I have seen several folks of late testing out a meme that opposition to health care reform is mostly about churlish unwillingness to help people. My sense is that this is dead wrong.
As a strong libertarian, that may well be my motivation. But the vast majority of Americans accept and support the government safety net and generally will support reasonable expansions of it to address true need. I think most Americans would be willing to help people who honestly need financial aid to pay the health care bills. This is particularly true for children -- you don't remember people going ballistic over SCHIP, do you?
I am not representative. The vast center of this country is willing to accept, even embrace, increased government interventions in the right cause. I forgot to blog on it, but remember that poll a few weeks ago that a majority of Americans think the government should required that women take their husbands last name after marriage? I think the notion that there is any kind of sizable block of small government libertarian type folks out there is simply a myth.
So health care intervention and spending can be sold - again remember SCHIP but also the prescription drug bill. I think the Administration is having trouble selling it in this case for two reasons:
- They are having difficulty showing people who truly are not getting care. Sure there are a lot of people who are uninsured, but I think that meme has been around enough for people to deconstruct. Who isn't getting care? Sure, for some folks getting care is a real hassle, but there are arguments to be made that accepting charity should not be that easy (remember the old Welfare?) And sure, some folks have financial straights and can even face bankruptcy over health care bills, but our bankruptcy laws are incredibly generous and when tens of thousands are facing bankruptcy because they bought too many TV's on their credit cards, it almost seems honorable to face bankruptcy over your wife's cancer treatment.
- The second problem is what I call the public housing problem. In the late 1960s, Americans were concerned about the poor and homeless and spent billions to build housing projects for them. It turns out that this doesn't work out so well, but that is not my point. My point is that Americans could be convinced to spend money to build poor people government homes. BUT their position would have been very different if investments in public housing required the rich and middle class who were paying for the program to move out of their homes and into public housing as well.That is the fear that I think much of America has today. If asked, they would likely pay to provide government health care in an instance where it was demonstrated that health care was entirely lacking. They would likely suspect that such care, like much of public housing, would suck, but as it was being offered to someone who supposedly had nothing, it would represent a net improvement. But they don't want to move into the projects themselves, and frankly don't understand why agreeing to help poor people afford more health care also means they have to move into the government system themselves.