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ObamaCare's family tree: RomneyCare out of the Heritage Foundation, designed to counter HillaryCare

Now that the health insurance bill has become law, everybody and his brother is coming out of the woodwork to tell us that it is the Heritage Foundation plan developed to counter Hillarycare.

This is not new news. Hugh Hewitt spelled it out in his book about Romney, A Mormon in the White House (Regnery, 2007). In “The curious triumph of RomneyCare,” Brad DeLong says, “The conservative DNA of ObamaCare is hardly a secret,” and quotes David Frum, recently of the American Enterprise Institute: “The Obama plan has a broad family resemblance to Mitt Romney’s Massachusetts plan. It builds on ideas developed at the Heritage Foundation in the early 1990s that formed the basis for Republican counter-proposals to ClintonCare in 1993-1994."

DeLong continues:

So why are none of the talking heads on your TV screen and none of the op-ed writers in your newspaper talking about how this health plan is a big victory for Mitt Romney and Republican policy analysts? Because there has been a conspiracy of silence among those working for the bill and those working against it.

Republican silence is universally attributed to their political desire to be oppositional and deny the Democrats any victory. Bruce Bartlett says David Frum confided to him that AEI’s “scholars” were told “Ixnay on the ealthcarehay.”

Of the Democrats, DeLong says there were not enough willing to vote for anything more liberal than RomneyCare. (A good whipping might have helped.)

Thus the task for Harry Reid, Nancy Pelosi, and Barack Obama was to hold the Democratic right to RomneyCare while not losing the Democratic left. As long as they could say to the left, "Look, this is what we can pass: It's a lot better than a poke in the eye with a sharp stick (and a poke in the eye with a sharp stick is a lot better than our current health-care financing system)," they had a chance of holding the left, especially if they could sweeten it with progressive tax and subsidy policies. But if they pointed out the intellectual origins of the plan—oh, and by the way, the guts of the plan came out of the conservative über-think tank, the Heritage Foundation, and it was what Mitt Romney thought was good policy back in 2004—then the left-wing Democrats' heads would have exploded and their votes would have vanished.

Jawbone asks of the “ ‘access’ progressives,” “What did the progressives know and when did they know it?”

I would ask the same of the members of the Progressive Caucus. And I wonder (here’s the conspiracy theorizing) if the silence of the Republicans was due not to politics so much as to using the Democrats to enact their policy without leaving fingerprints. Did the Republicans collude with the Democrats?

No votes yet


Submitted by hipparchia on

is that the republicans skillfully maneuvered the democrats into passing republican legislation.

Submitted by gmanedit on

achieved this. I am haunted by what Paul Douglas said in 1932*:

Back in 1932, the future Illinois Sen. Paul Douglas advised progressives not to expect too much from the Democratic Party. It was, he wrote, “maintained by the business interests” as a kind of “lifeboat.” Whenever the GOP ship sprung a leak—whenever Republicans were no longer willing or able to do business’s bidding—the interests simply piled into the other party and made their escape.

We now know that socialized medicine, single payer, Medicare for all, and any kind of "public option" would always be off the table. Of course, if you're thinking back to, say, 2004 (O's convention speech), then I agree with you. Skill and a lot of money.

* After I (finally) figured out the link thingie yesterday, now it's not working for me.

DCblogger's picture
Submitted by DCblogger on

the late sen. Kennedy's adviser on health care was the author of the Mass plan. from the very beginning Dems decided to go with the republican plan.

Submitted by gmanedit on

"a conspiracy of silence among those working for the bill and those working against it."

(I'll have to go have a look at whether he said anything when it might have made a difference.)

Submitted by lambert on

This is exactly the sort of story that I would have liked to break. Why did we miss it?

1. No time (that is, no funding) to take a few days, gather the plans, and compare for similarity. I knew, generically, that ObamaCare was from the conservative mode, but the specifics were beyond me.

And growing out of #1:

2. We're still reactive. If somebody inside Versailles doesn't start a hare, we don't chase after it. (In this case, as well, none of the career "progressives," who had to have known, were also silent.)

