Ezra Klein takes a look at contradictory health care polling and concludes that Americans just don't know what's in the health care reform bill(s). "The health care reform bill" is unpopular, but everything that's in the bill is very popular! What's up with that?
There's a glaring omission from Klein's post that I think bears exploring: price tag. Americans may support all the provisions of the health care bill. Americans also support the idea of owning sports cars. But when they look at the cost, suddenly they're not so enthusiastic.
Yes, the bill has been scored by the CBO as deficit-neutral. The deficit-neutral number is less important than the $848 billion number attached to the Senate bill.
Klein gives a great number of other explanations for the supposed disconnect between polls on the health care plan's popularity and the popularity of the individual elements of the plan. Americans are stupid. Democrats are bad at communicating. Republicans are good at lying and obstruction.
Americans aren't always correct. They don't always have perfect information. But it's also possible that Americans could see the record deficits, the record debt, the stimulus spending, the slow economy, reflect on the fact that they, as individuals, are satisfied with their own health insurance, stare at that near-trillion-dollar number, and think "this is not something that I can support right now."
Under this logic, it may be that Americans could never support something with such a high price tag at a time when the news is filled with stories of the looming fiscal crisis of the U.S. government. That may be unfortunate for Democrats but may simply be the political reality of the situation.
Supporters may respond that this places the responsibility on Democratic messaging, because all these things are true but the bill is fully paid for. In that case, I would defend the average American yet again. Because, when the Democratic message is "this bill will improve your health care quality, lower cost of both care and premiums, expand coverage to those who don't have it and need it, support those who can't afford it, make sure that those who lost the luck lottery with pre-existing conditions, and it won't cost you a dime!", I wouldn't blame an average voter for being skeptical, because that sounds like a fairy tale.
Many on the Left continue to maintain that Americans would just love the health care bill if they knew what was in it and will love it in the future. I do not think I'm being overly charitable when I say that Americans might well know what's in the bill, support those provisions in the abstract, but realize that what they're being sold sounds just too good to be true. And comes with a hefty price tag.