Saturday, September 28, 2013

Whatever it is, I'm against it, or for it

By Richard K. Barry

Politics may not be easy, but public policy is certainly hard. Last week the CNBC's third-quarter All-America Economic Survey asked half of the 812 poll respondents if they support Obamacare and the other half if they support the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Their intention, it seems obvious, was to catch people out either supporting or rejecting health care reform not based on their understanding of its provisions, but upon the extent to which they associate it with President Obama.

Guess what? The ruse worked.
First thing: 30 percent of the public don't know what ACA is, vs. only 12 percent when we asked about Obamacare.

Now for the difference: 29 percent of the public supports Obamacare compared with 22 percent who support ACA. Forty-six percent oppose Obamacare and 37 percent oppose ACA. So putting Obama in the name raises the positives and the negatives. Gender and partisanship are responsible for the differences. Men, independents and Republicans are more negative on Obamacare than ACA. Young people, Democrats, nonwhites and women are more positive on Obamacare.

I'm not particularly critical of people who don't have the time or interest to delve into the intricacies of a given piece of legislation and what it will or won't deliver. I tend to accept the basic premise of what political scientists call democratic elitism, the idea that we elect leaders who present a basic framework of ideas for our approval at election time, and then we let them deal with the details once in office. I don't accept it because I think it's a good thing, but because I think it's a true thing.

As I say, public policy is hard and we are not likely to avoid being deceived by those we elect unless we are willing to do the difficult work of understanding what they are up to day in and day out. 

Much as I support health care reform and some other things President Obama has tried to do, I do not like them simply because he, as someone for whom I voted, is their author. If only the other side would not reject things they might otherwise support simply because of their source, what a wonderful world it would be. 

On that point, Steve Benen relates a story that has received some play recently:
It's easy to love the Kentucky State Fair anecdote. Even President Obama heard about it. The story, first reported by Jason Cherkis, notes a "middle-aged man in a red golf shirt" who shuffled up to a small folding table to hear about the state's health benefit exchange established by the Affordable Care Act. The man was impressed with what he heard, telling one of the workers behind the table, "This beats Obamacare I hope."

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