The Dearth of Republican Attacks on Individual Mandates

by: Daniel De Groot

Tue Aug 11, 2009 at 17:00

Awhile back, Ian Welsh wrote:

Republicans understand opposition politics: when you're in the opposition, you don't smile bipartisanly, you gnaw at the ankles of the ruling party.  Nothing they do is right, everything they do is wrong.

Generally Ian is spot on, and he's right in terms of the burnt earth style of Republican opposition to Obama/Democrats but I'm going to quibble on this one because I've detected a dog that is not barking, and I think the silence of this particular hound says a lot about the utter sham and fraud that is movement conservativism.  Namely, where is the conservative/Republican opposition to the Democratic proposal to enforce individual mandates to purchase health insurance?  

Daniel De Groot :: The Dearth of Republican Attacks on Individual Mandates
A recent synopsis of the health care debate notes:

An individual mandate is proposed in three versions of health reform, but not by Obama or Republicans in the House of Representatives. The president would require that all children be insured, and House Republicans don't propose any kind of individual mandate.

The mandate would be enforced by tax penalties on people who don't buy coverage. One version, proposed by House Democrats, would impose a 2.5 percent income-tax penalty.

Could it be conservatives are in favour of the US Federal government forcing the free citizens of the United States to purchase health insurance, whether they choose to or not?  Doesn't this represent a rather large increase in Federal authority, and a significant intrusion into the lives of US citizens?  Precisely the sort of thing that so-called "conservatives", suspicious of government growth should vociferously oppose?  Let's take a look.

"No," "No" Everywhere, but not a Mandate to Link (to)

Let's start with that recent RNC health care strategy memo.  The only mention of mandates relates to employer mandates.

Of course, that's just an internal strategy memo, what is the RNC doing publicly?  How about this web ad, in the guise of one of those cloying drug ads (it is kind of clever actually), lists the many purported downsides of "Reforma" but neglects any mention of mandates.

Next, there's the Senate Republicans, who published this pamphlet to their site.  Purportedly about what CBO found with the Democratic plan, and despite being concerned about the many people who might be "forced" into a public option ("Millions More Americans Will be Forced onto a Government-Run Plan") this too has no evident problem with an individual mandate.

Ok, forget offical Republicandom, what about the broader conservative movement?  In the last week, I found the Washington Times upset over euthanasia, government "control", over healthcare and euthanasia again which they call the "Euthanasia Mandate" - but nothing on individual mandates.

How about this Heritage Foundation summary of the House and Senate bills?  I found some criticism of employer mandates, but nothing on individuals.

I was beginning to think I had just misunderstood conservatives, and that they did in fact support Individual Mandates (despite the graf from that Richmond Times Dispatch piece quoted above), until I found this bit at Freedomworks:

FreedomWorks Analysis: Requiring each individual to have insurance by law contradicts our freedom to choose and distorts the market for health care.

It's hardly prominent, and in browsing a half dozen other Freedomworks pieces on the health care debate, there are no further mentions of individual mandates.

Conservatives Used to Oppose Mandates:  When Hillary and Romney were Viable

Rivals Chide Romney on Health Care Plan

Mitt Romney's top rivals are reminding voters that Massachusetts residents have until Thursday to sign up for health insurance or face possible penalties _ a requirement that Romney signed into law when he was governor.


It's also something opponents for the Republican nomination are trying to turn it into a political liability for Romney.

Such mandates are anathema to fiscal conservatives and other bedrock GOP voters who oppose government intrusion, explaining the silence by Romney and the criticism from former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani and other candidates also vying for conservative votes.

McCain:  No Health Insurance Mandate

Giuliani attacks Democratic health plans as 'socialist'
"We've got to do it the American way," Giuliani said during a town hall forum in Rochester, New Hampshire. "The American way is not single-payer, government-controlled anything. That's a European way of doing something; that's frankly a socialist way of doing something."

"That's why when you hear Democrats in particular talk about single-mandated health care, universal health care, what they're talking about is socialized medicine."

Giuliani Attacks Romney on Health Care Record While Campaigning in New Hampshire

It Wasn't Just Republicans Opposed to Mandates

"The way Hillary Clinton's health care plan covers everyone is to have the government force uninsured people to buy insurance, even if they can't afford it." - Obama campaign mailer

This is precisely the sort of thing that Republicans love to leap on.  In fact, wasn't the entire 2004 campaign predicated on Kerry's flip flop?  It's a perfect opening with which to club Obama repeatedly.  I'm sure the RNC could dig up some choice debate clips of Obama opposing such mandates.

In fact, the remaining PUMAs have seized on this, yet Republicans have not?

