Is ObamaCare the peak in the political "swing to the Left" of the past 15 years?
A recent Gallup poll, reports Reason, showed that the percentage of Americans who believe that it is not the federal government's job to ensure that every American has health insurance coverage doubled from 28% to 56% in seven years. This reversal comes after years of Gallup poling that consistently reflected a two-one margin in favor of a government guarantee of health coverage.
Is this a moral sea change happening in American culture? Doubtful. More likely, it's a narrow, though welcome, response to the disastrous ObamaCare rollout. People are seeing first hand how redistribution works. The ObamaCare rollout is a dramatic concretization of the principle that for government to provide for some, it must first take from others.
For most redistribution schemes, the connection between taking and recipient is not obvious. For programs like food stamps, farm subsidies, or Medicaid, it's not obvious exactly where the money comes from. You see income taxes being paid. You see deficit spending (future taxation). You see the erosion of your dollar's purchasing power (inflation, a back-door tax created by the central bank's monetization of the debt through the printing of money). But you can not trace the dollars leaving your wallet into the hands of food stamp, agri-business, or Medicaid recipients. Programs lake Social Security and Medicaid do tie taxation directly to benefits, but people see those benefits as rewards funded by the individual's own taxes, not as the redistribution that it in fact is. In all of these cases, you do not see the direct connection between the confiscation of your money and the recipients of government largess. The redistribution is there, and—with a little deductive thinking—one can "see" it. But that's just it: The redistribution of wealth is rather abstract and thus easy to evade.
Not so with ObamaCare. People can see reports of uninsured individuals signing up for subsidized health insurance on government "market" exchanges side-by-side with reports of soaring premiums and cancelled policies for previously insured individuals. For many, it is personal. As one former ObamaCare supporter wailed, "Of course, I want people to have health care; I just didn’t realize I would be the one who was going to pay for it personally.” The connection is obvious: ObamaCare provides health insurance to the uninsured by taking from the previously insured.
Though the trend reversal began in 2007, Gallup reports that "Prior to 2009, a clear majority of Americans consistently had said the government should take responsibility for ensuring that all Americans have healthcare." 2009, the year that debate over ObamaCare got started, the real shift began. That year, the percentage of Americans rejecting the idea that the government should guarantee health coverage jumped from 41% to 50%, while those believing the opposite slumped from 54% to 47%. In the latest poll, the margin jumped to a solid 56% to 41% against government guarantees.
Will this reversal in public sentiment, which from what I can see was totally ignored by the "mainstream" media, translate into big gains for Republicans in the 2014 mid-term elections? It's up to the Republicans. It would be great if the GOP could capitalize on this development, and tie the fiasco to its roots—altruism. The GOP should show that the redistributive nature of ObamaCare is not just a practical problem but, more fundamentally, a moral problem. That could turn what may be a developing short-range political "swing-to-the-Right" into something of real, broad-based, and lasting substance—a swing that actually results in a rollback of a major welfare state program coupled with real free market health insurance reforms.
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