Battle of the health care flip-floppers -- how Romney can defeat Obama

Four years ago, Barack Obama adamantly opposed a national mandate requiring individuals to buy health insurance and Mitt Romney enthusiastically supported one. Both have since reversed their position.

If Romney squares off with Obama in the general election, the American people will face a choice between two flip-floppers on the issue. But it is Obama, not Romney, who is presently wrong on the issue. And it was Obama who broke a specific campaign promise in actually imposing this disastrous policy on the American people.

Four years ago, Obama was adamantly opposed to the mandate, attacking it as his principal criticism of Hillary Clinton’s domestic agenda. For instance, consider these words from Obama on the 2008 campaign trail: “The main difference between my plan and Senator Clinton’s plan is that she’d require the government to force you to buy health insurance and she said she’d ‘go after’ your wages if you don’t.”

Once he became president, that “main difference” was quickly jettisoned. More interested in corrupt backroom deals and political advantage than genuine reform, Obama cut a deal with the major insurance companies that centered on the mandate. They let him impose all kinds of restrictive regulations on them and in return he forced everyone in America to buy their product – with billions of taxpayers dollars in subsidies to sweeten the pot.

Four year ago, Obama told us he would oppose the mandate and instead focus on lowering costs. He said: “I believe the reason people don’t have health care isn’t because no one’s forced them to buy it, it’s because no one’s made it affordable – and that’s what we’ll do when I am President.”

Another broken promise.

Contrary to its deceptive name, "the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act" (that is, ObamaCare) has not made health care more affordable. Quite the opposite.

The Obama administration itself is already calling for an additional $111 billion above the original cost projections, and the Congressional Budget Office has doubled the 10-year price tag to over $1.76 trillion. Even Jonathan Gruber (the MIT economist who was infamously paid hundreds of thousands of dollars by the Obama administration while he testified as an “independent expert” that the bill would reduce costs) now concedes that ObamaCare will cause premiums to “dramatically increase.”

Moreover, the individual mandate, even without the thousands of pages of federal micromanagement of health care in ObamaCare, is enough to result in a total government takeover.

Under the individual mandate, politicians and bureaucrats get to define what counts as health insurance for the purposes of the mandate. They can decide what must be covered and what won't be covered, reimbursement policies, and potentially every aspect of your health care.

Four years ago, Mitt Romney was wrong on this issue and Barack Obama was right. But now it’s Obama who’s wrong, and vulnerable on the issue.

It’s time for Romney to stop looking for nuanced explanations and hair-splitting distinctions between his version of the individual mandate and Obama’s.

Romney should instead forthrightly admit that he was wrong when he advocated a national individual mandate and that he has since changed his mind after observing the national debate over ObamaCare and the compelling arguments against a mandate.

He should contrast his switch on the issue with Obama doing precisely the opposite, while breaking a major campaign promise.

The American people overwhelmingly oppose the mandate. A recent Gallup poll found that 72 percent of Americans believe the mandate is unconstitutional. Even a majority of Democrats and a majority of ObamaCare supporters believe the mandate violates the U.S. Constitution’s limits on federal power.

If Romney simply acknowledges that he was wrong, the American people will understand that it was Obama who broke a campaign promise to force this disastrous policy on the American people, and they will forgive Romney the comparatively minor offense changing his mind from wrong to right.

Phil Kerpen is the author of “Democracy Denied: How Obama is Ignoring You and Bypassing Congress to Radically Transform America - and How to Stop Him.”