You remember privatization, don’t you? The idea was to take Social Security, a mandatory public pension program, and turn it into a system of mandatory personal investment accounts. The schemes evolved over time, with different details, but the gist was always the same. During your working years, you’d make contributions into the accounts, just like you currently pay taxes that fill the Social Security Trust. Over time, you would invest the money in your private account—that is, you’d buy stocks, bonds, and so on—typically within certain guidelines set by the government. Once you hit retirement, you’d start to withdraw from the accounts or perhaps purchase an annuity, relying on subsequent payments for your financial security.
Conservatives presumably thought privatization was constitutional; otherwise, they would not have worked so feverishly to enact it. But if the principle holds for old-age insurance, it ought to hold for medical insurance, too. In other words, if it’s ok for the government to make you pay for regulated private investments, then it should be ok for the government to make you pay for regulated private health insurance. Yet, as far as I can tell, the folks who spent all of those years promoting Social Security as an all-American, free market innovation are the same ones that now insist the Affordable Care Act is an unprecedented threat to liberty.I can't wait to hear the GOP response.
I have to say that I was wrong about Republican rhetoric so far. I thought that the mandate would be the main talking point against ACA while it was being debated -- it doesn't poll well, and it's easy to portray it as the kind of tyranny that conservatives warn about. I thought, then, that it would fade soon after, to be replaced by horror stories from health care attributed (falsely, or not) to reform. As it turned out, the tyranny of the mandate was only a secondary at best attack line before passage, but has taken on new salience as the focus of judicial efforts to overturn ACA. And at least as far as I can tell, we've seen relatively few of the kind of attacks I expected, so far.
Back to Jonathan Cohn: don't miss the first part of his two-parter on the mandate.