Tag: Policy/Politics

POLITICS: Real survey companies know that it’s a tie

So after the debate on Thursday, which didn’t feature health care, it looks like the Presidential election is back in a tie. Newsweek has Princeton Survey Research’s post-debate poll with Kerry leaving 47-45%, with a 4% margin of error. When Nader is taken out Kerry’s lead increases slightly. This is similar to the Harris poll that was released a couple of weeks back.

Now Bush may be feeling like the SF Giants on Saturday (who lost the NL West by giving up 7 runs in the bottom of the 9th) but in truth he was never as likely to win in a cruise as some pollsters have suggested. Worst offender here was Gallup which does the CNN/USA Today poll and has been consistently showing the Republicans doing better than most other pollsters. Gallup frankly (speaking as an ex-pollster myself) in the past few years has done its business some harm by not moving into Internet polling and now is engendering severe doubts about its political polling methodology (Having a former CEO who is an evangelical Christian when 8 out 10 evangelicals are on Bush’s side doesn’t exactly help their PR whether or not it has any influence over their methodology. By the way, Humphrey Taylor, chairman of the Harris Poll, has never taken US citizenship after 30 years of being here because he’s never wanted the possibility of his voting to impact his polling in any way). Speaking as someone who has commissioned polling from both Harris (and later worked there) and Princeton, and who also has looked at a lot of other polling organizations, I know that I’d tend to be more comfortable with them (and with Field in California) than most others. All Gallup really has left is the most famous name.

But what this all means is that the election is still as close as its been all along. So that means that turnout is the key and there are signs that the Democrats have done better in registering new voters. That of course doesn’t mean that they’ll get them to vote. However, anyone in health care assuming a straight Republican win should do some quick scenario planning about what happens if Kerry gets in. Particularly as the MMA gives the FDA (i.e. the Administration) the right to allow the importation of pharmaceuticals with no further Congressional action. When that was passed last year it looked fairly safe for the pharma business for some time. Right now they need to be thinking about plan B. (Of course I don’t think reimportation would be too dramatic and I have some ideas for Plan B that don’t lead immediately to Marxism).

POLITICS: Prop 72, Califorina’s pay or play, looks good for now

California voters haven’t seen much yet about the pay or play bill that Prop 72 represents. However, when read the text of the propsition over the phone by the LA Times‘ pollsters, 51% say they like it, while only 29% oppose it. Of course the advertising to beat it back will commence shortly, with an array of fast-food joints out to defeat the bill, which was passed by the legislature and signed by Gray Davis, as he was being kicked out the door last year. The Times’ story is quite interesting:

On the healthcare coverage referendum, 51% of likely voters said after hearing the ballot description that they would support it, while 29% said they were opposed and 20% undecided.Business groups, including the California Chamber of Commerce and the restaurant industry, placed the referendum on the ballot hoping to overturn a law passed last year that would require businesses with more than 50 workers to provide healthcare coverage or pay into a state fund created for the same purpose.Because the measure is a referendum, a “yes” vote would keep the law in place and a “no” vote would repeal it.

Ten percent of registered voters surveyed said they were without health insurance. Several respondents said in follow-up interviews that they believed healthcare should be more widely available, but differed on how an expansion should be accomplished.”I believe everybody should be offered health insurance,” said Patty English, 43, a stay-at-home mother of two children, who plans to vote for Proposition 72. “I’m not sure what’s a higher priority to me– education or healthcare — but I believe healthcare is our right.”But Fred Bauer, a llama rancher outside Petaluma, said he would vote to overturn the law because he believed the country should go to a universal healthcare system.”This is another Band-Aid approach that seems particularly unfair to small business,” Bauer said. More generally, Bauer expressed concern about the initiative process shared by other voters interviewed.”The process of how you get an initiative on the ballot has nothing to with the merits,” said Bauer, 65.”It has to do with who has money and what their little pet projects are, and I’m not sure it’s a good way to make law.”

So it’s apparent that the Times found the pro-pay or player while finding a single payer advocate to oppose it — not exactly the typical opponent to this bill you’d imagine. But then again the Time’s Democratic banners are nailed to its mast pretty clearly. Of course enough attack ads during the World Series and this could change fast.

POLITICS: Health Care in the 2004 Presidential Election

The New England Journal of Medicine has a Bob Blendon special on politics and the election and it provides the proof in what I said a few weeks back. (And it’s fully available online without payment). Health care is issue #4, after Iraq, the economy and terrorism. But it is enough to cause a few people to change their mind in some swing states, especially if they’re elderly.

There is a wealth of polling data in this study and much collated from several polls. Two particular favorites of mine.

First, Harris has for ever asked the three part question about the health care system a) working pretty well, b) needing fundamental changes and c) needing to be rebuilt completely. Obviously most people are in the middle, but watching the last one go up gives a good idea of the mood for real action. In 1991-3 42% said the system needed complete rebuilding. By 2000 that number was down to 29%. Now it’s back up to 36%. That increase suggests to me that health care will be a very big deal in 2006-10 (depending on the economy of course.

