Tag: David Boaz

RomneyCare: Making a Fool of Every Republican It Touches Since 2006

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s (R) hearts former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney (R), so much that Christie says it is ”completely intellectually dishonest” to compare RomneyCare to ObamaCare.  Why?  Because Romney didn’t raise taxes, and President Obama did.  Oh.

Avik  (pronounced O-vik) Roy explains how Christie gets RomneyCare so very, very wrong:

There isn’t a single person, left or right, who follows health policy seriously who disagrees with the assertion that Romneycare was the model for Obamacare. And Massachusetts has had to raise taxes, after Romney left office, to pay for the law’s significant cost overruns.

Here are some examples, left and right. But Roy o-mits a few important points.

  1. Mitt Romney increased taxes the moment he signed RomneyCare.  RomneyCare increased net government spending.  That in itself is an increase in the tax burden.  All that remains to be determined is who will pay for that added spending and when they will pay it.  The fact that the incidence of that added tax burden fell after Romney left office does not mean that’s when the added tax burden was created.
  2. Mitt Romney has raised taxes on as many people as Barack Obama has.  Half of RomneyCare’s new spending was financed by the federal government through the Medicaid program, which is financed through federal taxes, which fall on taxpayers in all 50 states.  That means that when Romney financed half of RomneyCare’s new spending by pulling down more federal Medicaid dollars, he increased taxes on residents of all 50 states.
  3. RomneyCare was born of, and expanded, a corrupt scheme by Massachusetts politicians to tax residents of all 50 states.  What motivated Romney to enact RomneyCare, as former Romney/Obama adviser Jonathan Gruber explains here, was the widespread desire (within Massachusetts) to hang on to $385 million of federal Medicaid money that Massachusetts had secured using one of Medicaid’s notorious and fraudulent “provider tax” scams.  In other words, the whole purpose of RomneyCare was to enable Massachusetts to hold on to $385 million that it received by defrauding and taxing residents of other states.  And of course, Romney/RomneyCare caused the tax burden that Massachusetts effectively imposes on non-Massachusetts residents to grow.

Christie is so laughably wrong about RomneyCare that one cannot help but smile that his remarks came during the same news cycle as this:

Newly obtained White House records… show that senior White House officials had a dozen meetings in 2009 with three health-care advisers and experts who helped shape the health care reform law signed by Romney in 2006…One of those meetings, on July 20, 2009, was in the Oval Office and presided over by President Barack Obama, the records show.

“The White House wanted to lean a lot on what we’d done in Massachusetts,” said Jon Gruber, an MIT economist who advised the Romney administration on health care and who attended five meetings at the Obama White House in 2009, including the meeting with the president. “They really wanted to know how we can take that same approach we used in Massachusetts and turn that into a national model”…

Romney said the people involved in the White House meetings were “consultants,” not “aides”…

[Gruber said,] “If Mitt Romney had not stood up for this reform in Massachusetts … I don’t think it would have happened nationally. So I think he really is the guy with whom it all starts.”

All of which is pretty much what my colleague/boss David Boaz and I have been saying since April 2010 in this well-worn Cato video:

The Constitutional Case for Marriage Equality

On June 12, 1967, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down bans on interracial marriage in more than a dozen states in the case of Loving v. Virginia. Today, the highest court in the United States may soon take on the issue of marriage equality for gay and lesbian relationships. Attorneys David Boies and Theodore B. Olson are hoping the case of Perry v. Schwarzenegger will further establish marriage as a fundamental right of citizenship. Also featured are John Podesta, President of the Center for American Progress, Cato Institute Chairman Robert A. Levy and Cato Executive Vice President David Boaz.

Watch the full event from which many clips were pulled here and Robert A. Levy’s presentation here.

Romney Van Winkle

In 2006, then-Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney (R) fought for and enacted a health care law now known as RomneyCare – though the law is so nearly identical to ObamaCare that one could call it ObamaCare 1.0.  Romney is seeking the GOP nomination for president in 2012.  But since 84 percent of Republicans want ObamaCare repealed, the fact that he paved the way for ObamaCare is causing problems for Romney among the party faithful.  The most recent manifestation came in the form of a tongue-lashing from former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee (R), whose book criticizes Romney both for enacting RomneyCare and for refusing to admit it was mistake.  In a recent interview, Huckabee said:

The position he should take is to say: “Look, the reason Obamacare won’t work is because we’ve tried it at the state level and we know it won’t work.”

Through a spokesman, Romney has – once again! – defended ObamaCare 1.0:

“Mitt Romney is proud of what he accomplished for Massachusetts in getting everyone covered,” Romney’s spokesman, Eric Fehrnstrom, told the Boston Globe, in the first direct response Team Mitt made to Huckabee’s criticism of the health plan in his new book.

Fehrnstrom added the usual stuff about how, even though Romney is proud of what RomneyCare/ObamaCare has done for Massachusetts, RomneyCare/ObamaCare may not be right for the entire nation.  As David Boaz and I explain in this Cato video, to which Romney has lent enduring relevance, Romney can’t have it both ways:



It’s as if the guy has just awakened from a 20-year nap and doesn’t realize the world has changed.

