Romney’s Latest Preposterous Shimmy on Health Care Reform

Mitt Romney on the campaign trail

Photo by Geoff Burke/Getty Images

A foolish consistency may be the hobgoblin of little minds, but a total absence of constancy has sure created a tough situation for Mitt Romney. His own campaign, of course, first used the Etch A Sketch metaphor to describe him—to all journalists’ delight. The unraveling of Romney as a clear-thinking person continues with his latest effort to thread the needle once again on health care.

He knows that the individual pieces of health care reform are extraordinarily popular, from pre-existing conditions being covered to kids’ ability to remain on their parents’ health plan through age 26. So Romney, hesitant to seem more Scrooge-like than he already does, performed a quick pirouette. Instead of supporting full repeal of the act—as he has in the past and as his running mate currently does—he said he would keep certain provisions, such as the one relating to pre-existing conditions. A sure sign of humanity, empathy, and compassion!

(There is a school of thought, parenthetically, that believes that Chief Justice John Roberts may have been more sympathetic to the health-care act because of his own pre-existing condition, a history of seizures.)

But Romney’s position creates a huge problem for him: How does he propose to pay for this expansion of benefits? The options are limited: Asking existing customers to subsidize those with pre-existing conditions or having government subsidize them are not answers Romney can give.

Nor can he give the rational answer—an individual mandate or something similar to ensure that there are no free riders in the health care system. The individual mandate—by Romney himself and the Heritage Foundation—is now the bane of his party and the right.

So to the surprise of no one, Romney now steadfastly refuses to answer the question of how he will pay.

Both his lack of constancy and his failure to answer the tough questions are no shock,. They are par for the course. Whether it is his budget proposal, his tax plan, or his foreign policy statements, they are as solid as quicksand, have as many holes as Swiss cheese, are as trustworthy as Wall Street. And they are as permanent as an Etch A Sketch.