August 19, 2009

“Keep your government hands off my Medicare!”

This statement, voiced by a South Carolinian senior in a town hall meeting in late July, has been seized upon by many a liberal blogger as the very essence of geriatric confusion over healthcare. ?Jeez,? they say, ?you old people are reaping the benefits of socialized medicine, and yet because you?re so deluded / selfish / racist, you don?t wanna let the rest of us enjoy our day in the socialized sun!?

Though I?ve been generally encouraged by the town hall meetings, and the strident opposition on display, a detailed new Rassmussen poll reveals that that South Carolina gentleman might actually be representative of a sizable portion of the American public.

Seniors have gotten exercised over the ?death panels? and euthanasia memes, and the possibility of faceless bureaucrats rationing care away from them to young people. They don?t, however, seem to have much philosophic opposition to ?socialized medicine.? Indeed, support falls when the prospect of dropping the ?public option? is broached.   

Just 34% of voters nationwide support the health care reform plan proposed by President Obama and congressional Democrats if the so-called ?public option? is removed. The latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey shows that 57% oppose the plan if it doesn’t include a government-run health insurance plan to compete with private insurers.
Last week, Rasmussen Reports tracking found that support for the Congressional plan was at 42%.

While the tracking question did not specifically mention the public option, it referred to the bill proposed by the president and congressional Democrats now working its way through Congress. All of the congressional committees that had passed reform legislation included a government health insurance plan. Therefore, it is reasonable to compare those results with the current polling to measure the potential impact of dropping the public option.

The most dramatic impact is a sharp decline in enthusiastic support. Without the public option, only nine percent (9%) Strongly support the legislation. The earlier poll found 26% Strongly in favor of it.
That enthusiasm gap is especially significant since the percentage of those opposed to the legislation has consistently been higher. Last week?s poll found 44% Strongly opposed to the reform legislation. If the public option is dropped, 37% remain Strongly opposed.


This is all tricky. But what’s for certain is that, though support for a new healthcare plan remains below 50 percent, a great deal of the opposition is comprised of people who think that the potential Obamacare bill wouldn’t be socialized medicine enough—which is probably behind the Democrats’ newfound willingness to “go it alone” and more forcefully pursue the “public option.” 

Republican-leaning commentators love to point out that America is a ?center right? nation: on his CNBC show, Larry Kudlow evokes the American people?s passionate devotion to free-market capitalism in about every other sentence.

Polls like this one reveal just how much the culture of dependency has set in.

Update: A friend writes,

Sound analysis! Rothbard was wrong that there could ever be a popular movement for free-market ideas.

I don’t think the vague support for government health care is a result of moral corruption though. It’s just hard for people to understand why sick people shoulnd’t get free health care. Even basic concepts like shortages or moral hazard elude them.

Wild speculation: opposition to Obamacare is driven by the feeling that Obama isn’t “one of us” and thus can’t be trusted with something so important. If dems had elected midwestern gal Hillary Rodham, she would have had no problem getting something through.

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