Jindal did his best Sunday sidestep on Meet the Press when he told host David Gregory that each state should address the health care issue. Then he used a puzzling example:
"I come from one of the most culturally distinct states in the entire country. Mardi Gras is right for Louisiana. It may not work as well in Vermont or other states. The reality is what works in Massachusetts may not be appropriate for another state."
Gregory came back with this observation. "Wait, you're really comparing Mardi Gras to universal health insurance?" Gregory said. And that’s Romney’s problem with the dodge by his surrogates and himself. What’s good for the goose is good for the gander. If something as important as healthcare is proposed as a save all by the Massachusetts Governor, the average citizen has a hard time distinguishing as to why the same plan is, in Romney’s opinion, not good for the entire country.
Romney’s healthcare quandary increased the following day when the Republican nominee’s senior healthcare adviser, Eric Fehrnstrom, stated that Obamacare’s individual mandate is definitely a penalty and not a tax. Since the Supreme Court ruling, Republicans have been ballyhooing that the President is raising taxes as part of his healthcare plan.
MSNBC’s Chuck Todd, host of The Daily Rundown, put the question directly to Fehrnstrom so there would be no misunderstanding. “So [Romney] agrees with the president... he believes that you shouldn't call the tax penalty a tax, you should call it a penalty or a fee or a fine?” Todd asked.
“That’s correct,” Fehrnstrom replied.
As the National Journal, a Republican mouthpiece, pointed out: “Fehrnstrom’s comments seem to contradict the GOP’s strategy since the Supreme Court ruling on Thursday, which is to brand Obama a tax raiser because the law was ruled constitutional as a tax. They also illustrate Romney's dilemma: he cannot brand Obama as a tax raiser without leaving himself vulnerable to similar charges surrounding his days as Governor in Massachusetts.”
What the Obamacare plan does is four key things. It establishes exchanges to bring both individuals and small business together to pool their numbers for lower rates. It eliminates pre existing conditions, so that coverage is offered to all who apply. There is the individual mandate, an idea that initially came from a cross section of key Republicans from Newt Gingrich, Senator Bob Dole, and the conservative Heritage Foundation. And there are subsidies built in to cover low income families. Where can you find identical provisions? Why in the Romney-Massachusetts plan of course.
Romney’s answer seems to be that you don’t have to be a virgin to make the case against promiscuity. But so far, his effort to differentiate between a state approach vs. an encompassing federal plan has received mixed results. In a new CNN/ORC poll published in The Hill, Forty-three percent see the law favorably overall, with 42 percent holding an unfavorable view. Before the ruling, an ABC/Post poll taken last week showed a 36 percent positive view of the law, with a 52 percent negative rating. What these results show is that Obama supporters favor the law while Romney supporters oppose it. So there seems to be little gain for Romney.
Compounding Romney’s problem is that, according to a recent Kaiser Foundation poll, 41% of Americans aren’t even aware of the Supreme Court ruling upholding Obamacare. So it just could be that Romney is beating a dead horse, and he needs to face up to the fact that he is not going to win the presidency on his healthcare alternatives.
Romney’s surrogate, Bobby Jindal, who has made it his mantra in recent months to crisscross the country touting his objections to Obamacare in an all out effort to be picked as the vice presidential nominee, has his own problems back in Louisiana. The New York Times reported that Louisiana has the fastest growing Medicaid population in the nation where some 37% of the state will be on Medicaid by 2019. Just this week, congress cut $650 million from the existing Louisiana Medicaid program. And Jindal has announced he will not participate in the Obamacare Medicaid extension that would have covered 340,000 additional Louisianans, with the state not having to put up one penny for the first three years. He will have his hands full explaining his reasoning to hospitals, the medical community, and to those who will have no choice but to go to a hospital emergency room where the cost is passed on to all Louisiana taxpayers.
The bottom line for Republicans is that healthcare reform is a muddled, confusing and polarizing issue. Those for, and those against, cancel each other out on the campaign trail. Romney’s focus, as well as his surrogates’ like Jindal, should be directed at one issue, and one issue alone. And it’s nothing new. It’s an issue that resonates to millions of Americans from all political persuasions. Another Louisianan set out the agenda for victory back in 1992. It applies more so today. The Ragin’ Cajun, James Carville said it best. “It’s the economy, Stupid!”
“I might be in favor of national healthcare if it required all members of congress to get their heads examined."
Peace and Justice.
Jim Brown’s syndicated column appears each week in numerous newspapers and websites throughout the country. You can read all his past columns and see continuing updates at www.jimbrownusa.com. You can also hear Jim’s nationally syndicated radio show each Sunday morning from 9 am till 11:00 am, central time, on the Genesis Radio Network, with a live stream at http://www.jimbrownusa.com.