Second, 48% of those polled hate the Medicare bill while only 27% have a favorable impression of it & 25% have no opinion. This is showing up in races in Pennsylvania where the elderly are hopping mad, and once vulnerable Democratic housemembers are riding high and some Republicans are in real trouble.

The WSJ has an interesting report on the impact of Medicare in those races in Pennsylvania and concludes that it’s really hurting the Republicans. Six weeks is a long time in politics. Whether CBS-Kerry own goals can continue to distract from the carnage in Iraq and what some seniors feel will be the coming catastrophe in Medicare is an open question.

POLITICS/POLICY: Harris Poll Shows Tight Presidential Race

As I’ve saying for a while, this Presidential race remains too close to call, and today my favorite polling organization confirms that. A Harris Poll taken late last weekend showed Bush and Kerry tied. Why believe Harris? Well aside from being bright enough to employ me for a little while in the late 1990s, they have a very good record in very close elections. For example they were the only ones to get the UK 1992 election right (a very narrow Tory win) and the most accurate in the 2000 Presidential election in which they called the popular vote a tie (and it was).

Which all lead me to the conclusion that Bush needs to stop talking about health care. On the other hand some commies might suggest that the other parts of his record that he is running on aren’t too strong either. But the point is that (gullible or not) the public thinks that he’s a better bet than Kerry on that furr-in terra stuff. Of course them furr-iners massively prefer Kerry — lucky for Bush they don’t get to vote.

POLICY/POLITICS: Which Californians care about Prop 72?

So the mudslinging has begun with the No on 72 crowd calling it a government takeover of the health care system in California. Prop 72 is an up or down popular vote on the SB2 “Pay or Play” passed last year just before Gray Davis was booted out by Arnie. Calling Pay or Play a government takeover as have recent ads is pretty disingenuous, as the law only gives the government control over those who choose to “pay” into the pool in order to stop employers gaming the system. But why waste precious ad time saying that, especially as it smacks of the truth.

Of course if you really want to find out what this is about you need to follow the money. The California Health Care Foundation’s HealthVote 2004 site shows who’s spending what. Unions are supporting the campaign with about $1m so far, and that’s mostly an ideological buy to support SB2’s sponsor State Senator John Burton. On the other side is $6 million from the people who’d have to –shock-horror — pay for their employees’ health care! Who are this disinterested crowd? The list of contributors by size

1.California Restaurant Association
2.CKE Restaurants. (Carl’s Jr)
3.California Restaurant Association Issues PAC
5.Macy’s West, Inc.
6.Harman Management Corporation (biggest KFC franchisee)
8.Yum! Brands, inc. (parent company of KFC, Taco Bell)
9.McDonald’s corporation
10.Wendy’s international, inc.

I think it’s safe to say that Walmart is on that list in spirit at least too. So basically anyone who employs a lot of low wage-employees is fighting this. But really what difference would it make to them? People will keep living in California and someone will make money selling them fast-food and whatever schlock Target is selling. So it’s not exactly as if these jobs are going to pack up and go to Arizona.

So really this is as naked as it gets. These corporations are trying to preserve the share of their revenue that goes to profit over that which goes to compensation. And for that, they want the rest of us to fund the care of 1 million uninsured people who work for them. Arnie is opposed to 72. Welcome to Kal-ee-forn-iya.

POLICY/POLITICS: My quick view on the politics of Medicare in the campaign, with brief UPDATE

There was a lot of fuss about Medicare and health care in the last few days, particularly brought up by Bush. I think this is a serious blunder on his part. Given Swift Boat and Kerry’s non-position (or actually he should just use Bill Maher as spokesman because he explains it well) on Iraq, why is Bush trying to change the subject?

Here’s why I think Bush is being politically dumb here. If you look at these polls, things are still very close, and the Bush convention bounce seems to be over. Now if you play with the electoral college (try here) basically if Kerry wins Florida and Pennsylvania, then Ohio, Missouri, etc, don’t matter. What is special about Florida and Pennsylvania? They are the two oldest populations in America. Why did Clinton win Florida in 1996? Because he scared seniors into believing that the Republicans would kill Medicare as seniors knew it. Now, premiums are going up, and HHS’ own data is showing that the cost of the drug benefits to seniors will consume most of their social security checks, and seniors hate the Medicare bill, especially the ban on drug importation.

So let’s play it out. Seniors vote at roughly one and a half times the rate of those under 65s. Four in ten seniors say that they’ll vote based on health care. While 12.1% of the US population is over 65, the number is 18.1% for Florida, and 15.8% for Pennsylvania’s. So essentially the more voters focus on health care, the more likely it is that they’ll vote for Kerry, and each one of those votes in magnified by 1.5 X 1.5 for seniors in those two states. (or to be really pedantic only 1.5 x 1.25 for Pennsylvania).

So why is Bush bringing this up? I don’t know. If I were him I’d go back to terra, terra, terra. Otherwise Kerry can keep bringing up this kind of stuff.

