Porter asked about deficits, of course, and Broder wondered whether the prospective savings from reform would show up and how soon. Rasmussen answered some questions and had some colloquy with Broder and others over polling numbers. Turns out that Obama’s and Pelosi’s numbers have gone up significantly since health care reform was passed. Attitudes have frozen at about 53% against health care reform since the budget number of $1 trillion in costs became public. The OMB numbers on savings over the next ten years, however, are not believed.
I told Broder I’d gone back to read all his columns in the last nine months or so on health care and asked why he never mentioned the fact that the US pays more per capita by a large margin (about $7,260 per person per year as opposed to the next nearest in the industrialized nations, Norway, with about $4500 per person per year, which covers 100% of their population while we in the US cover maybe 85%). I also mentioned that we have the 24th or 25th highest life expectancy, a little higher than Albania. His response was, in my opinion, dismissive.
Broder didn’t directly respond to his failure to point these kinds of facts out in his columns and made the general statement that “The media could have done a better job.” He did say that his friend, T. R. Reid, wrote a great book comparing health care systems around the world, a book whose name he didn’t remember although he recommends it to friends ( although not his readers, apparently). The people around the table allowed that Reid’s book was called something like “the Odyssey” when it is actually The Healing of America: A Global Quest for Better, Cheaper and Fairer Health Care. I guess they haven’t read it either.
Later on in the discussion, Broder said that Americans don’t want to change from what they know, “even if it means exchanging their healthcare for that of Albania.” I guess he didn’t hear me. Albania has worse life expectancy than the US. Bosnia, with a slightly higher life expectancy, is the next step up from the US.
Afterwards, I asked Scott Rasmussen if he’s polled on how many people know that they pay the highest amounts for health care while getting 25th rate coverage. He said he hasn’t but suspects that very few are aware of the facts.
I’ve encountered this kind of cognitive dissonance from pollsters before at other Shorenstein events:
[Peter] Hart has one question on “cleaning up and taking on” fraud, abuse, and waste (FAW) in Washington and finds 67% for that position. I asked him to repeat that question and asked him about the premise as my understanding is that FAW amounts to a few percent of the budget since over 50% of the US budget is defense, the next largest chunk is Social Security and Medicare, and the next largest chunk goes to servicing the debt. Earmarks, I read, is less than 2% of the budget. I think this question presents a false premise. Hart responded by saying that elections aren’t decided on reason. Willie Horton was one out of thousands of furloughed prisoners but it didn’t matter. Alex Castellanos, the Republican media guru, nodded across the table. Richard Parker, biographer of John Kenneth Galbraith, said, “Everybody knows 60% of the budget goes to foreign aid.” Basically, I was laughed at.
Unfortunately, they missed my point which was that the question buys into a false frame that the Republicans have used for years to talk about the “smaller government” they never enact. I believe that Hart could craft a poll question that measures acceptance of Republican values without promulgating a fiscal fantasy. This shows me, once again, that the “experts” may be smart and successful but don’t live in the same world I do. Their reality has nothing to do with the reality I see.
I didn’t stick around to talk to Broder about our differences in world-views but saw him a few minutes later, walking through Harvard Square. I just let him pass on by.
crossposted to dailykos.com, eurotrib.com, and greenmassgroup.com