In my latest reading of Mitt Romney's No Apology: Believe in America, Romney talked about regulation and the need to reform Social Security, Medicaid, and Medicare. Then he warned about the national debt.
regulation, Romney made some of the same talking-points that I have
heard other conservatives make: that President Obama is hindering the
hiring of workers by creating an environment of economic uncertainty. Yet,
while Romney does criticize certain regulations----such as labor
regulations that make it hard to hire or fire workers, and the rules
that must be satisfied for a business to even get started (and Romney
appeals to the thoughts of Thomas Friedman in making these
points)----Romney does believe that "The rule of law and the
establishment of regulations that are clear, fair, and relevant to
contemporary circumstances provide the predictability and stability that
is needed for investment and risk-taking" (page 150). Romney
praises a law against "throwing used oils down the drain" because that
"ultimately led to better machining industry practices" (page 150). He
also supports equal opportunity laws, maintains that occupational safety
regulations help businesses by protecting skilled and experienced
workers, and contends that the "requirement for unemployment insurance"
helps the economy and provides a time of transition to workers who have
been laid off, "perhaps due to an improvement in productivity" (page
On entitlements, Romney believes that they need to be
reformed. Medicare eats up a lot of the federal budget, and Medicaid
does the same for state budgets, and the spending on these programs
continues to grow. Moreover, there is a danger that the current Social
Security system will become unsustainable----that it will not have the
money for all of the people who will soon retire.
Security, Romney supports increasing the retirement age (since people
live and work longer now) and proposes allowing higher-income people to
choose how their benefits would be calculated. They could use the wage
index, which would give them more Social Security money, yet they'd have
to pay higher Social Security taxes. Or they could choose the Consumer
Price Index calculation, which would give them less Social Security
money, as their Social Security tax remains the same. While Romney is
open to private accounts, he recognizes that the stock market goes up
and down, so he wants for individual accounts to be "added to Social
Security, not diverted from it" (page 175).
On Medicaid, Romney
supports states being allowed to devise their own ways to help the poor
in terms of health care, as they continue to receive federal dollars for
Medicaid. States could then move the poor into private health care
plans through vouchers, pay a standard fee rather than reimbursing
treatments, or "negotiate with fewer providers to obtain better rates" rather than "allowing Medicaid members to go to any hospital"
(page 177). Romney also laments that, under the current system, even
higher and middle income people can make themselves look poor through
legal machination and thus get Medicaid assistance to live in nursing
homes when they are older.
On Medicare, Romney wants to move it
away from a "fee-for-service reimbursement system", which gives money
for every treatment and exam and thereby incentivizes doctors to
prescribe more treatments and exams (whether they're essential or not).
Romney proposes offering a flat fee for every patient, which would
encourage the doctors to keep every patient healthy. Romney also says
that higher-income enrollees could pay higher co-pays, deductibles, and
co-premiums. Romney also speaks highly of managed care, and so (if my
impression is correct) he may favor allowing seniors to choose between
Medicare and a private plan (which they'd buy through vouchers from the
Some of these ideas are good. I'd like to make the following points, however:
----It has been argued that Obamacare itself is moving Medicare away from a fee-for-service model (see here).
like that Romney is supportive of higher-income people paying more in
terms of Social Security and Medicare, especially since Republicans
flinch from any notion that the rich should pay more taxes than they are
currently paying. At the same time, I fear that medical costs could
take their financial toll even on people who are financially
comfortable, since medical costs can get really high.
problem that detractors have with Paul Ryan's plan is that it is
inadequate----that it gives vouchers to people in Medicare so they can
join private plans, and yet their medical needs are not sufficiently
met. I myself am distrustful of private health insurance companies,
since they are out to make money. Romney, however, refers to a private
plan that is not-for-profit.
I'd like to close this post by
talking about the national debt. Romney warns that it is getting out of
control, and that it will take a toll in terms of high interest rates,
less foreign investment in the U.S., and financial constriction as the
next generation has to pay this debt off. I have questions about the national debt. First of all, have we paid any of it off? This article says that we haven't done much to pay it off since World War II, whereas this article
maintains that we have been paying off some of it. If the former is
true, then I wonder why we haven't yet seen the sorts of catastrophes
that Romney and others talk about. Interest rates have been
low, and there is still foreign investment in the U.S., probably because
our economy still has a degree of strength, whatever its set-backs.
Can we continue to pass off the debt to our children, as our children
pass it on to their children, and the process continues? One of my
relatives (a conspiracy theorist) remarked that he doesn't think that
our creditors expect for us to pay off the national debt, but they're
just holding it over our heads so they can control us.
Is the latter
true, that we are paying off the national debt? I remember that
politicians not long ago wanted to increase the debt ceiling so that
the country could borrow money, which (in part) would be used to pay the
interest and some of the principal for the national debt. But are we
paying off a sufficient amount of the debt? Second, which party is
better in terms of the national debt? Romney and Republicans may
support reduced domestic spending, but they are also open to war, which
increases the debt. Of course, Democrats are open to war, too, but my
impression is that they're less open to it than are the Republicans.