Thursday, April 16, 2015

Does Inequality make Us More Conservative? // xpostfactoid

Does Inequality make Us More Conservative? // xpostfactoid
by Andrew Sprung

Thomas Edsall cites disturbing research indicating that as inequality has grown in the U.S. over the last forty years, Americans' support for policies that redistribute wealth has shrunk. Specifically, more recently, support for universal healthcare has declined over the period in which the ACA was debated, passed and enacted:
The erosion of the belief in health care as a government-protected right is perhaps the most dramatic reflection of these trends. In 2006, by a margin of more than two to one, 69-28, those surveyed by Gallup said that the federal government should guarantee health care coverage for all citizens of the United States. By late 2014, however, Gallup found that this percentage had fallen 24 points to 45 percent, while the percentage of respondents who said health care is not a federal responsibility nearly doubled to 52 percent.
This shorter term shift is unsurprising.  As I've noted before, Henry Aaron and Gary Burtless calculated in early 2014 that the ACA would directly distribute income only to Americans in the lower 20-25% of the income distribution. Data recently published by HHS bears this out: 68% of the 11.6 million private plan buyers on the ACA exchanges have incomes below 200% of the Federal Poverty Level -- and all 12 million beneficiaries of the ACA Medicaid expansion have incomes under 138% FPL. We all stand to benefit if the ACA really is helping to control healthcare cost growth, as from the certainty of available (and, in periods of low income, affordable) insurance -- pre ACA, a third of the population in a three-year period suffered periods of uninsurance. Large portions of the population also suffer periods of poverty. But the perception that the ACA right now is primarily benefiting the poor is grounded in reality.

That fact highlights a perpetual dilemma for Democrats: it's politically advantageous to be perceived to be helping the middle class -- and politically hazardous to be perceived to be helping primarily the poor.

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