By James Taranto
The most interesting opinion survey we've seen about the ObamaCare cataclysm is one that's only indirectly about ObamaCare. Gallup asked Americans: "Do you think it is the responsibility of the federal government to make sure all Americans have healthcare coverage, or is that not the responsibility of the federal government?" Only 42% of those surveyed said it is the federal government's responsibility, vs. 56% who said it isn't.
More telling is the trend. Gallup has been asking the question since 2000. "Prior to 2009, a clear majority of Americans consistently had said the government should take responsibility for ensuring that all Americans have healthcare," the firm reports. The proportion answering "yes" peaked in 2006 at 69%--27 points higher than today's number. Then it began declining, to 64% in 2007 and 54% in 2008.
The current 42% is the lowest figure ever recorded, but the percentage answering in the affirmative hasn't risen above 50% since 2009. Remember what happened in 2009?
Not surprisingly, the answers vary by party. The 56% of Americans who say universal health care is not the government's responsibility include 86% of Republicans, 55% of independent and 30% of Democrats. This reflects a more abrupt change among Democrats (up five points since 2012) than among Republicans (down two points) or independents (up one point).
Perhaps the most dramatic finding: The proportion of Democrats who say it isn't the federal government's responsibility in 2013 (30%) is higher than the proportion of all voters who said the same thing in 2006 (28%).
As we mentioned at the outset, this poll wasn't about ObamaCare per se, but it was about the basic premise behind Barack Obama's biggest and most dubious accomplishment. That support has been steadily declining since he took office is further evidence of our longstanding contention that his persuasive skills are vastly overrated. The left, the Democratic Party and their supporters in the media placed a massive bet on this man and this program, and they seem to be losing big in the casino of public opinion.
But what accounts for the decline among Democrats in particular?
Let's answer that in a roundabout way by quoting something the Washington Post's Ezra Klein wrote yesterday. Klein, you may recall, is a longtime ObamaCare publicist who has had flashes of candor since Oct. 1, when it began to become clear that the thing was a debacle. That is in contrast with mindless ObamaCare defenders like Matthew Yglesias and Joan Walsh, whose latest efforts we ridiculed yesterday.
But on the point we were writing about yesterday, Klein turns out to be just as mindless, not to mention a few days late. The headline of his post yesterday--three days after Yglesias's and Walsh's posts: "Hurricane Katrina Killed More Than 1,800. Obamacare's Web Site Doesn't Work Yet. Stop Comparing Them."
The whole objection is rather silly, considering that the point of comparison is not the underlying disasters but with the way in which the perception of presidential incompetence beleaguered both George W. Bush then and Obama now.
It turns out, however, that Klein's suggestion that ObamaCare's failure isn't a matter of life and death amounts to a substantive reversal of a position he took nearly four years ago.
It was Dec. 14, 2009. Ten days later, the Senate would enact the version of the so-called Affordable Care Act that eventually became law and later catastrophe. At the time, however, its prospects were uncertain. "The Huffington Post [sic] and Roll Call are both reporting that Joe Lieberman notified Harry Reid that he will filibuster health-care reform if the final bill includes an expansion of Medicare," Klein observed.
Joe Lieberman, then the junior senator from Connecticut, was a Democrat when he was elected in 1988 and re-elected in 1994 and 2000. He was his party's strongest supporter of the Iraq war, a position from which he never wavered. As a result, he lost his bid for renomination in the 2006 primary to an anti-Iraq Democrat, Ned Lamont. But Lieberman decided to seek re-election anyway as an independent. Without serious Republican opposition, he beat Lamont and served one more Senate term, during which he styled himself an "independent Democrat."
On Christmas Eve 2009 he proved more of a Democrat than an independent, casting the deciding vote in favor of ObamaCare (which not only did not expand Medicare but contracted it). But Klein was worried that Lieberman's resistance could end up killing the bill.
"At this point, Lieberman seems primarily motivated by torturing liberals," Klein wrote (as if that were not an intrinsically worthy goal!). "That is to say, he seems willing to cause the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people in order to settle an old electoral score."
The deaths of hundreds of thousands of people! Wow, what's that about? By way of an explanation, Klein linked to an Urban Institute study purporting to find that "137,000 people died from 2000 through 2006 because they lacked health insurance, including 22,000 people in 2006." (SoRo: Millions with health insurance died from cancer and cardiovascular disease in the same time period, but the Left doesn't let that FACT get in the way of their narrative.)
Yet suddenly, when a law Klein vigorously supports is forcing the cancellation of millions of insurance policies, he no longer regards medical insurance as a matter of life or death. How convenient!
Which brings us back to the Gallup numbers. Let's say you're just a mindless partisan, or a worshipper of Obama the Lightworker, so you feel obliged to support ObamaCare regardless of the merits, at least so long as Obama himself does. How do you reconcile your support for ObamaCare with the reality of ObamaCare?
Well, if it's not the federal government's responsibility "to make sure all Americans have healthcare coverage," then no problem!
From National Journal comes this somewhat counterintuitive headline: "Poll: Most Americans Oppose Obamacare Repeal Despite Rollout Troubles." Counterintuitive but, as it turns out, not true.
The poll did not offer a binary choice between support and opposition for ObamaCare repeal. Rather, it asked "What do you think Congress should do now about the Affordable Care Act, also known as ObamaCare"? It offered three options: "Repeal the law so it is not implemented at all," "Wait and see how things go before making any changes," and "Provide more money to ensure it is implemented effectively."
There are several problems here. First, a poll that presents three options pushes respondents toward the "moderate" one. Notwithstanding that, "repeal" still had a plurality (38%), edging out "wait and see" (35%), with "provide more money" (23%) a distant third.
Second, the description of what would happen in case of repeal is inaccurate. Since the implementation of ObamaCare is well under way, it is impossible for it to be "not implemented at all."
Third and most important, the poll does not show that most Americans oppose repeal. Arguably a majority oppose immediate repeal, and it would be accurate to say a majority do not support repeal. But "wait and see" does not preclude repeal in due course. And given the administration's self-imposed deadline of Nov. 30, "due course" may be very soon.
Related: Obama's Katrina? The NYT Acknowledges Obama's In Trouble By Reminding Us That Bush Was Really, Really Bad. Remember?!!