Free Markets, Free People

Ezra Klein – Medicare was unpopular too but look at it now!

Ezra Klein says he’s been looking for polling data concerning Medicare prior to its passage to determine how popular it was at the time.  If it wasn’t particularly popular, his obvious intent is to use that to make the argument that Democrats have a good chance of surviving a vote on this monstrosity by saying “but people love Medicare now”.

He finds that Greg Sargent has beaten him too the punch:

In a last-minute effort to stiffen Dem spines, senior Dem leadership aides are circulating among House Dems some polling numbers from the 1960s that underscore how controversial Medicare was in the months leading up to its historic passage.

Dem leadership staff is highlighting a series of numbers from 1962 on President John F. Kennedy’s proposal. In July of that year, a Gallup poll found 28% in favor, 24% viewing it unfavorably, and a sizable 33% with no opinion on it — showing an evenly divided public.

A month later, after JFK’s proposal went down, an Opinion Research Corporation poll found 44 percent said it should have been passed, while 37% supported its defeat — also showing an evenly divided public.

Also in that poll, a majority, 54%, said it was a serious problem that “government medical insurance for the aged would be a big step toward socialized medicine.”

After Lyndon Johnson was elected, a Harris poll found only a minority, 46%, supported a Federal plan to extend health care to the aged. Today, of course, Medicare is overwhelmingly popular.

That brings me to the most important question: is Medicare “overwhelmingly popular” or is Medicare “popular” because it is what seniors are stuck with? There’s a big difference there. Is Medicare what seniors would have if they had a choice? Of course there’s no way to determine that, but the popularity (and, as many claim, the necessity) of “Medigap” insurance to cover the obvious holes in coverage speak to a clientel which may be less enamored with the mandatory system than we think.

Much has been made of seniors concerned about losing their coverage – government coverage, for heaven sake!  Supporters of the travesty now in Congress claim that senior’s fear of losing their coverage is driven by their satisfaction with it. Logically that’s a leap. When you have no choice in the matter and what you have is being threatened, you’re likely to want to at least keep that. That doesn’t necessarily mean you love it or you’re satisfied with it or you’d wish it on anyone else.  At most, it just means it beats the unknown.



15 Responses to Ezra Klein – Medicare was unpopular too but look at it now!

  • It looks to me like back in the day, it had popular support, but with moderate margins and some reservations. More significantly, I doubt that the “strong oppose” numbers from back then would be anything like what they are now.

    From the mid 1930s until, well, the 1980 election, conservatives seemed to be in a dying movement. The Goldwater campaign appeared to be a dying gasp, not a rebirth. Early 60s, central planned government programs did not face the skepticism they now face.

  • I think there is a problem with this thinking. What was the national debt/deficit situation then? I think many western countries may be close to hitting the wall. Then the population realizes that the credit card has been maxxed out and those awesome benefits have to be paid for.
    Also, just wait until this bill passes and Medicare payments are CUT, then do some poll numbers.

  • The other question is why make this comparison? Even Obama said that we can’t afford Medicare. Medicaid is bankrupting the states.

    And to remind doctors: in the medicare debate, the government PROMISED to not set doctors rates. How did that work out?

  • Another lesson from this is that once the damn thing is in place, it’s hard to get rid of it.

  • Yours is an important distinction.
    I think it’s also compounded even further by the fact that seniors on Medicare paid into it their entire working life.
    It’s hard to get someone to say we should abandon Medicare when a.) they’re on the receiving end of it now; and b.) they saw a chunk of every pay check they ever recieved taken by the gov’t for that purpose.

    • The Democrats are like pushers, their drug is government entitilement programs. Once you are hooked, you are hooked for life.

    • I think it’s also compounded even further by the fact that seniors on Medicare paid into it their entire working life.

      So they paid into a Ponzi scheme and now it’s broke; tough stuff.

      • More accurately, their money was taken from them before they even got they pay check, put into a ponzi scheme and now its broke. Shame on them for working.

  • Let’s see how popular it is when people are paying for it and not yet getting any of it…..

  • On the other hand, we won’t have to wait 50 years for Obamacare to swamp us with trillions of dollars in unfunded liabilities…

  • So, the argument is that it’s eventually popular when the government gives away money?

    Wow.  Who would have thought!!!

    / sarc

    Libs constantly assure us that ObamaCare is, like, TOTALLY popular and that overwhelming majorities of the American people want it.  If this is so, then why do the dems have to lie, cheat, steal, beg, wheedle, cajole, threaten, and otherwise pull out all the stops lobbying THEIR OWN MEMBERS????

    • So, the argument is that it’s eventually popular when the government gives away money?

      As they say, robbing Peter to pay Paul always meets with Paul’s approval

  • I wonder it the child, Ezra Klein, understands that the “popular” program of Medicare may not remain popular with those who are paying for it once the $30 trillion unfunded liability begins to hit.    It would be delicious if Klein were among the first to have Medicare yanked out from underneath him just when he needs it.

  • Go back in time to the initial passage and show those in favor how it turned out and see how much they approve.

    • With typical American time horizons measured in days, or a couple months at best, eating Twinkies all day every day would be popular, too.