Tuesday, January 24, 2006

A uniter, not a divider

Pew finds that the economy is seen through a partisan prism:
As has been the case through much of Bush's presidency ­ and in stark contrast to the Clinton years, public views of the economy are deeply split along political lines. Republicans generally see an economy that is thriving; 56% judge it as excellent or good. Democrats and independents see it much more negatively; just 28% of independents and 23% of Democrats say the economy is doing well.
Interestingly, there's almost no effect of income level. Though Republicans earning less that $50,000 are less likely to see the economy favorably than those in higher income levels, that effect is not statistically significant.

The fact that Independents align so strongly with Democrats means that the economy is a potentially powerful wedge issue in upcoming elections.

Democrats would do well to portray the Republican White House and Congress as out of touch, given that they think things are excellent, while people on the ground think quite differently.

Health insurance is divided in a similar way, Republicans downplaying the crisis and Democrats and Independents expressing concern. This makes medical saving accounts (if that is what Bush comes out for) another opportunity to express a sense of the Democratic principles. This is what happened on Social Security, and people got it.

The basic problem with MSAs is that they don't work in countries where they've been tried, and their design means they will inevitably make things worse. The problem with health insurance right now is that the market is too highly fragmented and the only people who are prepared to spend exorbitant amounts for health insurance are already sick. That pushes premiums up for everyone, making it less attractive to the healthy, making the problem worse.

MSAs are not insurance. Insurance spreads the risk and the cost evenly across the population. We all pay into Social Security, and we all get paid back out of a general fund, not out of what we contributed. It isn't a complete retirement plan, but it's insurance, a safety net, for senior citizens.

What we need on health care is a similar safety net, a unified national plan which covers the basics. Is that national health care? Yes. Is that a bad thing? No. No more than Medicare is a bad thing. Bear in mind that administrative costs at Medicare are substantially lower than those of private insurers; the government program is more efficient than the free market system.