That economic populism extends, for many candidates, to a new emphasis on expanding health coverage. Congressional Democrats who lived through the Clinton administration’s failed effort to create a national health insurance plan, which many believe was a crucial factor in the Democrats’ losses in 1994, have been wary of broad health legislation for years. (And being in the minority, they were unable to do much about it, regardless.) But the class of ’06 is adamant that something major can, and will, be done.
As noted in the NYT article, expanding health care is an economic populist issue. The battle over SCHIP was a prime example of that. Even some Republicans admitted that Bush vetoing the SCHIP expansion and House Republicans helping him sustain the veto was going to hurt the GOP in a major way in 2008.
Other Republicans are concerned about the political cost the debate over SCHIP could have in November 2008. “What will happen is they’ll lose the override. They’ll make cosmetic changes and our guys will cave,” Rep. Tom Davis (R-Va.) said Tuesday during an appearance at the National Press Club. “And at what cost? Our guys will get beaten up ... SCHIP is a dumb fight.”
And denying children health insurance just sounds so... cruel.
It was back in 1993, as the Clintons prepared to roll out their new universal healthcare plan, that Bill Kristol wrote a memo to fellow conservatives and Republican lawmakers on Capitol Hill warning them that their goal must be to "kill," not amend, the Clinton plan. "Healthcare," Kristol wrote, "is not, in fact, just another Democratic initiative ... . It will revive the reputation of the ... Democrats, as the generous protector of middle-class interests."
That's why bloggers call him William "The Bloody" Kristol. Of course, it'll be the GOP that gets bloodied up when ads like this really start running all over the country, say, in October 2008.
But how effective will those kinds of emotional ads be? Is the public really behind this effort to expand children's health insurance, even if it means paying higher taxes? Why, yes. I did a detailed diary on this very issue back in July, focusing on the New York Times/CBS News poll (.pdf). Check out these numbers to see what Americans really think.
Should government guarantee health insurance for all?
Now 64% 27%
2000 62% 29%
1996 56% 38%
Would you favor or oppose expanding this program to include ALL uninsured children?
Total Rep Dem Ind
Favor 84 72 93 82
Oppose 11 21 5 11
DK/NA 5 7 2 7
Yes, even 72% of Republicans favor expanding SCHIP. But the nail in the coffin is the final question that completely destroys the GOP's talking point about higher taxes, which is absolutely fundamental to their core ideology. Of the 84% of Americans that said they'd favor expanding the SCHIP program, they asked this question on taxes.
What if that meant you would have to pay more in taxes? Then, would you favor or oppose expanding the government program to include all uninsured children?
Total Rep Dem Ind
Favor 80 79 82 80
Oppose 15 17 14 15
DK/NA 5 4 4 5
80% of 84% is 67.2%. So over two-thirds of all Americans would favor personally paying more taxes in order to insure the uninsured children in this country. There was basically no difference in the partisan breakdowns for this question. (This is also assuming exactly 0% of that 11% that would oppose expanding the program in the first place, and that 5% who weren't sure, would want their own taxes raised to pay for it; otherwise the 67.2% would be even higher.)
Now, that poll was from July. And it's only one poll. Any given poll can be an outlier. Well, in October, the Washington Post/ABC News poll basically verified everything in the NYT/CBS News poll.
Bush and the Republicans may also be headed for a political setback from the fight over the State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP), even if Congress does not override Bush's threatened veto.
More than seven in 10 in the poll support the planned $35 billion spending increase, and 25 percent are opposed. About half of all Americans "strongly" support the increased spending; 17 percent are firmly against the additional funds. Eighty-one percent of Democrats, 69 percent of independents and 61 percent of Republicans are in favor.
Scroll down to Question #9 for the SCHIP question. The respondent was informed that the expansion would be paid for via an increase in cigarette taxes. Given that information, along with quick pro and con statements, a whopping 72% of Americans supported the SCHIP expansion that Bush vetoed last month, including a supermajority of 61% of Republicans.
Enough House Republicans stuck with Bush in helping him sustain the veto, even though 44 Republicans did cross the aisle to join Democrats on the veto override vote. For that, they should suffer the consequences at the ballot box in a major way next November. We're just gonna have to help remind voters of this, over and over again. :-)