In a recent television interview by Sean Hannity on Fox News, Mitt Romney sought to appease conservatives by explaining the premises of the medical insurance, or “healthcare” law, signed by him as Governor of Massachusetts in 2006. Hannity alludes to the unique similarities between the Massachusetts law and Obamacare, which is a very legitimate observation. In fact, when articulating his defense, Mitt Romney subsequently reveals just how nihilistic conservative thinking has become when it comes to the proper role of government.
Romney is, indeed, correct in asserting that Obamacare should and must be repealed. His alternative vision, however, lacks an adequate apprehension of the terms of reality, as well as the superior morality to permanently crush federal intervention in medicine. Then again, Romney is a politician, if he wants to win, he can only espouse the reality and morality that “conservatives” want to hear. The irrationality begins with this metaphysical flop:
And we fashioned a plan which met a state need. I would never in a million years take what we did for our state and say, let’s impose that on every state in the country. That’s wrong. It violates the principle of federalism that’s a bedrock principle of our Constitution. Each state should craft their own solutions.
To begin with, a state, by its very nature, cannot have a need. A state has criteria and requirements for it to be called a state, such as distinct territorial borders and a recognizable political authority. Organisms are the only entities that have needs however. A plant needs water and sunlight to sustain it’s activities, and predator needs to hunt for its food to survive. Man needs to think rationally in order to produce. States are not the organisms that Hitler, Mussolini, and Stalin may have fondly referenced them as. A state, like federalism, is merely a concept. Unfortunately for Mitt Romney, he abused the concept of federalism as well.
Romney indicates that since states have “needs” they “should” take whatever measures necessary to rectify them. This ushers the arbitrary notion of “states’ rights,” or as the tenth amendment to the U.S. Constitution states:
The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.
Once again, Romney performs a glaring metaphysical failure; states, by their very nature, cannot have rights. Only individuals can have rights. States do have powers and that’s what the tenth amendment articulates. Like the federal government, states in the union can exercise powers but only within the confines of the Constitution. Accordingly, since both Romneycare and Obamacare abuse the commerce clause of the Constitution by forcing Americans to purchase health insurance, they are both, necessarily un-Constitutional. This is the problem with federalism as Americans understand it. In Federalist Paper 51, James Madison describes the concept of federalism:
…In a single republic, all the power surrendered by the people is submitted to the administration of a single government; and the usurpations are guarded against by a division of the government into distinct and separate departments. In the compound republic of America, the power surrendered by the people, is first divided between two distinct governments, and then the portion allotted to each, subdivided among distinct and separate departments. Hence a double security arises to the rights of the people. The different governments will controul each other; at the same time that each will be controuled by itself…
It is of great importance in a republic, not only to guard the society against the oppression of its rulers; but to guard one part of the society against the injustice of the other part…Whilst all authority in it [the federal republic of the United States] will be derived from and dependent on the society, the society itself will be broken into so many parts, interests and classes of citizens, that the rights of individuals or of the minority, will be in little danger from interested combinations of the majority…This view of the subject must particularly recommend a proper federal system to all the sincere and considerate friends of republican government: Since it shews that in exact proportion as the territory of the union may be formed into more circumscribed confederacies or states, oppressive combinations of a majority will be facilitated, the best security under the republican form, for the rights of every class of citizens, will be diminished; and consequently, the stability and independence of some member of the government, the only other security, must be proportionally increased…In a society under the forms of which the stronger faction can readily unite and oppress the weaker, anarchy may as truly be said to reign,…And as in the latter state even the stronger individuals are prompted by the uncertainty of their condition, to submit to a government which may protect the weak as well as themselves: So in the former state, will the more powerful factions or parties be gradually induced by a like motive, to wish for a government which will protect all parties, the weaker as well as the more powerful. It can be little doubted, that if the state of Rhode Island was separated from the confederacy, and left to itself, the insecurity of rights under the popular form of government within such narrow limits, would be displayed by such reiterated oppressions of factious majorities…
While Madison seems concerned with scope of territory and the concentration of given populations, the principle remains the same. As a republic, the United States has varying bodies, institutions, and states constantly clashing with one another. The conflicts that should occur all fall within the parameters of the Constitution protecting the rights, ultimately, of the individual. As the Articles of Confederation demonstrated, chaos ensues when there is no single authority to protect the root of liberty, once again, the individual.
The United States fought a bloody civil war because of the misinterpretation of federalism. The South argued that it was within a “state’s right” to determine who or what was considered property, but as Abraham Lincoln noted in his “House Divided” speech, the contradiction of slaves here and free men there was unsustainable. The Union would either stand or collapse, but it could not do both simultaneously. Regardless of how libertarians perceive the actions taken by the federal government and Lincoln’s administration during the war, Lincoln did what was necessary to protect the supremacy, not of the federal government, but of the Constitution. Conservatives, like Mitt Romney, contort the concept of federalism to enable the states to violate individual rights rather than the federal government. It is irrelevant whether the gun forcing you to purchase health insurance comes from Boston or Washington, there is still a gun in your face.
