The Romney We Need

Written by David Frum on Monday September 12, 2011

Mitt Romney arrived loaded for bear this evening, pointing out, for example, that Rick Perry's Texas created jobs at barely 1/3 the rate of Anne Richards' Texas.

On Social Security, Romney battered Rick Perry's call to have a debate about Social Security ... some time in the far, far future, in a galaxy far, far away.

Rick Perry was reduced to his now familiar babbling incoherence, promising not to take away a program he has condemned as unconstitutional. Mitt Romney caught, diced and spliced Gov. Perry in deceitful misquotation.

All in all - a good night for Romney, a bad night for Perry.

But there was something else I'd have liked to have seen. When Perry attacked Romney for his Massachusetts health plan, I'd have liked to hear Romney speak for himself, rather than side-step, and say something like this:

I oppose President Obama's attempt to build a permanently bigger government funded by permanently higher taxes.

But I don't believe that freedom requires that we let the sick go uncared for. 'No government' is not the appropriate response to big government.

In Massachusetts, we required all citizens to buy health coverage, with government assistance for those who needed it. It's the same principle that inspires Republicans to favor charter schools as a way to educate all our kids. Or to support personal accounts in Social Security. We want basic insurance for everybody - but we rely on on free enterprise to provide the product and we allow individuals to select from a menu of choices.

We covered everybody, unlike Texas, which leaves 1 in 4 of its citizens uninsured. Maybe that's why Massachusetts has the best infant mortality rate in the nation.

That's not to say we did everything right. The program in Massachusetts is not doing a very good job controlling costs. That's a problem to correct - which is exactly why it's so important to experiment at the state level rather than impose central solutions from Washington. It's easier to adapt and improve closer to the people.

But look - leaving people without coverage also has its costs. The National Academies of Science report that uninsured people get sicker. They die earlier. People uninsured in childhood children do worse throughout their lives.

That's not acceptable to me. It shouldn't be acceptable to you. If anyone on this stage should be apologizing for his healthcare record, it's the governor of Texas.