Ezra Klein: DeLong Smackdown Watch: Romney Now Sincerely Believes the Individual Health Insurance Mandate Steals Our Liberty Department
Mitt Romney, July 2009, on how great the individual mandate is:
Mr. President, What's the Rush?: No other state has made as much progress in covering their uninsured as Massachusetts.... I worked in a bipartisan fashion with Democrats to insure all our citizens... it passed the 200-member legislature with only two dissenting votes. It had the support of the business community, the hospital sector and insurers…. Our citizens purchase private, free-market medical insurance.... Using tax penalties, as we did... encourages “free riders” to take responsibility for themselves rather than pass their medical costs on to others. This doesn’t cost the government a single dollar….
Ezra Klein claims now that Mott Romney and all his supporters have had a genuine change of mind:
My view — based both on my experience as a reporter in Washington and on an increasingly voluminous psychological literature about how partisans form opinions — is that human beings are very good at convincing themselves of whatever their self-interest would have them believe, and that Washington has become an increasingly sophisticated machine for encouraging and accelerating this sort of “motivated reasoning.”... [Romney's] new opinions are sincerely held.
I don't buy it. Ezra summarizes my position better than I do:
Coming to any conclusion about that requires disentangling the mechanisms by which these shifts are happening. One popular perspective — see this post by Brad DeLong — is that this is rank cynicism. The Republican Party hasn’t changed any of its positions, or if it did, it didn’t hold those positions in the first place. Rather, the Republican Party is coldly taking whatever position happens to be most strategically convenient, and if that requires pretending to jettison their previous beliefs, then so be it.