3. Maybe "post, post, post" isn't the best model any more. Research is the opportunity cost of the daily grind.

Damn, damn, damn.

NOTE And why the heck break this story now?

madamab's picture
Submitted by madamab on

That the only parts of "reform" that were ever intended to become permanent were:

1) The abortion and birth control restrictions; and
2) Computerized medical records.

Think about it. Is there any chance at all the Repubs won't repeal the bill once they take over in 2010? No, there isn't. The Repubs are going to run against health care reform and they're going to do as promised, which is why THEY keep their base.

But guess what isn't in the bill and can't be repealed? The Executive Order effectively banning abortion and birth control for poor women, and the decision to computerize all medical records.

I think getting the anti-abortion, anti-birth control language as an EO was EXACTLY what Obama and Stupak wanted.

No proof, just a feeling.

sisterkenney's picture
Submitted by sisterkenney on

overturn (only 2 have been, so far) -it requires a "supermajority" if the President vetoes it. In addition, I would venture that "electronic medical records" are pernicious instruments themselves - it doesn't take a lot of imagination to see what insurance companires, drug companies and yes, our government, could do with those records.

Submitted by gmanedit on

The insurance companies need it (shrinking policyholder base, bad investments in Wall Street and real estate), as do the hospitals (undercompensated indigent care).

The medical database is really scary, combined with "wellness" and "medical homes" (HMOs). Instead of seeing a patient for a specific complaint, run lab tests at checkup time, find "problems" based on epidemiology, and enforce compliance with a treatment plan, all overseen by Database Central. Many other problems with it (e.g., perpetuation of errors), but that's the biggie.

On the EO and conscience clause, nothing to say but "That goes without saying."

Submitted by Lex on

i have to say that i've been coming to the same conclusion. I'm not so sure it was a compromise as much as it was a set up.

If there was any walkback from the Democratic Party, i've missed it. There also didn't seem to be much pressure from leadership, at least not like the kind they dished out to people opposing the bill because it didn't go far enough, well enough.

My question will be, how many purple Democrats now run on Stupak's comment (that he repeated like ten times when he voted), "It is the Democrats protecting the sanctity of life"?

It's like the Democratic Battle Cry is now, "To the Right!"

Submitted by hipparchia on

Research is the opportunity cost of the daily grind.


No time (that is, no funding) to take a few days, gather the plans, and compare for similarity.


Damn, damn, damn.

my feelings exactly.

MoveThatBus's picture
Submitted by MoveThatBus on

of contributing our hard earned money to the candidates directly.

Would be nice to take the research, re-directed campaign contributions, and some creativity to put some reality ads on tv right behind the candidate claims....something like a backspace key to instantly undo the message and make sure the viewers who are influenced get confused enough to look closer at their choices.

Submitted by gmanedit on

and Medicare. It should be easier to rebut the history of bad policy on Social Security since it's actually in good shape.

1. The usual suspects: Heritage, AEI, Business Roundtable, Chamber of Commerce, and preeminently the Peterson Foundation. I would (and will) start with Peterson.

Meanwhile, in the press, take note of who's proposing pushing back the enrollment age to seventy. ("People are living longer," "Let them keep leading productive lives." And, of course, "Greedy geezers stealing from the future.")

Look for outright cuts and diversions. Who advocates letting young people divert money to private accounts, which reduces Social Security's income stream? I didn't know till the other day that the 65 percent COBRA subsidy comes out of Social Security.

2. The debunkers: Bruce Webb at Angry Bear, Josh Marshall back when it was Bush trying to privatize (and what's he going say now?). Who else?

3. The politicians: Start with who said what when Bush tried it. What have nominal Dems said against Social Security?

4. History: Trace the genealogy of the Right's arguments all the way back to FDR.

There's a need for "post, post, post" as well as research, to alert people to what's going on. Pointing people to the econobloggers has been a true public service. But, jeez, blogging is time-consuming if you're doing it right. I don't know how people get other things done.

DCblogger's picture
Submitted by DCblogger on

see my link above. Well, I didn't get that it was Nixon's plan, but I did frequently point out that Obamacare was McCain's plan and that voters had turned it down.

we are just a bunch of amateurs stealing time from work, we can't do sustained investigative journalism.

we did ok, we were an important part of the single payer movement and did much to increase the movement's online visibility and give moral support to those who felt alone.

