You hear a lot about whether it's consonant with American values for the government to make sure its citizens don't go medically bankrupt or find themselves unable to afford chemotherapy. That, after all, is communism, and we all know there's a reason the pilgrims left Europe 228 years before the publication of Marx's manifesto. But a recent Brookings poll suggests caring for one another isn't as far from the American psyche as some like to think.
Interestingly, that overall number was 77 percent in 2008. It dropped substantially this year, as Americans decided they hated the health-care ideas of both parties.
That's negative-sum politics in action: Opponents of health-care reform have actually done more damage to their own ideas than to those of the majority party. But since their own ideas don't have much of a chance this year, that's an acceptable short-term outcome. The problem is that the long-term outcome is that Americans grow to loathe and distrust everyone in the political system.
In 1994, Newt Gingrich took back the Congress and promptly tried to arrest the growth in Medicare spending: He was roundly beaten back for it. Demonizing the Democrats didn't give the Republicans a mandate to govern. It simply made it harder for anybody to govern, as the Democrats did it right back to the Republicans. So we had another 15 years of rocketing health-care costs, steady increases in the number of uninsured, and large additions to the national debt. Hope everyone is happy!
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