[Posted by Karl]
The Democrats’ attempted takeover of the US healthcare system continues a long, hard slog. The House leadership will try to recover from a brutal August recess with reassurances to moderates that the so-called “public option” is something way down the road, “something that would go into effect in 2013, only after benchmarks and pilot programs are studied.” On the other side of the Hill, Sen. Grassley claims that a bipartisan panel of key Senators have concluded that the “public option” has to go. That hasn’t stopped liberals from salivating over the notion that reconciliation would force Democrats to pursue the most heavy-handed version of the public option, despite Pres. Obama’s desire that reconciliation be a last resort.
Next week, Pres. Obama plans to list specific goals that any health insurance reform plan that arrives at his desk must achieve. He is also suggesting he is willing to stare down the progressive caucus if jettioning the government-run insurance plan will get him a bill. But Pres. Obama has talked about his preferences on “pay for” mechanisms and his ambivalence about the “public option” before, so this too may be more an attempt to calm Congress than real news.
Greg Sargent probably hopes that Pres. Obama’s latest attempt at selling healthcare reform will clear up the confusion people told CBS News they have on the issue. But Sargent has a larger, more interesting point:
This could be ominous not just for the prospects of good health care reform but also for Obama’s broader agenda: The new CBS News poll’s internals show confidence dropping fast in the idea that government can be an effective provider of health care coverage.
That’s problematic. It raises the question of whether the broader, renewed faith the public had in government when Obama took over is receding, perhaps dramatically.
Asked whether “government” or “private insurers” could do a better job of providing health care coverage, only 36% chose government — down a surprising 14 points from June.
Meanwhile, nearly half, or 47%, said government would do a worse job — up 13 points from June. Both of those are pretty big swings.
Allahpundit also touches on this point:
The fascinating, and potentially important, detail: When asked about specific provisions of ObamaCare — i.e. the public option, statutory ceilings on premiums, guaranteeing insurance irrespective of preexisting conditions, etc. — people are widely supportive. I don’t know how to explain that except to think that (a) public ignorance about the plan really is as bad as CBS claims, which doesn’t say much for The One’s vaunted communications skills, or (b) the country’s now reached such an anti-government fervor that they’re fatally suspicious of even those programs whose particulars they agree with in principle.
The poll numbers on the specifics can be misleading. For example, we know that support for the public option craters if you ask people to pay as little as $500 annually for it. And the polling on other health insurance reforms does not ask people about the individual mandate necessary to support them.
However, taking the poll numbers at face value, Sargent and Allahpundit raise an intriguing notion. The vast majority of the public — like the vast majority of Congress — have not read the bills pending on the Hill. Their opinions will necessarily be based on general impressions. Liberals no doubt think the public is confused or misled, even though the Democrats have unleashed a torrent of misinformation about their plans.
But the Democrats’ problem may be much deeper than that. The public has had just over seven months to judge the Obama administration and the Democrat-led Congress, and has been reminded of what the Democrats are about. They see the fantastically expensive stimulus package failed to stimulate the economy to date, and they are reminded of who the Democrats are. They hear Democrats gush with praise over the legislative record of the late Sen. Kennedy, and are reminded of who the Democrats are. They hear Pres. Obama try to reassure people by comparing the public option to the Post Office, and are reminded of who the Democrats are.
They are reminded of how government programs grow or die — and virtually never die. Bloggers like Rick Moran may think slippery slope arguments are unconvincing, but it is most people’s experience of government. Thus, they are inclined to believe that costs will not be controlled, that various provisions of the bills could well be Trojan Horses for worse things to come, and so on.
In short, the Democrats’ real problem may be their reputation as the party of big government. The GOP did not do well during the Bush administration, but the Democrats have made them look like pikers in short order. As Sargent’s fears, that problem would extend beyond ObamaCare — and be near-insoluble to boot.