UJ recently asked whether reforming the American health care system shouldn’t be considered a “no-brainer” — that is, something that is so obvious anyone should support it. I thought of that posting when I saw the most recent Rasmussen poll, which shows that support for health care reform continues to ebb. On June 27 and 28, 50 percent of those polled approved health care reform legislation and 45 percent disapproved it; on September 24 and 25, only 41 percent approved of such legislation and 56 percent disapproved. In the space of three months, then, there has been a 20-point swing in the poll results.
If, as UJ believes, this issue is a no-brainer, why has support for health care reform dropped so dramatically and opposition increased to such an extent? I don’t buy that this shift in popular opinion is the result of some orchestrated plot or a vast, right-wing conspiracy that has fooled gullible Americans. Instead, I think a big part of the reason is that support for change always diminishes when proposals move from abstract generalizations to concrete specifics. It is easy to support the general concept of “health-care reform,” but when you see how that reform will be accomplished — when you learn whose current insurance coverage may be put at risk, whose coverage may be taxed or limited, and who may be required to pay for coverage they did not have to pay for before — some people necessarily are going to be upset and will move from supporters to detractors.
I also think there is another force at play here. Regardless of what the Administration and Congress may say about the results produced by the stimulus package, I think many Americans feel like politicians used the economic crisis, and the general perception that some kind of economic stimulus was warranted, as a convenient excuse to enact every imaginable pork-barrel spending project, even if the project wouldn’t go forward until years in the future after the immediate need for stimulus spending had long since passed. If you believe that Congress acted irresponsibly and purely in furtherance of its own self-interest in response to the recession and global economic crisis, why should you believe that they will act carefully, prudently, and in the national interest in addressing something as complex as health care reform?