A commenter complained that I had ignored Obama’s “truly historic” speech to write about a right-wing charge that Obama had removed “In God We Trust” from the new $1 coin. I didn’t see the speech live but I did read the transcript, and I didn’t consider the speech to be truly historic. It was a Hail Mary attempt to salvage Obama’s top legislative priority. This is a losing battle. Check out pollingreport.com: An early September poll (Roper) shows 42% approval of his handling of the issue, 52% disapproval. In the same poll, 34% support the health care plan being discussed in Congress, 49% oppose. The Democrats really need to contemplate why they are losing on an issue that most voters regard as a high priority. The answer is pretty simple. (1) They talked so much about raising taxes — on the rich, on the middle class, on health benefits, on corporations affected by the cap and trade energy bill, even on the uninsured — that the lack of message discipline caused the Democrats to lose their advantage over the Republicans in handling of the economy and fiscal discipline. (2) The plan was so vague that it was easy to attack. (3) It was hard for people with insurance to see what was in it for them. (4) Nobody trusts the cost or the quality of the public option, especially after the Congressional Budget Office put the price tag at $1 trillion. Yes, Republicans did create some hysteria about death squads, but by and large the plan lost public support because the American people did not have confidence in it. The health care debate is rather simple, really. The fundamental problem is this: There are three elements to any health care reform: cost of care, quality of care, and breadth (coverage) of care. It is easy to design a system that takes care of any two of these, but extremely difficult to design a system that takes care of all three. The other fundamental fact is that most people who have health insurance are pretty happy with what they have. They get quality care at an affordable price, which is paid for by somebody else, usually their employer. Yes, that price keeps going up, and eventually it will become unsustainable, but for now, they don’t see a reason to change. Nor do they believe that the cost will come down if the government is in charge. To sum it up, the Democrats made the worst mistake they could make. They started acting like a bunch of liberals.
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Weekly dispatches from the middle of the road of Texas politics.
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