If anybody actually cares about integrity and freedom, this latest news should be big trouble for Newt Gingrich. Somebody (I need to find out who) dug up this old memo from Gingrich praising Mitt Romney’s Massachusetts health care plan in fulsome terms, and especially praising its individual mandate to buy health insurance:
The individual mandate requires those who earn enough to afford insurance to purchase coverage, and subsidies will be made available to those individuals who cannot afford insurance on their own. We agree strongly with this principle, but the details are crucial when it comes to the structure of this plan. … In our estimation, Massachusetts residents earning little more than $30,000 a year are in jeopardy of being priced out of the system. In the event that this occurs, Governor Romney will be in grave danger of repeating the mistakes of his predecessor, Mike Dukakis, whose 1988 health plan was hailed as a save-all but eventually collapsed when poorly-devised payment structures created a malaise of unfulfilled promises. We propose that a more realistic approach might be to limit the mandate to those individuals earning upwards of $54,000 per year.
On one hand, this isn’t the most astonishing news: Gingrich has been quoted for 17 years in favor of some sort of individual mandate, and this 2006 citation isn’t even the most recent one. On the other hand, Gingrich has insisted that his proposal was something a little different — some sort of “bond” that rich people would put up — and, also, that he really started moving away from even that “bond” mandate after a while because, really, the reason he was for a mandate was in order to have a conservative alternative to Hillarycare in 1994. At other times he has tried hard to play down or soften the edges of his support for a mandate. But this is unequivocal, and it is within the past six years, and it shows not a single hesitation about undermining individual liberty. Indeed, Gingrich’s only complaint is a class-warfare-inducing lament: Romney stuck the mandate on lower-middle-income earners, whereas Gingrich only would apply it to middle-middle-income earners. Gee, what a relief! (Not!)
Even worse, Gingrich is to the left of Romney on Romney’s own health plan. Romney at worst has only tentatively recommended Romneycare as a whole as a model for the nation; and this year, he has become like a broken record saying he would never impose a mandate via the federal government, and that Romneycare was an example of state-level federalism in action, unique to the circumstances of Massachusetts. Gingrich, on the other hand, wrote this: “The most exciting development of the past few weeks is what has been happening up in Massachusetts. The health bill that Governor Romney signed into law this month has tremendous potential to effect major change in the American health system.” Those lines led directly into his discussion of the mandate, which Gingrich described as an example of requiring “personal responsibility.”
All of which leads back to what I said in my May 17 column here on this site, namely that Gingrich and Romney both flunk conservative political philosophy. I repeat now what I wrote then: “[T]he issue here isn’t utility, but liberty. Mussolini ‘made the trains run on time,’ but that should never have justified his authoritarianism. Essential liberty must never be sacrificed on some central planner’s altar of efficiency.”
Or, for that matter, on some former Speaker’s warped notion of what does and doesn’t qualify as “personal responsibility.”
UPDATE: The discoverer of this memo was BuzzFeed’s Andrew Kaczynski.