It might seem like an odd pairing, but what the GOP field needs is TR and civility to win the present — and defeat President Barack Obama in 2012.
TR, of course, refers to larger-than-life Republican Theodore Roosevelt, who served as president from 1901-1908, then ran on the Progressive Bull Moose ticket in 1912.
While he was a rock-ribbed Republican, when theory ran afoul of doing what’s right by the little guy, he always chose the latter.
His brand of politics is perfect for slaying today’s dragons that have gutted the middle class and precipitated runaway spending.
Take, for example, housing prices. The Case-Shiller index recently revealed they’ve declined more steeply than during the Great Depression. The fact that 75% of consumers can’t even get loans to purchase a home, let alone refinance, is a big reason why.
Investment banker Christopher Whalen, whose father served in Ronald Reagan’s “kitchen cabinet,” says the way around this problem is to raise the FHA loan cap and help small and medium size banks increase lending. This would mean giving more power and money to community banks. Obama prefers letting Wall Street call the shots — in spite of its role in precipitating the 2007-08 housing meltdown — while the little guy gets slammed.
But, Republicans, Whalen says, should out-progressive Democrats and do what is right, which is TR writ large. TR basically stared down Wall Street, thus saving it from itself; so should today’s Republicans.
One hundred years after TR’s Bull Moose gambit, many in the GOP field seem well-positioned to take up his mantle.
For instance, former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty emphasizes Main Street production over Wall Street consumption. Congresswoman Michele Bachmann has that “can do” spirit. And Texas Governor Rick Perry shares TR’s tough-as-nails persona.
Then there’s Mitt Romney, who, like TR, favors universal health care as the key to economic stability, signing it into law as governor of Massachusetts (2003-2007).
Many conservatives deride the 2006 Massachusetts law as ObamaCare’s twin and Tea Party poison — a comparison Obama smugly reinforces. But, in fact, ObamaCare and RomneyCare are apples and oranges. Whereas ObamaCare reduces what doctors are paid; RomneyCare ensures that doctors are, in fact, paid when a patient, who could otherwise afford it, lacks insurance.
Also, as Romney underscored in Monday’s CNN debate in Manchester, RomneyCare did not raise taxes, whereas ObamaCare does — to the tune of $500 billion — in addition to shifting $500 billion out of Medicare to fund it.
Sixty-three percent of Massachusetts residents favor the law, according to a recent poll by the Harvard School of Public Health and the Boston Globe, up 10 percentage points in the past two years, with only 21 percent opposed.
And what of the “individual mandate” that makes people think RomneyCare is ObamaCare? Well, considering there’s already a federal mandate to provide ER care to anyone regardless of ability to pay, it’s pretty important to make sure docs get paid, unless you want to drive them out of business a la ObamaCare.
Where it gets tricky is that an insurance mandate only make sense if, as in the case of automobiles, having coverage doesn’t encourage crashes, whereas standard health insurance increases utilization. Also, RomneyCare does not encourage medical savings accounts and streamlined, just-the-basics insurance.
But, as Romney is at pains to say, the Massachusetts law was a state solution to a state problem. He vows to rescind cost-prohibitive, one-size-fits-all ObamaCare if elected president — granting a waiver to all 50 states on Day One.
Meanwhile, Republicans have come up with a way to obviate a “mandate” — since understandably, it’s not everyone’s cup of tea — by assessing a fee on those who don’t buy insurance to hedge against costs incurred should they fall ill or suffer injury.
But, sensing political opportunity, Romney’s Republican opponents have been pouncing on him, with Sarah Palin tut tutting the Massachusetts law in Boston one hour before Romney announced for the presidency. Gov. Pawlenty called out “ObamneyCare” because, he explained in the debate, Obama claimed RomneyCare was his “blueprint.”
The good news, though, is Monday’s debate signaled a truce of sorts.
Indeed, if Republicans hope to win the present, we must nominate a candidate who understands what ails the economy and how to cure it, of which health care is a big part. This means civility — honestly assessing opponents’ positions and presenting your own — will be critically important, lest we destroy ourselves from within.
So, with eyes on the prize, let the race be guided by the kind of civility our great Republican presidents, such as Abraham Lincoln, Ronald Reagan, and, yes, even TR, practiced; and inspired by TR’s overflowing common sense in making life better for the little guy, now suffering under the weight of Obamanomics.