Andy wonders whether the American middle class will accept government benefits. I think that they will, and already do.
And this because, as Andy rightfully suggests, the issue has been framed deftly. People think of Social Security and Medicare as insurance, not as a government benefit. They think that they have paid for it.
Now, it’s trickier with ACA, because not everyone benefits from it. Social Security and Medicare are universal, whereas ACA by itself is not.
So perhaps the programs that can best be compared to ACA are Food Stamps, Unemployment Insurance, and the Earned Income Tax Credit. the latter two only go to working people, and Food Stamps mostly goes to working people. They have been stable and generally politiically robust. in the case of Stamps, the agriculture industry has played an important role in its vitality, a role that with ACA in the future will probably be played by private insurers getting customers off the exchange.
There is one more big advantage for ACA: it is much harder to stigmatize it as a handout. Liberals never understood that the public hated and still hates “welfare” because it is unconditional cash assistance. It is far from unreasonable to think that unconditional cash assistance destroys the work ethic.
Health insurance is different. Perhaps I am overly optimistic on this, but I would guess that the public understands that getting health coverage doesn’t destroy someone’s work ethic or desire to better onesself. FDR famously called poor relief a “narcotic”; I can’t see anyone outside the Tea Partiers believing the same thing.
The woman in the story that Andy references might think so, but let us remember: the Tea Partiers aren’t America. They just claim to be. And this woman is really an outlier: she says that Social Security doesn’t work well. Let the GOP run on that. Go ahead; make my day.