Maybe Mandates Are Just too Damn Popular?

Well, I won't run down all the polling, but as an example, a USA Today/Gallup poll from mid-July says:

"Do you think all Americans should be required to have health insurance, or not?" N=1,518 (Form A), MoE ± 3

Should - 56%
Should Not - 42%
Unsure - 3%

That's popular, but not overwhelmingly so.  The Public option was far more popular and Republicans did not hesitate to oppose it.  In general, conservatives have proven very effective at beating down support for some very popular policies.  Putting on my liberal ideologue hat, this sort of thing is essential to the survival of conservative politics:  If they can't convince the public to oppose popular policies that would likely benefit them, there wouldn't be a conservative movement.  There are other polls which show mandates more popular than 56%, but again, given the record of Obama, McCain and Giuliani attacking Clinton and Romney over mandates, it certainly didn't stop anyone before.

Wrapping Up

Ok, I'll drop my feigned surprise at this.  Of course I, like many of you would generally conclude the obvious, that conservatives aren't opposing individual mandates because this would be a major bonanza for the insurance companies.  My shock at the gambling going on in the casino is really to drive home the empty cynicism that is the vast right wing conspiracy.  Where is the conservative outrage over the "Dimmycrats" making them buy insurance?  While I'm not a giant fan of the idea, if you're going to try and make private insurers behave themselves via regulation (or have them at all), it is sensible to then discourage free riding in some manner.  

Let's recap the situation:

  • A major policy proposed by Democrats, which has actually passed several Congressional committees
  • It's easy to misrepresent and demagogue
  • The most popular Democratic leader is open to charges of flip-flopping on it
  • You can use it to paint the Democrats as being in bed with big insurance
  • You can use it to seem like the GOP is defending the interests of the poor
  • It is definitely against stated conservative ideological principles

If Ian's dictum was in full effect, one would expect the conservative movement to leap on this.  That they don't, shows they have sold out their stated principles (small government etc) in favour of their true principle:  empower the powerful, enrich the rich.  They don't mind if a broken version of health care reform passes a Democratic congress and President that requires the nation to purchase health care.  They'll gut everything else about it that might infringe on the Murder-by-Spreadsheet industry, but authoritarian capitalism by government dictate is evidently ok by them.

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It was never about small government .. (4.00 / 1)
That they don't, shows they have sold out their stated principles (small government etc) in favor of their true principle:  empower the powerful, enrich the rich.

just look at Ray-gun .. and at his actions .. not his words .. they just use the small government crap to get elected

We've always been at war with Euthanasia (4.00 / 1)
Murder-by-Spreadsheet. Nicely put. The folks who used to rob us with a fountain pen have moved up in the world, but they're still not as invisible as they think they are.

Good post (4.00 / 2)
It's likely the Insurance Industry's support for mandates that keeping the opposition mostly quiet (although when you're making headway lying about health care reform, why tell the truth about it?)

Still, I suspect that it will become part of the discussion as a bill comes closer to passage. And, as you suggest, Repubs will have Obama's own words to use against him.

In any case, mandates without a public option would be a major substantive and political failure for Dems.

Yes (4.00 / 1)
I think this is what they're hoping for.  Mandates could be fine as part of a properly structured (compromise) piece of reasonably progressive legislation, with a PO and appropriate aid/exemptions to lower income types but on their own they're just a tax that skips government and goes directly to big insurance.  

[ Parent ]
I disagree! (0.00 / 0)
The goal is to kill health care reform - mandates don't matter if it is killed.

Personally I oppose mandates if there isn't a public option.  No one should be able to force me give money to a private company.

I don't think (4.00 / 3)
they think they can kill reform.  Democrats are going to pass some kind of "reform" bill - just to avoid the spectre of 1994, they need to pass something.  But what?

If the goal is to kill the bill all together, then why not campaign against mandates too?  Instead of having to invent crap about death panels, they could easily campaign against a real part of the bill, and old debate clips of Obama would make fantastic ads to do so.  This isn't a trivial issue, McCain and Giuliani went after Romney repeatedly over mandates in the Republican primary.  The silence on it now is deafening.

[ Parent ]
Yes (4.00 / 1)
and you can't argue that they're holding their ammunition, either.  These types of arguments work better if you move forward with them early and often.

[ Parent ]
Republicans do NOT want to miss out on the BHIP* large donations -- (0.00 / 0)
and why should they open this front now? They have the MCM** all agog at how effective the Disruptors are. If they need it they'll use it, but with the wink and nod, or private back room deals with the BHIPpers.

*BHIP--Big Health Industry Players
*MCM--Mainstream Corporate Media


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