As a native Bay Stater, I have followed Mitt Romney’s political ambitions for a decade. Although I was only 13 years old when he first ran for governor in 2002, I was a precocious teenager with an astute interest in politics at the time. I decided to support him and his policies despite my parents’ pleas not to. I still remember all the arguments I had with my mother and father around the dining room table about Mitt Romney and Shannon O’Brien, the Democratic Nominee. On paper, he remains one of the strongest candidates to ever run for the Presidency. It is a tragedy that I will not be able to support him next week. Like the story of nearly every tragic hero, this story has two parts: the first being the story of our heroes’ rise and the second the tale of his downfall. Today, I present the former; tomorrow, I will present the latter.
Mitt Romney’s legacy as governor of Massachusetts remains a largely successful one. He continued the successful educational reforms initiated by his GOP predecessors such as encouraging the opening of more charter schools in the Boston School District as well as making it mandatory for students to pass a standardized exam before they graduate. Romney also established the John and Abigail Adams Scholarship, which awarded a full tuition scholarship at any public university to anyone who scored in the top 20% of their high school class on the MCAS, the commonwealth’s standardized exam. As a result of the John and Abigail Adams Scholarship, many bright and ambitious youth who would otherwise have been unable to afford to pay college tuition have now been empowered to pursue their hopes, goals and dreams.
Despite the great strides Massachusetts has made in order to become the state with the highest ranked public education system, the premiere social welfare accomplishment of Governor Romney will always be his widely successful implementation of universal health care insurance reform. Working with the Massachusetts legislature, Romney persuaded Massachusetts’ Democrats to support a conservative, free-market alternative to single payer health insurance. This happened within the context of Democratic supermajorities in both the General Court and the State Senate. Romney’s efforts to negotiate with others shined here, as it did when he took the helm at the Salt Lake City Olympic Games in 2002.
Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis once called the states of the United States, “the laboratories of democracy” and Romney’s reforms, which are sometimes labeled spuriously as ‘Romneycare’, presented the United States of America with a grand opportunity to experiment with a conservative plan that had been discussed for decades, but never put into action. The origins for Romney’s reforms came in 1992, when President Bill Clinton attempted to implement a universal health care plan. Clinton’s plan was derived from leftist and socialist ideals regarding socialized medicine. Clinton’s conservative opponents needed an alternative plan to contrast with Clinton’s plan, so they adopted ideas derived from The Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank. The Heritage Foundation plan was grounded in the conservative ideal of personal responsibility. More specifically, the plan included a “personal mandate” that would require all Americans to purchase coverage or pay a penalty. The logic behind this proposal was sound; as long as the United States Government was willing to spend public funds to provide care to the uninsured, it should be an individual’s responsibility to contribute an appropriate amount to his or her own care. Without this provision, “free-riders” could take unfairly advantage of government subsidies.
The personal mandate of the Heritage Foundation plan made its way into Romney’s health care reform package. This allowed Romney to end discrimination in the health insurance market based upon the concept of “preexisting conditions”. It also allowed for many previously uninsured Bay Staters to purchase coverage on the health care exchange thanks to government subsidies. This health care exchange, enabled consumers to pick and choose the right health care policy for their families by presenting clear information regarding differences in benefits, premiums, deductable and other parameters. Other beneficial reforms came into effect as well, such as a provision that enabled young adults to remain on their parent’s policy until their 26th birthday.
With his two crowning achievements in the spheres of education and health care, Romney is a very compelling candidate for President. The fact he accomplished both of these objectives without increasing the burden on Massachusetts’ taxpayers is simply incredible. Governor Romney inherited a $1.5 Billion deficit and reversed it in four years, ultimately creating a surplus.