Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Newt Gingrich supported an individual mandate to buy health insurance as late as 2005.

TalkingPointsMemo reports:

Newt Gingrich has attacked Mitt Romney on the issue of the individual health insurance mandate, while chalking up his own past support for the idea as an indiscretion in the 1990’s. But as it turns out, those 1990’s stretch all the way to 2005 — and beyond, to 2008 — when Gingrich gave as passionate an explanation of the mandate idea as any current supporter could ever muster. . . .

At a forum in 2005, alongside then-Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY) and former Sen. John Breaux (D-LA), Gingrich explained the tradeoffs that both the right and the left would have to make in health care: For the right, some transfer of wealth is involved in providing health care for the working poor, the disabled, and other groups. And for the left, individuals should still have control over their health care, rather than total government management.

“I mean, I am very opposed to a single-payer system — but I’m actually in favor of a 300 million-payer system. Because one of my conclusions in the last six years, and founding the Center for Health Transformation, and looking at the whole system is, unless you have a hundred percent coverage, you can’t have the right preventive care, and you can’t have a rational system, because the cost-shifts are so irrational, and create second-order problems.”

This led Gingrich to a few conclusions of how to implement such a system: Convert Medicaid into a health insurance voucher system as it applies to the working poor (on the rationale that the creation of food-stamps do not involve the government running its own grocery stores); Create very large risk pools for individuals to purchase insurance (i.e., exchanges); and minimize insurance companies from cherry-picking customers.
I'm interested not just in the fact that Gingrich took these positions, but in the way he argued for them. Even while supporting a supposedly liberal policy, he used self-consciously tough language:
But my point to conservatives is, it’s a model of responsibility. If I see somebody who’s earning over $50,000 a year, who has made the calculated decision not to buy health insurance, I’m looking at somebody who is absolutely as irresponsible as anybody who was ever on welfare. Because what they’ve said is, a) I’m gambling that I won’t get sick, and b) I’m gambling that if I do get sick, I can cheat all my neighbors.

Now when you talk to hospitals, a very significant part of their non-collectables are people who have money, but have calculated that it’s not worth the cost to collect it.

And so I’m actually in favor of finding a way to say, if you’re above whatever — whatever the appropriate income level is, you oughtta have either health insurance, or you oughtta post a bond. But we have no right, we have no right in this society, to have a free-rider approach if you’re well off economically, to say we’ll cheat our neighbors.
You can see him make those remarks starting around 3:45 in this video. He starts out by admitting it might sound "un-conservative," but arguing that it's analogous to welfare reform:

Gingrich's argument is a good example of what I see as the fundamental divide in how liberals and conservatives think of themselves, or at least how they hold themselves out to the public. Liberals present themselves as caring. Conservatives present themselves as tough. I don't know of any other unifying theory that explains why conservatives/Republicans disagree with liberals/Democrats on so many disparate issues — economic, social, foreign policy.

Since Gingrich is committed to his image as a conservative, even if he takes a seemingly liberal or moderate position on health care, he isn't going to frame it as being concerned for those who lack health insurance. It's about cracking down on people who abuse the system. That's how conservatives like to talk, so I'm sure at the time he thought he was making a brilliant point that was consistent with conservatism. But for conservative Republican primary voters who are driven by opposition to Obama's health-care reform, I'm not seeing any reason to choose Gingrich over Romney.

UPDATE: Politico has a similar article:
If Republicans are flocking to Newt Gingrich to get away from Mitt Romney’s health care problems, they could end up with a nominee with … awfully similar health care problems.

Or maybe worse: While Romney signed a state mandate into law, Gingrich once went a step further and advocated a federal one.


Jason (the commenter) said...

Liberals present themselves as caring. Conservatives present themselves as tough.

This sounds awfully pro-life/anti-choice to me. And overly reductionist.

"Tough" also doesn't seem like the right word. Look at what Newt says:

"But my point to conservatives is, it’s a model of responsibility."

He's trying to present himself as "responsible".

John Althouse Cohen said...

"Tough" means making sure everyone is being "responsible."

I'm trying to be reductionist! That's the point of a unified theory.

I don't know what you mean by "awfully pro-life/anti-choice."

Anonymous said...

The divide?

Republicans-internal locus of control.

Democrats external locus of control.

Anonymous said...

Actually at about the 55 second mark Newt posits-

On The Left-you really are going to have to ask yourselves-are you going to allow-

individuals to have control?

sean said...

It's a good illustration of how deeply hostile Obama and Emmanuel were to bipartisanship, that they couldn't get Gingrich-type conservatives on board with their health care program, the way Bush did with Teddy Kennedy and NCLB, or Clinton with NAFTA. In fact, they didn't even try, though obviously it would have been possible, if they had been willing to sacrifice some self-righteousness.

PJ said...

You don't think it's rather a jump from "I'm in favor of finding a way to say you either ought to do A or you ought to do B" to "I support requiring everyone to do A"?

Jason (the commenter) said...

JAC: I don't know what you mean by "awfully pro-life/anti-choice."

In the abortion debate, one camp uses the terms "pro-life" and "pro-abortion" while the other uses "pro-choice" and "anti-choice".

You appear biased by hanging the term "caring" on liberals and "tough" on conservatives. "Tough" can have negative connotations, "caring", not so much.

karen said...

"Liberals present themselves as caring. Conservatives present themselves as tough."

I picked this quote out, too. Although i don't mind being portrayed as tough, i see it more as ~caring~ that someone doesn't shaft thy neighbour to get a free ride. It's kinda how Jason sees it, and if i get the gist of Anonymous- it's more of letting people do the right thing on their own rather than saying something like-- "Cookie Monster eats veggies, not cookies" or banning the McDonald characters because kids are fat and lazy-- or just plain fat and we(our society) cannot twist and urge kids to buy/eat unhealthy... awwww- i think you can get the gist of it?