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Massachusetts Liberal

Observations on politics, the media and life in Massachusetts and beyond from the left side of the road.

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Gutless wonder

Back in the '80s, Michael Dukakis took to calling his GOP critics "gutless wonders" for their opposition to taxes and other reform proposals to haul the state out of a deep fiscal chasm.

Those Republicans have amazing intestinal fortitude in comparison to the recently departed governor of the Commonwealth -- who after flip-flopping on all his social positions is now turning on what he also boats is his major accomplishment after four unaccomplished years.

Mitt Romney says the problems besetting implementation of the state's health care law is the fault of, wait for it, Democratic legislators.
"I hope they take action that makes it work even better than I could have thought of," said Romney, who is exploring a campaign for the 2008 Republican presidential nomination. "But if they take action that makes it unworkable, I'll point that out. I'm not going to sit on the sidelines and not have a comment to make."
If Massachusetts legislators take any action to make it work better, it will because he left a law in place that was unworkable.

I haven't been shy in pointing fingers at the Mittser for the mischief of his "contributions" to the law: pushing for the individual mandate that everyone must buy insurance -- and vetoing legislative efforts to impose any charges on business that don't meet certain basic levels of coverage for their employees. That left a fee that did nothing to encourage scofflaws from having the state pay for their employees.

So it's fascinating to note that just one day after a small business leader offers a similar critique -- focusing on the adequacy of the $295 per employee assessment -- the Empty Suit starts to walk away from his "accomplishment."

Robert A. Baker , president of the nonprofit Smaller Business Association of New England, said most of his 700 members already contribute more to employee health coverage than the standards require. The reform plan signed last year by former governor Mitt Romney specifies that companies are exempt from a $295 per employee annual assessment if they make a "fair and reasonable" contribution to employees' healthcare. Specifically, businesses can avoid the fee if 25 percent of their workers participate in a company-sponsored plan, or the companies pay at least one-third of the insurance premium.

"Most of our people provide 50 to 80 percent premium contribution, and very few provide less than 50 percent," said Baker. "Thirty-three percent seems to be abnormally low if you want to keep good people working for you." Fifty percent, he said, "should be the standard."

The newly minted social conservative with a new-found belief in personal responsibility sees it differently. And I think I know why.
"When you say 'universal healthcare,' the first person you think of is Hillary Clinton, and the absolute debacle that Hillary-care was," said Representative Patrick McHenry, a North Carolina Republican who attended Friday's forum in Baltimore as a member of the conservative Republican Study Committee.
There are clear flaws in the law that need to be (and are being) addressed: the initial minimum basic packages proposals are unaffordable and would require many people with health insurance to buy additional coverage they may not be able to afford. The imbalance between business and individual mandates still needs to be addressed.

I'll leave it to Dick Moore, Senate chairman of the Health Care Financing Committee and one of the legislative leaders in the effort to sum up the political problem:
"He's setting himself up so he can go either way. If it's a success, he'll take all the credit in the world. If it's a failure, he'll blame everybody else."
Mitt, you've got a ways to go to reach the gutless wonder standard.

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