Feature:Opinion

Big Foot, unicorns and the conservative case for Obamacare

Photo of W. James Antle III
W. James Antle III
Editor, The Daily Caller News Foundation

Ever wonder why the federal government continues to get bigger even when Republicans are in office? Wonder no more.

Just glance at this precious New York Times op-ed in which one J.D. Kleinke purports to make the “conservative case for Obamacare.”

Surely, the conservative case for confiscatory tax rates and partial-birth abortion cannot be far behind.

The essence of that case is that a handful of conservative policy wonks once watered down some liberal health care proposals, some Republican politicians desperately casting about for an alternative to Hillary Clinton’s health plan adopted these half-baked ideas as their own and now some version of them has been inflicted on the entire country.

How lovely. But at least we’ll always have fresh op-eds by conservative policy wonks confusing government coercion with personal responsibility.

This confusion was on display during the presidential debate Wednesday night.

President Barack Obama awoke from his slumber to say “Governor Romney did a good thing, working with Democrats in the state to set up what is essentially the identical model” used by Obamacare.

Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney tried valiantly to assure us that Romneycare was different, but ended up sounding as convincing as Vanilla Ice assuring listeners that the bass line in “Ice Ice Baby” is really different from Queen’s “Under Pressure.”

“We didn’t cut Medicare,” Romney pointed out helpfully. “Of course, we don’t have Medicare, but we didn’t cut Medicare by $716 billion.”

But before we get too far down the path discussing Obamacare’s allegedly conservative pedigree, some context is in order.

The Republican senator who proposed the 1990s legislation that contained the individual mandate as an alternative to Hillarycare was John Chafee, a charter member of the GOP’s Rockefeller wing.

Chafee was arguably the most liberal Republican in Congress.

Bob Dole signed on to the idea because he was, well, Bob Dole.

Conservative senators like Phil Gramm and Don Nickles had other ideas about health care reform, and they didn’t include the individual mandate.

There was never a grassroots conservative movement advocating anything like Romneycare, much less Obamacare, if the word “movement” means something more ambitious than “five guys at a couple of think tanks.”

Romneycare itself was passed by an 87 percent Democratic legislature.

Romney was flanked by Ted Kennedy and the Democratic bosses on Beacon Hill as he signed the bill into law.

That wasn’t some Heritage Foundation policy analyst grinning and back-slapping in the famous photo of the signing ceremony.

The Affordable Care Act was passed by a Congress with a three-fifths Democratic majority in both houses. All Republicans and even most moderate-to-conservative Democrats voted against it.

The health exchanges contained therein were not the free market exchanges envisioned by the conservative wonks of old, but rather government-run entities that regulate insurance like a public utility.