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GOP Supported Individual Mandate To Prevent ‘Government Takeover’ Of Health Care

The Los Angeles Times’ Noam Levey looks at the history of the individual health insurance mandate and discovers that not only was the provision designed by Republicans as an alternative to President Bill Clinton’s health care reform plan in the 1990s, but it was specifically seen as a way to prevent a “government takeover” of health care:

“We were thinking, if you wanted to achieve universal coverage, what was the way to do it if you didn’t do single payer?” said Paul Feldstein, a health economist at UC Irvine, who co-wrote the 1991 plan with Pauly.

Feldstein and Pauly compared mandatory health insurance to requirements to pay for Social Security, auto insurance, or workers’ compensation.

So too did the Heritage Foundation’s Stuart Butler, who in 1989 wrote a health plan that also included an insurance requirement.

“If a young man wrecks his Porsche and has not had the foresight to obtain insurance, we may commiserate, but society feels no obligation to repair his car,” Butler told a Tennessee health conference that year.

But healthcare is different. If a man is struck down by a heart attack in the street, Americans will care for him whether or not he has insurance.… A mandate on individuals recognizes this implicit contract,” said Butler, who was the foundation’s director of domestic policy studies.

Levey notes that fully a third of Republicans supported a bill that included a national individual requirement, introduced by then-Senator and current Rhode Island Gov. Lincoln Chafee. Sens. Bob Dole (R-KS), Charles Grassley (R-IA), Orrin Hatch (R-UT), and Richard Lugar (R-IN) all backed that measure. The National Federation of Independent Business, a conservative small-business group, even “praised the bill ‘for its emphasis on individual responsibility.’”

And this wasn’t some fluke of the ’90s either. As recently as 2007, “[t]en Republican senators — including Tennessee’s Lamar Alexander, now a GOP leader — signed on to a bill that year by Bennett and Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) to achieve universal health coverage.” The legislation penalized individuals who did not purchase insurance coverage.

Listing all of the GOP presidential candidates who have previously supported the mandate (Romney, Gingrich, Huntsman, Pawlenty) would only belabor the point, which is that the GOP’s new-found religion on the mandate and its constitutionality is driven by the political need to unravel the Democrats’ crowning social achievement, not any great concerns about policy, constitutionality, or freedom.

 

By: Igor Volsky, Think Progress, May 31, 2011

June 1, 2011 Posted by | Businesses, Class Warfare, Conservatives, Constitution, Democracy, Democrats, Freedom, GOP, Government, Health Care, Health Reform, Human Rights, Ideologues, Ideology, Individual Mandate, Insurance Companies, Lawmakers, Liberty, Middle Class, Politics, Public Option, Republicans, Right Wing, Single Payer | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Republicans Play Us For Dupes on Financial Reform

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell gestures while meeting with reporters on Capitol Hill in Washington

Conservatives are representing themselves as anti-bailout populists, while serving Wall Street.

Senate Republicans today debuted their new strategy for financial reform: Refuse to cooperate with Democrats on grounds that the Dems are too willing to give Wall Street what it wants.

I’m not making this up.

In a Senate floor speech, Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said Republicans couldn’t support the legislation that emerged from Chris Dodd’s banking committee because it “institutionalizes” future taxpayer bailouts of the Street, giving the Federal Reserve “enhanced emergency lending authority that is far too open to abuse.” Senator Bob Corker, a senior Republican on the committee who had spent many weeks negotiating the bill with Dodd, huffed that Dodd’s final bill provides “the ability to have bailouts.”

Sen. Lamar Alexander, a member of the Senate Republican leadership, blasted Dodd for partisanship — “Dodd jerked the rug out from under Sen. Corker and went back into a partisan bill” — that is, partisanship toward Wall Street. Alexander said Republicans will hold out for a plan “that would end the practice of too big to fail and that would make certain that we don’t perpetually use taxpayer dollars to bail out Wall Street.”

Republicans have been looking for a way to oppose Senate Dems on financial reform without looking like patsies for the Street. And now they think they’ve found it — by trying to make Democrats look like patsies for the Street. The strategy is surely the handiwork of Republican pollster Frank Luntz who for months has been telling Republicans “the single best way to kill any legislation is to link it to the Big Bank Bailout.” (See Luntz’s memo.)

Let’s be clear: The Dodd bill doesn’t go nearly far enough to rein in the Street. It allows so-called “specialized” derivatives to be traded without regulatory oversight; its capital requirements are weak; it gives far too much discretion to regulators, who, as we’ve seen, can fall asleep at the switch; it does nothing about conflicts of interest within credit rating agencies that rate the issues of the companies that put food on their plates; it puts a consumer protection agency inside the Fed whose consumer bureau didn’t protect consumers; it doesn’t do anything to control the size of banks; it delays dealing with other hard issues by assigning them to vaguely-defined “studies”; and, yes, it preserves the possibility that the Fed could launch another bank bailout.

But the Street thinks the Dodd bill goes way too far, and wants its Republican allies to water it down with more loopholes, studies, and regulatory discretion. Republicans figure they can accommodate the Street by refusing to give the Dems the votes they need unless the Dems agree to weaken the bill — while Republicans simultaneously tell the public they’re strengthening the bill and reducing the likelihood of future bailouts.

It’s a bizarre balancing act for the Republicans, reflecting the two opposing constituencies they have to appease — big business and Wall Street, on the one hand, and the emerging Tea Partiers, on the other. The Tea Partiers hate the Wall Street bailout as much as the left does. It was the bailout that “really got this ball rolling,” says Joseph Farah, publisher of WorldNetDaily, a website popular among Tea Party adherents. “That’s where the anger, where the frustration took root.”

The awkward fact, of course, is that the bank bailout originated with George W. Bush and a Republican congress. “Without this rescue plan,” Bush told the nation in September 2008, “the costs to the American economy could be disastrous.” New Hampshire Senator Judd Gregg, the leading Republican negotiator of the bailout bill, warned that without the bank bailout, “the trauma, the chaos, and the disruption to everyday Americans’ lives would be overwhelming.”

Republicans figure the public’s attention span is so short they won’t remember, and that the public understands so little about the details of financial reform that Republicans can weaken the Dodd bill without leaving any fingerprints.

I have a suggestion for Senate Democrats: Don’t let them get away with it. Smoke the Republicans out. Respond to their criticism that the Dodd bill leaves open the possibility that some future bank will become too big to fail by amending the bill to limit the size of banks to $100 billion of assets — so no bank can become too big, period. Challenge the Republicans to join you in voting for the amendment. If they decline, force them to explain themselves to their local Tea Partiers.

By Robert Reich April 14, 2010, Salon; Photo-AP/Manuel Balce Ceneta

April 14, 2010 Posted by | Financial Reform | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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