War and the Intellectuals

Apologies in advance for the epic-length post.

There’s been a fair bit of wailing and garment-rending about war on the op-ed pages.  In addition to the cloying and tiresome Mark Helprin piece to which David links below, E.J. Dionne, Glenn Greenwald, and Fred Hiatt have all touched on the subject in recent days.  One common theme is the idea that Americans are insulated from the costs and benefits of war, and that this is a problem.

To their credit, some of the writers offer proposals for redressing matters: Helprin suggests American citizens should force congressional declarations of war characterized by “extraordinary, penetrating debate” in order to ensure that decisions to go to war have been “ratified unambiguously by the American people through their constitutional and republican institutions.”  (Do we also owe the troops good decisions?)  Further, citizens must recognize that it is “unacceptable” to “starve the means to fight” in order to defray the costs of war.  “If the general population  must do with less, so be it, for the problem is only imagined.”

What planet does Helprin live on?  The ways in which citizens and legislators behave when it comes to war are shaped by the incentives each group faces.  Helprin – and the other writers – should try to think about those incentives if they actually care about solving these problems.

Why, for example, has the U.S. Congress, since its last declaration of war (against Romania during World War II), insisted on “delegating” the prerogative to go to war to the Executive in spite of its clear obligation under the U.S. Constitution?  Because it’s in their interests to do so.  In this way, Congresspeople can position themselves to take credit when wars go well but blame the Executive when they go badly.  The requirement that Congress declare war was designed in part to force the hand of the legislator, to put him on the record, in an effort to localize the costs and benefits of wars on those launching them.  But then Congress ingeniously figured out that it could shirk this responsibility by delegating authority up to the Executive, at which point it could claim credit for victories and point fingers after defeats.  (Recall the Democratic legislators who absurdly claimed of the Iraq war resolution that they didn’t think President Bush actually intended to use the congressional resolution to take the country to war…)

And what about the voters?  Greenwald writes that

One significant cause of America’s indifference to the wars we are waging is that those wars have virtually no effect on the overwhelming majority of Americans (at least no recognized effect), while they impose a huge cost on a tiny sliver of the population:  those who fight the wars and their families.

Rational choice theory has taken a beating in the wake of the financial meltdown, but it would be dumb to throw its central insights.  Helprin, Hiatt, Dionne, et al, should think about the views of a notional Rational Voter.  Why should he or she care enough about America’s wars to do something about them?

I care about U.S. foreign policy a lot, and I think it’s deeply mistaken and destructive.  But even I would have a hard time telling most utility-maximizing Americans why they should care enough about our military spending and our wars – rather than other political issues – to mobilize their elected officials to do something about them.  As the Beloved Founder of one of America’s most vital institutions has been known to remark, the U.S. tax code “treats us like so many gerbils. Do this and you’ll get some sugar water. Do that and you’ll get an electric shock.”

And it turns out people really like sugar water and hate electric shocks!  If you want a voter to respond, either zap him or give him a coke.  (Politicians seem to prefer the latter, as do voters.)  For most voters, the implications of the wars are neither refreshing and delicious nor directly painful.  Given this, how could war and peace possibly become as salient as other policies that directly impact people’s lives on a daily basis?  Unemployed?  Have a mortgage?  Taxes too high?  Poised to collect Social Security or Medicare?  Employed in or consuming health care or financial services?  Can the intellectuals above get their rhetoric cranked up high enough that they can make people put aside these sorts of direct material concerns in order to carry on a sustained and probing debate about foreign wars?

As this discussion demonstrates, the problem for non-interventionists is how to get voters to care enough about America’s crazy foreign policy to stop it.  Keep in mind that it’s unlikely that material constraints will force us to rein in our ambitions any time soon.  America is blessed by geography and an economy that seems impossible to defeat, despite our rulers’ best efforts.  Given the unlikelihood of severe costs like conquest or bankruptcy, in all likelihood the American Goliath will keep lumbering along.  And the pundits will keep carping.

Monday Links

  • Harvard economist Jeffrey Miron: “Economists find weak or contradictory evidence that higher government spending spurs the economy. Substantial research, however, does find that tax cuts stimulate the economy and that fiscal adjustments—attempts to reduce deficits by raising taxes or lowering expenditure—work better when they focus on tax cuts.”

Wednesday Links

  • David Boaz debates at The Economist: Is Obama failing? “In many ways, Obama has just doubled down on George W. Bush’s policies of bailouts, takeovers, expanded Fed powers and nationalizations. In a recession he is adding debt, taxes and regulation to the burdens already felt by business.” Readers can vote and join the debate.

How Will the Independents Vote?

In a recent Cato study, “The Libertarian Vote in the Age of Obama,”  authors David Boaz and David Kirby found that libertarian voters, who make up about 14 percent of the electorate, are a leading indicator of how independents will cast their ballots.

Appearing on Freedom Watch earlier this week, Boaz explained the results of the study, and what it means for the next election. Watch: