As I noted earlier, Mitt Romney’s new vice presidential pick is “not a fan,” to use Paul Ryan’s words, of the former Massachusetts governor’s signature legislative accomplishment.
Buzzfeed’s Andrew Kaczynski dug up last week a 2010 Ryan appearance on C-SPAN’s Washington Journal where he blasted the Massachusetts healthcare overhaul, which Romney oversaw as governor, as “a fatal conceit.”
Asked if he thought Romneycare (upon which Obamacare was based) works, Ryan responded:
Not well, no. Actually, I’m not a fan of the system. … I’ve got some relatives up there in Massachusetts. My uncle’s a cardiologist in Boston and I’ve talked to a lot of healthcare folks up there. What’s happening now is because costs are getting out of control, premiums are increasing in Massachusetts and now you have a bureaucracy that is having to put all these cost controls and now rationing on the system. So people in Massachusetts are saying ‘yes we have virtually universal healthcare’—I think it’s 96 or 98 percent insured. But they see the system bursting by the seams. They see premium increases, rationing and benefit cuts, and so they’re frustrated with this system. … They see how this idea of having the government be the sole, you know, single regulator of health insurance, defining what kind of health insurance you can have, and then an individual mandate—it is fatal conceit. These kinds of systems, as we’re now seeing in Massachusetts are unsustainable.
Of course it’s standard operating procedure that vice presidential picks have policy differences with the top of the ticket. See George H.W. Bush and “voodoo economics,” for example. But this disagreement is more pronounced because to date Romney has run a campaign light on policy details (the Washington Post’s Ezra Klein memorably described Romney’s agenda as being less actual policy proposals and “more like simulacra of policy proposals. They look, from far away, like policy proposals. … But read closely, they are not policy proposals. They do not include the details necessary to judge Romney’s policy ideas. In many cases, they don’t contain any details at all.”) In a stroke Mitt Romney made Paul Ryan the functional policy director of his campaign, making sharp policy disagreements like this one more than ordinarily salient. By the same token, it will be interesting to watch the conservative reaction as Ryan is forced to correct himself on this and any other areas of disagreement with the top of the ticket. Given the extent to which his nomination is meant to pacify a querulous base a muzzled or repentant Ryan could prove problematic.
(On the other hand, Romneycare’s broad unpopularity with his party—see the uproar this week when a Romney spokeswoman spoke positively of it—has left him largely quiet on the law’s virtues so maybe “fatal conceit” will become the campaign’s official policy position on the law.)
One other point worth mentioning on Ryan and healthcare costs: It’s interesting that he criticized cost controls since they are notably absent from his Medicare overhaul scheme. While his plan would lower spending it does so not by controlling costs but by shifting the cost from the government to senior citizens. What it does do, however, is keep the Obamacare Medicare cuts ... which Romney grimly denounced in introducing Ryan. I guess that's another area where we can look forward to a little policy back-tracking.