The news media has been reporting on polls showing diminished public support for Barack Obama following the squandering of $5 billion on a bunch of semi-functional health insurance web sites (see this analysis of $4.5 billion in federal spending on state-operated exchanges, plus another $500+ million on the federal one).
At Thanksgiving gatherings with friends and family, however, I found that people who had previously supported Obama were no less enthusiastic about him than in previous years.
None of the Obama enthusiasts had any idea what web development typically cost or any knowledge about what healthcare.gov cost or what it was supposed to do. Therefore they didn’t have a strong opinion about the reported problems with the site.
To the extent that there were any problems with America’s healthcare system, Obama supporters blamed insurance companies and their inefficiency and greed. They didn’t see any contradiction between this opinion and the idea that the federal government should force people to do business with these inefficient and greedy companies.
Generally Obama supporters accepted that “health insurance” and “health care” were equivalent and therefore a person without health insurance would not be able to get health care. The Obama supporters believed that health care was a universal right and that, without insurance an American would not be able to obtain any care, so they were very happy that Obamacare was going to result in universal coverage [i.e., none were aware that Obamacare will leave approximately 30 million Americans uninsured (see this Washington Post article)].
The minority of Obama supporters who were were aware that the U.S. currently spends a much higher percentage of GDP on health care than other countries believed that with appropriate direction from Washington, D.C., our costs could be brought in line with the rest of the world’s, if only the central planners were given more power. [Health care spending in the U.S. was 4 percent of GDP in 1950 and is 18 percent today; Singapore spends about 4.6 percent of its GDP on health care, according to the World Bank, while most European countries are in the 9 percent range.]
Obama supporters believed that the only possible way for poor people to get health care was if the federal government paid for it through Medicaid. They believed that between 1776 and 1965, Americans who were poor and sick could not get any treatment at all. Obama voters who lived within walking distance of Boston City Hospital (founded 1864) were unaware that local or state governments had ever played any role in delivering health care to the poor. Obama supporters who lived within a short drive of one of America’s hundreds of Catholic hospitals were unaware that health care for the poor had ever been delivered through private/religious charity. If the federal government had not started paying in 1965, Americans who lacked funds would simply drop dead in the streets for want of a straightforward procedure (hence Obama supporters were very grateful for the continued existence of Medicaid).
Obama supporters felt much better about our continued wars in Iraq and Afghanistan than they had during the George W. Bush years. While Bush was president the same folks had argued for withdrawing our troops but since Obama was elected they no longer actively opposed foreign military intervention (they could have starred in this video). I asked if they wouldn’t have been happier if Obama had withdrawn our troops from Iraq and Afghanistan on January 20, 2009, using his authority as Commander in Chief. The answer was two-fold: (1) it might have made sense for Obama, in 2009, to continue the wars, even at the cost of thousands of American lives and tens of thousands of civilians’ lives, through his 2012 election campaign in order to improve his chances of being elected, (2) “Obama couldn’t do anything about the wars because of the military-industrial complex.” [i.e., Point 2 boiled down to them being passionate about Obama's election and the election of similarly-minded successors, but at the same time believing that the president for whom they were actively campaigning didn't have any power when it came to starting or stopping wars.]
Generally Obama supporters among my friends and family were happy with the way things were going, except that they wished that taxes were higher (ideally collected from people who earned more than they did). To the extent that they wished the U.S. economy would grow faster, they blamed Republicans in Congress for obstructing Obama’s proposed spending, regulations, and taxes. Generally there was no erosion in support for a centrally planned economy (see this poster that I made just before the 2012 election, after listening to the various promises made by Obama and Romney).
My poll was admittedly unscientific, but I did not find any erosion of support for Obama, centrally planned health care, shifting responsibilities from local/state to the federal government, or a larger percentage of the economy being given over to government. What are the readers seeing? Are friends and family who’d voted for Obama in 2012 now disillusioned because they read that healthcare.gov doesn’t work? If so, would they be motivated to vote differently in the future?
[Related: My 2009 health care reform article]