The EFM Feature

Hello, everybody! I’m chiming in here on my way to the SRLC. You’ll laugh at my route: I left Washington on Tuesday and flew to Jacksonville, because the Mitchells’ and Frenches’ favorite airline (Southwest) offered to get me there for $59. Then I visited friends in Flagler Beach before driving to Tallahassee to meet up with EFM blogger emeritus Steve. He and I are about to road-trip it to the Big Easy, which is closer than you’d think to the Panhandle.
I think I’ve prepared myself well for the trip. No, not because I’ve been thinking about health care (though I have, more on that later) but because I’ve been practicing my finding-awesome-local-food skills, which I plan to deploy with aplomb in New Orleans. You might not think Flagler Beach is an exciting cuisine destination, but let me tell you: I had an awesome plate of fried chicken, corn, and mashed potatoes yesterday, sitting by the ocean, for the princely sum of $5.50. As my favorite former governor of Alaska would say, you betcha! And the day before, I had fish and chips that was straight out of the ocean. Once Steve and I get to New Orleans, I’ve got my eye on fried chicken and collard greens, po’ boys, beignets, muffalettas, alligator, rabbit, duck, jambalaya, gumbo, and cornbread. Restaurant recommendations (including for the drive along I-10; we won’t make it to New Orleans by dinnertime) are welcome: charles-at-evangelicalsformitt-dot-org.
So as you can tell, I’m planning to have a good time on this trip, notwithstanding the folks who (as David pointed out in his post on health care) are claiming Gov. Romney’s political career is over. But lest you think I buy that bogus criticism and am simply planning to bury my sorrows in food, let me offer a few more thoughts on the politics of the moment.
It seems to me that the current firestorm involving the health bill Gov. Romney signed is rooted in the embrace by each critic of one of two assertions, both of which are demonstrably false. The first is: Obamacare = Romneycare. The second is: Anything ending in “care” = bad.
Let’s take them one at a time.
1. Let me put this as clearly as I can: If you think there is no difference between Obamacare and Romneycare, you don’t understand the Constitution. Why? Because there’s a huge distinction between the federal government and your state government telling you you have to buy a certain kind of insurance. I’m no lawyer, but I think my state attorney general (Ken Cuccinelli) is right that such a mandate at the federal level is unconstitutional. It’s just not one of Congress’ powers. But if you understand the Constitution, you know the states have entirely different powers — and they use them, for instance, to compel you to buy car insurance. That may or may not be wise; intelligent people can disagree about it. But to say Obamacare = Romneycare, mainly because each includes an individual mandate, is to miss this fundamental distinction. I think it’s no coincidence, by the way, that many of those originating this claim — including the President himself — are on the left. And it’s no surprise that the left doesn’t understand the Constitution; after all, they’re the people trampling it in Washington with their big-government programs and on public university campuses with their speech codes. It’s a real shame, though, to see conservatives buying into this fundamental confusion. Taking a legitimate (though perhaps unwise; we can debate that) use of state power and doing it at the federal level is, as David says, a bastardization, not a duplication.
2. So much for Obamacare. The other notion I see out there, though it’s not always spoken, is the idea that no “good conservative” would take proactive action as Gov. Romney did to address health care. That is understandable (the conservative movement is at a point where saying “no” is necessary and feels good, too) but nonetheless wrongheaded. Listen: The status quo in health care is unacceptable. The fact that insurance is linked to employers is an unintentional relic of the 1940s. People don’t have a good incentive to take price into account. And those of us who do try to make good choices are footing the bill for people who don’t and go to emergency rooms. Standing pat is not a solution — and doing so, especially in a state like Massachusetts, is a recipe for the left to take over and impose socialized medicine. That’s why Rep. Paul Ryan has come out with a plan, that’s why many of the D.C. think tanks have been putting forth positive proposals, and that’s why Gov. Romney pushed what Ramesh Ponnuru (who endorsed another candidate in the 2008 primaries) of National Review summarized as follows: “A model for the country? Maybe not. But it’s pretty good for Massachusetts, and that’s to Romney’s credit.” Did his successor and the legislature junk it up and make it substantially more intrusive? Sure they did. But the people elected them! That’s the trouble with democracy. The point is, Gov. Romney tackled an issue that needed (still needs, in fact) to be tackled, and he came up with a product that was pretty good considering the enormously left-wing environment — and was much better than what the lefties would have imposed themselves. If we’re going to write governors who do that out of the conservative movement — especially the ones who get the Heritage Foundation to help them craft their proposals — we may as well give up now.
You’ve probably guessed that I don’t plan to give up. See you in New Orleans!

About Charles Mitchell

EFM's resident Yankee, Charles Mitchell, works in the non-profit arena in his native Pennsylvania. He and his wife, Charissa, live near the state capital of Harrisburg with their daughter, Adeline, and are members of a congregation of the Presbyterian Church in America.

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