2008 record      


"What's driving passions right now," President Obama said last fall on CBS' "Face the Nation," "is that health care has become a proxy for a broader set of issues about how much government should be involved in the economy." The president was indeed accurate in his description of the debate. It is a proxy fight between statists and a government-weary public.

Our latest polling shows that Americans favor a smaller government and believe that the federal government has too much power. They also lack faith in government to do what is right. This a big reason for the head wind faced by health reform legislation.

Most Americans (58%) describe themselves as politically to the right of Obama. And the center-right country is skeptical of any new social program or a larger government involvement.

Americans desire a smaller government providing fewer services to a bigger government providing more services by a 5-to-3 margin.

Conservatives, of course, favor a smaller government by an overwhelming 77% to 16%. But moderates also prefer smaller government 49% to 37%. Only liberals prefer bigger government, 65% to 21%.

Believers in smaller government oppose the health reform plan 65% to 24%, while larger-government believers back the plan 68% to 16%.

Further, most of the small-government believers (80%) want the Congress to start fresh, do not support reconciliation (74%) and are less likely to vote for a candidate who votes in favor of the reform (64%).

The federal government expects a $1.5 trillion budget shortfall this year and will post trillion-dollar deficits for years to come. In the face of mounting government debt, the size and efficiency of the federal government has also come into scrutiny.

poll03160210Americans want an overhaul of the health care system but do not see their government as the locus of control.

Credibility of the federal government is low. Only 3% of the public trusts Washington to do what's right "just about always." Another 13% trust Washington "most of the time." A majority (58%) said it trusts Washington "only some of the time," and 25% said "never."

Nearly two of three Americans say the federal government today has too much power. Twenty-three percent say that it has the right amount and 10% say it has too little power.

The skepticism may also be rooted in the performance of other government-run programs. According to a recent report by its trustees, for example, Medicare spends so much more than it takes that at the present rate the system will operate in the red as early as 2017. Unfunded obligations of the Medicare trust fund have reached $37.8 trillion.

In addition, the Social Security trust fund will run out of money by 2037, and many Americans already contemplate settling for reduced benefits.

Lack of success in government-run health care systems overseas could also be contributing to Americans' concerns.

Further, Americans do not like the government in the middle of their relationship with their doctors. The poll shows that Americans, by a wide 48%-26% margin, believe the doctor-patient relationship will decline if the health reform is passed.

• Mayur is president of TechnoMetrica Market Intelligence, which directs the IBD/TIPP Poll that was the most accurate in the last two presidential elections.

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