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The Times That Tries Men’s Polls
Bush Drags America Into His ICU

Look Ma, no hand

President Bush’s approval rating, according to the latest New York Times/CBS news poll, is down to 29 percent, second-lowest rating of his presidency. Bush slumped to 28 percent in the same poll in mid-January. On foreign policy, his approval rating is hitting a new low: 25 percent, beating by one point his mid-January low. His disapproval rating on that score is at 66 percent, an all-time high. His approval rating on Iraq is at 23 percent, still two points above the all-time low, but his approval rating on his handling of terrorism, his signature issue, is a new low, at 40 percent. What’s surprising is the Times’ decision not to make much—if anything—of the news. In January, too, it didn’t front-page the all-time low of his overall approval rating. It ran the story on an inside page, and without a graphic. What’s going on?

I learned of these numbers by clicking on the link to the 27-page report of the New York Times poll (available in pdf here), which the Times does include on its Web site. But you’d think there was news, front-page news, in a president scraping Nixonian bottoms. The Times focuses instead on the poll’s health care results. They’re nothing to spit at: a majority of Americans, 55 percent, rank universal health care as “most important for the President and Congress to concentrate on right now,” well ahead of the next-highest concern (immigration, 19 percent), to say nothing of “traditional values” (13 percent) and reducing taxes (11 percent). Just 24 percent approve Bush’s handling of health care, while 62 percent say Democrats are likelier to improve health care than Republicans (who get just 19 percent of the nods on that score). Between cutting taxes and ensuring access to health care for all, health care wins it with a 76 percent vote. And here’s the kicker: “Would you be willing or not willing to pay higher taxes so that all Americans have health insurance that they can't lose no matter what?” 60 percent said they’d be willing to pay higher taxes.

Then again, all of us do pay higher taxes for the crappy health care we’re getting now. We just don’t call those astronomical premiums “taxes.” I pay $5,000 a year to insure my family. That’s not counting out-of-pocket expenses. It’s an enormous tax I see every week on my pay stub. An insurance tax, I call it. The insurance industry doesn’t call it that, nor do Republicans. They call it “choice.” To steal a word from Van in yesterday’s comments: how risible. Most Americans want their health care system fixed because it’s expensive, it’s lousy, it’s capricious, it’s unfair, and it leaves close to 50 million Americans—one in six—uninsured, which is not only immoral in itself, but jacks up costs for everyone else.

The Times article explaining its numbers had to note this, too: “But the same divisions that doomed the last attempt at creating universal health insurance, under the Clinton administration, are still apparent. Americans remain divided, largely along party lines, over whether the government should require everyone to participate in a national health care plan, and over whether the government would do a better job than the private insurance industry in providing coverage.” For now, in other words, Americans are enjoying getting the insurance industry’s equivalent of sodomy for health care, all the while accepting GOP mendacity about “government” being the problem. In so far as the GOP has been in control of the government, yes, government is the problem. But let’s be precise about what in government has been the problem.

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