Wednesday, June 06, 2012

Can liberals cure stupidity?

Over at Salon, Thomas Schaller wonders, Can liberals cure stupidity?
a confused public makes life difficult for liberal policymakers. The public grossly misunderstands who owns how much in America and who gets what from the U.S. government in ways that make liberal policy prescriptions harder to sell. Americans drastically underestimate wealth inequality in the country, undermining the case for raising higher-bracket income, inheritance or capital gains tax rates.

...

Such findings explain the paradoxical public preference for shrinking government spending even though, according to a YouGov/Economist survey last year, a majority of Americans only advocated less spending for one of 14 items polled — that dastardly 1-percenter: foreign aid.

...

to President Obama’s great chagrin and partially resulting from his own communication failures, Americans remain very confused about the provisions of the Affordable Care Act: what it does and doesn’t do, when certain provisions kick in, what the law will cost, and so on. Again, it’s hard to square the circle of a public evenly divided on the legislation overall despite the fact a plurality if not majority of polled respondents support every major provision of ACA except the very unpopular individual mandate.
Can liberals cure stupidity? Not until they can stop producing fantasyland analyses like this one and recognize that some options are mutually exclusive. The idea that because, for example, people like many of the individual components of Obamacare, they should like the whole thing, and it must be a communications failure that they don't is delusional. It assumes that you can have all of the good things you want at no cost and with no trade-offs, and that there won't be any negative repercussions as a result. The world doesn't work that way.  Most people recognize that.

Consider transportation. You can ask people if they want a stylish new car. You can ask if they want good gas mileage, lots of seating and cargo space, good performance on the highway, strong and safe construction, and a low price. Guess what - the answer to all of those will be "yes" from a strong majority. But they can't have them, because some of those things are mutually exclusive. The same thing is true of the health care bill. 

In the real world, people recognize that those trade-offs exist. In the cocoon of progressive fantasyland, it's just a communication problem.

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