Now that the Supreme Court has reprieved the Affordable Care Act and Mitt Romney has renewed his pledge to dismantle it, let’s try again to pierce the Republican presidential candidate’s protective coat of vagueness and think about where he would take the country.

The high court decision validating Obamacare — an unpopular word that is destined for greater esteem one day — spurred the Republican presidential candidate and his allies into an angry reaction against Chief Justice John Roberts’ majority decision. As my writer friend Tim Rutten commented, “You have to wonder what sort of country we’ve become when weighing arguments and changing your mind is regarded as an aberration or an act of treachery.”

The decision also has assured that health care will be an important part of the election campaign. It has so infuriated the Republican conservative base and rich right-wing campaign contributors that they seem to have forgotten what Romney said would be the main point of his campaign — putting the jobless back to work.

Romney has been characteristically unclear about just how he would do this. His main vehicle seems to be the huge reductions in the federal safety net proposed by Paul Ryan, Republican chairman of the House Budget Committee, in a plan Romney strongly supports.

At the heart of the Ryan-Romney budget agenda are huge tax cuts for the rich. The latest analysis by the Urban Brookings Tax Policy Center showed that in 2015 the average tax cut for those earning more than $1 million a year would be $264,960, or 12.5 percent. That’s on top of the $129,000 the millionaires would receive from the Ryan budget’s extension of President Bush’s tax cuts.

For those making $50,000 to $75,000 a year, the Ryan-Romney plan offers $975, a 1.8 percent reduction. Taxes would actually rise for the poorest, an average of $112 a year for anyone earning less than $10,000. Chuck Marr, tax expert for the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, explains: “While the Ryan budget makes permanent all of the Bush tax cuts including those for high-income households, which are slated to expire at the end of 2012, it would not fully extend the tax cuts for working-poor households that were enacted under President Obama and also are scheduled to expire at the end of this year.”

The Ryan-Romney plan would also make far-reaching changes in American life with its proposed repeal of the Affordable Care Act and sharp cuts in Medicaid, which provides for the poor, and in Medicare. Medicare eligibility would eventually rise from 65 to 67 and the current system of guaranteeing the same benefits to all recipients would be replaced. Government would provide grants to recipients. They would then shop for plans, choosing either traditional Medicare or a private one. Such subsidies probably wouldn’t be enough to pay for coverage. Recipients, whose median income is $25,000 a year, would end up using a greater share of their limited resources for medical care.

Public opinion polls show this idea to be extremely unpopular. A recent Kaiser Family Foundation health tracking poll finds that 70 percent of Americans would prefer to keep Medicare as it is today. Only 25 percent want the program changed to a premium-support system.

As noted here and elsewhere earlier in the year, the Republicans have a plan to put this radical scheme into effect if they win the presidency, the Senate and the House in November.

The plan was outlined by the conservatives’ fearsome leader, Grover Norquist, head of Americans for Tax Reform. That organization has frightened Romney and all but a few Republican lawmakers into signing a pledge to never support a tax increase.

“We’re not auditioning for fearless leader,” Norquist told the Conservative Political Action Conference during the Republican presidential primary campaign. “We don’t need a president to tell us what direction to go. We know what direction we want to go. We want the Paul Ryan budget. … Very easy. … We just need a president to sign this stuff. We don’t need someone to think it up or design it. We have. The leadership for the modern conservative movement will be coming out of the House and the Senate. So focus on electing the most conservative Republicans in each House seat and each Senate seat. Then pick the Republican with enough working digits to handle a pen to become president of the United States.”

What a chilling statement. Assuming Romney can pass the Norquist manual dexterity test, all he’ll have to do is sign the bills and smile nicely for the cameras.

The Supreme Court’s decision has thrust medical care and, by implication, the rest of the radical Romney-Ryan economic plan in the hands of voters. Justice Roberts made this clear when he said the voters should decide such important policy decisions. “Members of this Court are vested with the authority to interpret the law; we possess neither the expertise nor the prerogative to make policy judgments. Those decisions are entrusted to our Nation’s elected leaders, who can be thrown out of office if the people disagree with them. It is not our job to protect the people from the consequences of their political choices,” he wrote.

If you look behind Romney’s bland and vague exterior, the choice is clear, as are the consequences.


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