Submitted by jawbone on

one of my blackout periods of travel and holiday merry making.

But it does answer a question which has been bugging me: Did Kennedy realize what Obama was doing to his dream. Seems he did...maybe? That realization hurts. Devastating, actually.

I knew Kennedy had supported passage of the MA plan, but I thought (rationalized?) that he wanted to be sure MA had something to bring some help to some people while he was working on real and good change in DC. Oh, dear....

Bloggers, especially here at Corrente, did yeoman's work to bring the reality of the Obama Senate mishmash to light. The similarity to the MA plan, and the problems inherent in the MA plan, were discussed frequently. I did know about the heritage of the plan and the Heritage thinking in the plan, however.

But, somehow, I can't believe Robert Reich did not realize fully how Heritage heavy this bill was. Young Ezra. Krugman. Other Dems well versed in health CARE legislation.

Ah, shit, we were so played. We even thought we might have a chance at changing some minds. At least I did. Those bastards.

Oh, yeah, there's always this little reality:

It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his job depends on not understanding it.
Upton Sinclair

Submitted by lambert on

... to make a talking point to pound on. I feel like I had an opportunity to shoot a woodchuck that was eating my garden, and missed it. (Not that discharging a firearm in city limits its legal, or that I'm speaking much more than metaphorically, but still.)

sisterkenney's picture
Submitted by sisterkenney on

To make sure progressives see just how ineffectual and powerless they are. It's like a "neener, neener" from the legacy parties.

Submitted by gmanedit on

My brain slipped a gear. That quote was of course from Upton Sinclair, as cited by jawbone above at 7:34 pm, not Robert Ingersoll.)

(To everybody else: We met up at the Carolyn Maloney demo. I think madamab will be posting on it. I misattributed that quote over coffee afterward.)

Submitted by lambert on

Small but mighty is just fine. "Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed, citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has."

Submitted by libbyliberal on

Thanks for your work today, AND thanks for this post.

Interesting Jawbone quoting what we were just talking about, too.

I think Teddy succumbed to cronyism long ago. The Nixon health care he regretted fighting? The political elite ... and the years of horrifying gridlock ... and the erosion of communication, or dialogue what that angry burned out liberal said on the sidewalk today, ironically he pissed me off faster than anyone else, though it was a pretty validating bunch of passersby.

As I said earlier at coffee, how shameless of Obama to sentimentalize Kennedy's memory and use his widow to get further over on the American people ... to con them into more self-destructive trust for a sell-out Party, President and Congress. The same as he did with that poor woman in Ohio. Posturing as her champion. Is there no shame or conscience in this man? The man Kucinich gave up his principles in compassion for? Dear God.

I wish I knew more of the history, etc. Grateful to be catching up.

Cronyism ... and follow the money. And group think... exceptionalism. And the level of denial and maybe serious ego in terms of pol power food chain..and media... and the insulting attacks on the messengers of the not-far Left, as you corrected me when I called us Far Left, but disenfranchised and crazy-made sane liberals, who are being nibbled to death by ducks... the apologists in their own Party, along with the piranha corporations and the armed and dangerous tea partiers shadow boxing with the spectre of socialism when fascism is imprisoning us all, including them.

Anyway... so illuminating. Thank you!

DCblogger's picture
Submitted by DCblogger on

that was put in the works just before the sell out. AHIP is funding it through some foundation. I am too lazy to search through my posts, but yeah, I blogged about that back in January 2009.

Submitted by gmanedit on

if they pointed out the intellectual origins of the plan—oh, and by the way, the guts of the plan came out of the conservative über-think tank, the Heritage Foundation, and it was what Mitt Romney thought was good policy back in 2004—then the left-wing Democrats' heads would have exploded and their votes would have vanished.

We relied on good policy and the facts to make our case. It seems as if public shaming would have been more effective.

Well, the struggle continues. I want someone to ask the Progressive Caucus members: "Congressman/woman, how could you vote for a conservative Republican plan?"