Sen. Ted Cruz pretends to be a tough guy, but mostly he spends his time trashing Democrats in front of adoring right-wing crowds and conservative journalists. On Wednesday he sat down with CNN’s Chris Cuomo – you didn’t expect him to go to MSNBC, did you? – and showed himself to be incredibly thin-skinned when pressed just a little on how he would replace the Affordable Care Act he wants to repeal. It was an interesting window on Cruz’s temperament as well as his cynical, threadbare “policy” agenda.
Cuomo asked Cruz how he would replace the law he inveighs against, and as usual, Cruz dodged the question and kept on inveighing instead. Cuomo followed up. “You don’t think that you have a responsibility as a U.S. senator to do better than that, in terms of offering a solution for what to do next?” he asked.
And Cruz shot back: “Well, I appreciate your trying to lecture me in the morning.”
Cuomo didn’t leave it there.
“No, no, no, not at all, Senator. I’m worried, same as you, anybody who looks at the situation has worries.”
So Cruz tried to turn the tables. “If you’re worried, did you speak out for the 5 million people who have lost their health insurance?”
Cuomo had an answer: “Absolutely — we’ve been covering it doggedly. The problem is, I don’t have the power to fix it. You do. That’s what a U.S. senator does, is you sponsor law. You know this. It’s not a lecture, it’s a concern; I’m asking, what are you going to do about it?”
Apparently Cruz isn’t used to being grilled. Cuomo got him to share what passes for an answer from conservatives these days: “Let people purchase health insurance across state lines.”
Wow. That’s what Princeton and Harvard Law degrees get you: a warmed-over right wing non-plan that’s been around forever. As Ezra Klein reported back in 2010, the Congressional Budget Office looked at it in 2005 and found it didn’t reduce the number of uninsured and would only save the federal government $12 billion over the next eight years. (By contrast, the CBO says the ACA will reduce the deficit by $41 billion in 2013 alone.)
The CBO also found that allowing people to buy insurance plans across state lines would “make insurance more expensive for the sick and cheaper for the healthy, and lead to more healthy people with insurance and fewer sick people with insurance.” Other than that, it’s a terrific idea.
Of course, insurers like Cruz’s non-plan because it would mean a boon for the states that provide the least regulation and thus encourage the “cheapest” but least protective insurance policies. Rather than insuring states' rights and competition, which conservatives pretend to like, it would, in effect, create a national insurance-regulation standard, as states then raced to the bottom to compete. Of course, a state’s “rights” usually diminish, for conservatives, whenever that state decides to give its citizens more power and its corporations less.
So in just one morning, Ted Cruz was revealed as a wuss, a hypocrite and a policy lightweight. The last one doesn’t matter on the right, but the first two won’t wear well in a presidential race. Kudos to Cuomo for not accepting Tea Party platitudes as a substitute for governing proposals.