In his interview with Sean Hannity, Romney elaborates further on the reasoning behind the Massachusetts health insurance law:
Now, what do we do in our state? Why did we take on this issue? Well, we have lot of people worried if they changed jobs, they would lose insurance or didn’t have insurance. And we also had some people who were gaming the system, who could afford to care for themselves, but instead was showing up at hospitals, expecting government to pay for him. And we said, you know, what? We are not going to let that go any longer. We’re going to insist on personal responsibility.
This sentiment has remained consistent in Romney’s thinking. Then Governor Romney was quoted in an NPR article:
Gov. Romney, a Republican and a former businessman, bases his support on economics. When Romney became governor three years ago, a business colleague urged him to do something about the 500,000 or more Massachusetts residents without health insurance. Nearly nine out of ten are in working families.
After studying the problem, Romney says, he came away with a key insight: “People who don’t have insurance nonetheless receive health care. And it’s expensive.”
“We’re spending a billion dollars giving health care to people who don’t have insurance,” Romney says. “And my question was: Could we take that billion dollars and help the poor purchase insurance? Let them pay what they can afford. We’ll subsidize what they can’t.”
The number of contradictions in Romney’s thinking remain astounding. To invoke personal responsibility, the state will not lift rules and regulations or eliminate redistributive schemes that transfer wealth, but the state will force all those who do not have health insurance to purchase it. Additionally, government does not pay for any of these laws or programs that are enacted. It is ultimately the people who work and produce; those who endure the tax burden. By today’s standard however, whether it’s Romneycare or Obamacare, all of this is permissible because of the supremacy of altruism. The legitimacy of someone else’s need makes the loaded gun pointing at your face not tolerant or acceptable, but moral.
Although somewhat dated, Risk & Insurance Online published an article in July of 2010 that analyzed the repercussions of Romneycare as a tool to calibrate what catastrophic effects to expect from Obamacare:
“Because the plan’s (Romneycare) main components are the same as those of the new health reform law, the effects of the plan provide a window into the country’s future,” the authors wrote in a report published earlier this year by in the academic journal Forum for Health Economics & Policy…
Authors John Cogan and Daniel Kessler of Stanford and Glenn Hubbard of Columbia unearthed data that points, most dramatically, to an average 21.7 percent premium growth for employer-sponsored, family healthcare coverage for private-sector employees since healthcare reform was passed in Massachusetts in 2006. When reformers in Massachusetts set about increasing the number of people covered by health insurance, they concentrated on increasing the number of people covered and not so much on the cost increases that would result. Critics claimed the reforms addressed only half the issue–the number of uncovered lives–while never going far enough to address the burgeoning costs…
Now, according to the Cogan, Hubbard and Kessler paper, titled, “The Effect of Massachusetts’ Health Reform on Employer-Sponsored Insurance Premiums,” increases in employer-sponsored premiums are outpacing those in the rest of the country. According to the study, single-coverage premiums among all private-sector employers in Massachusetts rose by 8.7 percent between 2006 and 2008. That’s 2.2 percentage points more than the 6.5 percent growth in the United States as a whole. Single-coverage private-sector premiums in Boston have exploded, rising 11.9 percent in 2006 through 2008 and outpacing the 5.2 percent growth they exhibited in 2004 through 2006…
It was also among small business owners that critics said the cost increases would hit especially hard. And yes, according to the study, the increases in employer-sponsored family coverage take a deep bite into the pockets of small business owners and their employees. Businesses in Massachusetts with fewer than 50 employees saw their health insurance premiums grow by 14.7 percent between 2006 and 2008, the study found. That’s more than double the pre-reform rate of 7.1 percent between 2004 and 2006.
The health care scheme in the United States is becoming increasingly convoluted and incomprehensible. Government intervention atop government intervention is murdering virtually every aspect of health insurance and the broader economy. Now more than ever, a separation of state and medicine is needed. The only way to reverse course is to do so entirely, on principles. The reality of the situation must be understood for what it is, not for what some think it should to be. Furthermore, America must struggle with what the proper role of government is. This role is enshrined on the selfish premise of individual rights. Rights, as they are properly understood, belong to nothing more than the individual; not the federal government or the state legislature. When Americans can begin to understand this, then they can begin to understand that health insurance, like any other service in a free market, is not a gift, an entitlement, or a public service, but a good to be traded.
As long as conservatives like Mitt Romney jumble the metaphysical implications of these debates, the output of their morality and their broader philosophy will be garbage. As long as altruism is respected despite it being the man-hating philosophy that it is, the uniqueness, the liberty, and the prosperity that America used to celebrate, will die.