|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.
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.