Friday, January 21, 2011

The effect of being uniformed on policy

Matt Yglesias linked to this article in which a Republican argues for repealing the ACA:

"The American people don't want it. It's personal.

"Here's my story, two days ago, I was in San Antonio, Texas, and my mother had a large tumor removed from her head. They wheeled her away at 7:20 in the morning, and by noon, I was talking to her along with the rest of our family. It proved benign, thanks to a lot of prayers and good doctors at the Methodist hospital in San Antonio. My mother's fine. I'm not sure that would be the outcome in Canada, the U.K., or anywhere in Europe.

"No disrespect to our President, but when it comes to the health of my mother, I don't want this President or any President or his bureaucrat or commissions making decisions for my loved ones. Let's repeal it today, replace it tomorrow."

As Yglesias points out, the representative is 53 years old, which means that his mother is on Medicare. Since Medicare is gov't provided health care Rep. Hensarling is unknowingly praising the performance of the gov't in providing health care to his mother while at the same time exaggerating what the ACA does and then criticizing that exaggeration by saying that the gov't shouldn't provide health care to people.

And apparently no other country in the world treats cancer. If this was a fact you would think we would have a bigger immigration "problem" than we already have.

This fundamental misunderstanding or intentional lying about what current policy is and what policy proposals are being discussed and advocated makes it difficult to solve problems. Ronald Reagan and conservatives hated Medicare when it was first enacted. Now they are criticizing Democrats for cutting spending for Medicare and praising how well it works without acknowledging that the gov't runs it.

So if Democrats say, hey, everyone seems to really like Medicare, even Republicans. Maybe we should extend Medicare to more people, or even everyone. Once they make that argument Republicans say that's socialism and we can't have gov't bureaucrats making decisions on whether grandma and your children can live or not.

Another example is the individual mandate. Democrats thought the individual mandate that Republicans were proposing in the 90s and that Mitt Romney helped implement in Massachusetts would be a good thing to do. The second Democrats put it in the ACA Republicans argue that its unconstitutional.

If Democrats do propose something that isn't unconstitutional or socialist the argument then turns to its cost. If it increases the deficit by a penny its too expensive and it will bankrupt the country. But the newly minted fiscal hawk of the GOP, Paul Ryan, proposes massive cuts to Medicare as a way to balance the budget and he is the new hero.

What are Democrats supposed to do when confronted with this? When they passed the ACA they had 60 votes in the Senate. So they didn't need to work with Republicans to reform health care. But 60 seats is extremely difficult to obtain and we will probably be forced to have the two parties work together in order to achieve anything for a while.

Until Republicans gain a majority in the Senate or when they stop misunderstanding (or flat out lying about) policy proposals the big problems facing our country won't get solved. I guess they are lucky that the American people are even less informed than they are. Doesn't that make you proud of the state of our democracy?

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