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A case of pre-existing positions

Froma Harrop

Froma Harrop

What Mitt Romney truly believes is anybody’s guess. Whether Romney as president would act on those beliefs is also a guess. And we can’t rule out the possibility that he doesn’t have any beliefs outside of religion and investment strategies. Why he’s running for president remains unclear, though commander in chief looks impressive on a nametag.

Asked over the weekend whether by killing Obamacare he would let insurers again deny coverage to those with preexisting conditions, Romney replied that there were parts of the health care reforms he likes, that being one of them. Coverage for pre-existing conditions would stay. Later in the day, his people said, actually, he would not support a federal ban on denial of coverage for pre-existing conditions. Still later, his campaign harkened to an earlier position in which he’d require coverage for pre-existing conditions, but only for those who already had insurance.

We get it. He likes the popular parts of the Affordable Care Act that cost money but not the unpopular parts that would pay for the popular parts. We speak of the individual mandate and a variety of fees.

Hey, anyone who likes having to pay for things, raise your hand. Anyone? Next, you who don’t like writing checks but agree that we should pay for what we buy, raise your hand. That’s better — a respectable showing by responsible citizens. Not in attendance is the Republican base, whose fiscal fantasies Romney courted to win the nomination, and now he’s stuck with these pre-existing positions. As Romney tries to win over the more realistic general electorate, he finds himself defending past nonsense. It pained me to watch him squirm at a question about his ridiculous vow to reject $10 of spending cuts if it included just $1 of new revenues.

Romney said he wants more defense spending, but he didn’t say why. He never says why. Romney said he disagreed with fellow Republicans who voted for the budget “sequester” a year ago. That was a deal whereby certain cuts in programs dear to both parties would automatically happen, if a supercommittee didn’t agree on a deficit-cutting plan — and it didn’t. Defense was one of the targeted items. Recall that the sequester was forced by the House Republicans’ unprecedented threat to let America go into default if Democrats wouldn’t accept massive spending cuts and insisted on any new revenues whatsoever.

Obama’s plan to reduce defense spending plus sequestration would leave a military budget the same size it was at the height of the Cold War. Instead of spending 10 times as much on defense as China, we’d be spending twice as much. Can’t we live with spending twice as much as our main rival?

It could be that Romney is planning new wars. If so, he should let us in on it. Romney insists that cuts in defense spending costs jobs. That is undeniably true, but the same can be said about cuts in road spending, research spending and education spending.

Romney wants to lower the marginal tax rates for all federal taxpayers, including those in the top bracket. He says he would help pay for it by closing tax loopholes. Closing loopholes is an excellent idea. What loopholes does he have in mind? Every tax break, however unwarranted, has its fans, and those fans have lobbyists. What about the deduction for mortgage interest, a middle-class favorite and one of the most costly tax breaks? Romney’s not saying, even though the matter gets a mention in the Republican Party’s 2012 platform.

Perhaps he doesn’t have any tax loopholes in mind. Or perhaps he does. What Romney truly believes is anybody’s guess.

©2012 The Providence Journal Co.

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