E.J. Dionne never disappoints

E.J. Dionne delivers two pieces of hack sophistry for the price of one in his latest column. One of them is foolish; the other dishonest.

The foolish attack is his claim that if you “hate” Obamacare, you “must” return any rebate check you receive from an insurance company as a result of that Act. This, Dionne claims, is “just common sense.” If you believe in free enterprise, then the government should not be telling insurance companies to offer better deals and you should not accept the fruit of better deals that result. Dionne then asks whether Mitt Romney received a rebate and if so, whether he returned it.

Dionne’s logic would be an embarrassment on a kindergarten playground, By his reasoning, if you believe that the Bush tax cuts represent an improper break for high-earners, then, if you are a high-earner, you should pay at the higher rate that would have prevailed without those cuts. And if you receive a tax refund, you “must” return at least a portion of it. Indeed, every taxpayer has an obligation to pay not just what the federal government assesses, but also any additional amount that would be owed if the government used “fair” rates.

In fact, the “imperative” not to benefit from an improvident, imprudent, or unfair tax cut is stronger than the imperative Dionne posits regarding Obamacare. A tax cut is a tax cut and nothing else. Obamacare is a highly complex piece of legislation, strong opposition to which does not presuppose opposition to every feature. Romney, for example, obviously does not oppose the individual mandate in principle.

Moreover, opponents may believe that the supposed benefits of Obamacare can better be achieved through free market mechanisms. Romney, for example, believes that premium reductions would result from fair competition. He thus rejects Dionne’s premise that only Obamacare can deliver better deals on insurance.

But even under that premise, the notion that Romney, or anyone else, should be returning checks is ridiculous. Those checks will be small consolation for the increased burdens, financial and physical, that are likely to stem from Obamacare.

Dionne’s dishonest point is that Mitt Romney’s support of states rights, as a general matter, is inconsistent with his criticism of President Obama’s plan to grant waivers to states in the operation of their “workfare” programs. In this regard, Dionne also claims that Romney should criticize the two Republican governors who have sought waivers.

But the problem with Obama’s order is not that it gives states flexibility to, for example, avoid excessive paperwork, in response to complaints by governors. As I explained yesterday, quoting Robert Rector, the problem is that the Obama administration claims authority to overhaul every aspect of the work provisions including definitions of work activities and engagement, specified limitations, verification procedures and the calculation of participation rates — in other words, the whole work program. Because HHS has granted itself total authority to change any aspect of the work standards, the agency is no longer bound its state-by-state waiver approach.

To characterize Romney’s opposition to this power grab by Obama’s Department of HHS as an affront to states rights and an attack on two Republican governors is just the kind of dishonesty that Dionne delivers without disappointment.