacare is not an applause line to the conservative movement that manufactured a 60 seat swing in the U.S. House of Representatives in the 2010 midterm elections. It is our raison d'etre! We do not want Massachusetts liberalism to infest conservatism and reverse the accomplishments we fought so hard for.
To paraphrase a biblical story, Moses smashed the tablets when he came down from Mt Sinai because his people were not prepared to receive them and were thus relegated to forty years wandering the desert. I worry that unless Mitt Romney reverses course relinquishing his embrace of Obamacare and tax hikes, the American people may be in for four more years of wandering.