UPDATE: A correspondent tells me why Bush is bringing this up. Karl Rove apparently believes that you should attack the other guy’s strength, and so that’s why Bush is attacking Kerry on health care. With that strategy, I don’t think Rove would last long as a coach in the NFL, and he hasn’t won a national campaign yet (after all tying is like kissing your sister), but Arianna Huffington thinks that Kerry should take Rove’s advice and come after Bush on terrorism and Iraq.

POLICY/POLITICS: Kerry’s post-convention bounce

Jones the Policy Wonk sends me these post-Convention polling numbers.

Internals from ABC poll post-convention–Kerry went from 3% ahead on healthcare to 19% ahead. (Sorry I can’t figure out an easy way to present this!)

The numbers in order are "Now" then " Pre-convention" then "Net Change" (or bounce)Trust Candidate on These Areas:Health careKerry +19 Kerry +3 Kerry +16TerrorismBush +3 Bush +18 Kerry +15IraqKerry +2 Bush +12 Kerry +14TaxesKerry +6 Bush +6 Kerry +12EducationKerry +13 Kerry +1 Kerry +12EconomyKerry +11 Bush +1 Kerry +12Health careKerry +19 Kerry +3 Kerry +16Int’l relationsKerry +9 NA NAIntelligenceKerry +5 NA NA

So the post convention bounce has the Dems massively up in their domestic strengths and even up on Iraq, Foreign relations and Intelligence. "Terrorism" remains Bush’s sole refuge and amazingly enough we get another terror warning just 2 days after the convention.

It’s hard to divine who’s going to win this thing, and it speaks volumes to the strength of the Republicans corporate/Christian right base that they’re even in the race given the state of the economy. But THCB readers should probably start imagining the possibility of a weaker than Clinton-like Democratic White House and maybe even a narrow majority in the Senate. I’ll be blogging more about that in weeks to come.

Massively off topic–I know that people don’t want to criticize the C-in-C about terrorism and I don’t hold him responsible for 9-11 but surely someone somewhere in the administration or intelligence services should be accountable for the fact that before 2001 Al-Quaeda was easily infiltrated by at least one white American and one white Australian. Yet the CIA and its sister orgs didn’t even bother to try, and we never knew what was coming.

POLICY/POLITICS: Blogging the convention

I have cable TV for the first time and I am typing away listening to the Democratic convention on CSPAN.  In general it’s pretty dull and barely anyone is mentioning the rather large Elephant in the room of the Bush presidency and Iraq.  As this is all about bringing over the wavering swing voters in swing states, the Democrats are learning from the Republicans that you need to "stay on message" .  (For more on that you should check out John Stewart here) One of the main messages is for "health care". Clinton even said one of his achievements was that his administration "produced more health care" but didn’t say what that meant.  Overall it’s unclear what that means and when you listen to veteran Ways and Means (now no longer Chmn ) John Dingell it get less clear.  He managed to say that "1 in 3 under 65 without health insurance at some point in the year" is not acceptable. He then went on to say that "health care costs more than steel in a car"  (which has been true for at least a decade) and that that too is unacceptable. Then he went on to say that health care cost 15% of GDP and that was unacceptable.  I hope the SEIU wasn’t listening!  here eventually  I assume)

Later it’s the Governor of Arizona (a woman no less–Janet Napolitano) also spent a long time on health care. She did have a quick bit about troops overseas, but then ragged briefly on the drug companies, but soon was back in the 1990s conversation about HMOs making medical decisions.  That’s an old and increasingly irrelevant argument, at least for us wonks (although apparently Michael Moore’s next movie is about HMOs). Meanwhile she’s complaining about the increasing cost of health care. Maybe if the Democrats repeat their fuzzy message enough times, they’ll seize this issue. My question is, why did they decide this is the big issue? And why are they talking about the cost of health insurance which is somewhat alien to most people and not just focusing on the cost of drugs?  I guess it just means that if they talk about it and the Republicans don’t, they own the issue.

(Transcripts will be

POLICY: Dean and Clark’s health care plans don’t amount to much

Over at Don Johnson’s Businessword, he profiles the health care proposals of Democratic front-runners Howard Dean and Wesley Clark. Now my astute guess is that no Democrat could come up with a proposal that Don would like while remaining a Democrat and Don’s pretty scathing about both of these. But that’s not the relevant part here.  What is relevant is that neither of them (and none of the other "leading" Democrat contenders) really has anything much "big" to say about the subject. 

Ok, I know that they have proposals but everyone knows that proposals get watered down, and getting insurance from 86% to 90% of Americans may be a laudable aim, but it’s not exactly massive system reform. So this tells me that neither of these guys (one a triangulator, the other a military liberal) thinks that health care reform that would actually matter (i.e. cover the uninsured and/or limit costs & incomes in the health-care sector) is either a) possible or b) politically appealing to the Democratic base who’s vote they need to get the nomination. 

I understand that the Democratic faithful have some other things to think about, but apparently double digit premium increases and 43 million uninsured are not enough to get any Democrats other than those few wishing for a Kucinich miracle talking about real universal health care.  That tells me that politically health care (aside from Medicare) is a dead issue next year, and the political result for health care in 2005 will be either be nothing more from the Bush administration or not too much from a Democratic one.


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