Nat'l Journal poll: Most believe ObamaCare redistributive, unlikely to benefit them

National Journal’s polling has shown more stability in American assessments of the Affordable Care Act than most other pollsters, especially CBS and the Washington Post/ABC polls.  Their latest survey follows the same pattern, with responses on support largely remaining constant.  That’s not necessarily a good thing, though, as Ronald Brownstein warns his readers, because only a third expect to benefit from what is essentially a redistributive system at their expense:


These results reflect a broad consensus. In the new survey, solid majorities of Democrats, independents, nonwhites, and both college-educated and noncollege whites say the law will help the uninsured; majorities of each of those groups except whites without college degrees also say it will help the poor (and even a 49 percent plurality of those noncollege whites agree). Republicans were more dubious, but even so, 47 percent thought the law would help the uninsured and 42 percent believed it would benefit the poor.

These results are a mixed blessing for the law’s supporters, though, because the poll also finds that most Americans, especially whites, are much more dubious that the law will benefit broader groups in the country, or their own families. That confounds the anticipation of Democratic strategists who have hoped for decades that health care reform could reverse the skepticism among many voters, particularly middle-class whites, that Washington can deliver tangible benefits in their own lives.

Relatively few voters, especially whites, are anticipating such benefits from the health care law, the poll found. Overall, just 33 percent said they expected the law will make things better for “people like you and your family,” while 49 percent said they thought it would make things worse. That was little changed since July (when those polled split 35 percent positive to 46 percent negative). But the results continued the decline since September 2012, just before Obama’s reelection, when a narrow 43 percent to 40 percent plurality expected the law to improve their personal health care.


A majority expects to see the middle class get hammered by ObamaCare:

The survey also produced adverse judgments on what the law will mean for other groups. Just 39 percent said the law will benefit the middle class, while 53 percent said it would harm it. That was also down significantly since September 2012, but essentially unchanged since last July when respondents split 36 percent positive to 49 percent negative.

Brownstein concludes that the law hasn’t yet seen a “collapse of public support,” but that’s becoming an outlier position in polling.  Nor will that improve over the next few weeks, as Thomas Edsall writes at the New York Times, in large part because of the blatantly redistributive nature of ObamaCare.  He titled his piece “The ObamaCare Crisis,” but he actually describes a series of crises that are building for the White House:

The seven million people officials initially estimated would sign up for the Obamacare insurance exchanges this year are putting their well-being and that of their families in the hands of government bureaucracies armed with demonstrably inadequate technological expertise.

The chaos surrounding efforts to activate reinforces a key conservative meme: that whatever the test is, government will fail it. Insofar as voters experience their interaction with government as frustrating and unreliable, the brunt of political damage will hit Democrats, both as the party of government and as the party of Obamacare.

Cumulatively, recent developments surrounding the rollout of Obamacare strengthen the most damaging conservative portrayals of liberalism and of big government – that on one hand government is too much a part of our lives, too invasive, too big, too scary, too regulatory, too in your face, and on the other hand it is incompetent, bureaucratic and expropriatory.

In addition, the Affordable Care Act can be construed as a transfer of benefits from Medicare, which serves an overwhelmingly white population of the elderly – 77 percent of recipients are white — to Obamacare, which will serve a population that is 54.7 percent minority.  Over 10 years, the Affordable Care Act cuts $455 billion from the Medicare budget in order to help pay for Obamacare.

Those who think that a critical mass of white voters has moved past its resistance to programs shifting tax dollars and other resources from the middle class to poorer minorities merely need to look at the election of 2010, which demonstrated how readily this resistance can be used politically. The passage of the A.C.A. that year forced such issues to the fore, and Republicans swept the House and state houses across the country. The program’s current difficulties have the clear potential to replay events of 2010 in 2014 and possibly 2016.


It’s not just the web portal failure that plays into this issue, either.  It’s the skyrocketing premiums, the disruption of millions of cancellations, and the long string of lies that sold this monstrosity that are creating crises of credibility as well as competency.  Barack Obama and the Democrats took a system with a reasonable amount of stability and certainty for the 85% who had insurance coverage and have seriously destabilized it, at least in the short term — and for little benefit to those who have to suffer the disruptions.

However, Edsall misses the clearest form of redistribution and why that matters for Democrats:

Technology aside, the stakes could not be higher for the Democratic Party.

The Affordable Care Act “is often compared to Social Security and Medicare but these comparisons are imprecise and misleading,” as Edward Carmines, a political scientist at Indiana University, put it in an email: “The distinctive feature of the new health care law is its redistributive nature, which is mostly absent from Social Security and Medicare.”

Carmines went on, succinctly analyzing the political problem lying at the heart of Obamacare:

“Most of the benefits of the new program will go to the poor and less-well-off and most of the costs will be born by the well off. Neither is true of Medicare or Social Security. When the new law was passed it was hailed by the New York Times as the most redistributive policy in a generation, and they were right. It was not sold as being markedly redistributive, of course, but that is how it was designed and will operate. This does not mean it is a bad policy or doomed to fail. But it does mean that it was bound to be caught up in controversy and heated debate.”


That’s not accurate, actually.  The big push is to get younger, healthier, and on average much less affluent consumers to pay exorbitant premiums in order to keep costs down for older, sicker, and on average more affluent consumers – in part to make this politically palatable for more reliable voting demographics. It’s a redistribution, all right, but from the younger generation to the older generation, one of the least progressive redistributions imaginable.  Insurers demanded that these younger and less wealthy consumers get forced into comprehensive policies and premiums, and the system then partially subsidizes those costs but leaves them exposed to large deductibles so that insurers will pay out almost no benefits to this class of consumer. When younger voters realize the scam, they won’t be inclined to turn out for those who crafted that redistribution.  That’s a crisis that may last for decades in the Democratic Party.

Be sure to read all of Edsall’s excellent piece.

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