Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not his own facts. Founded by Mark Kleiman (1951-2019)
Does the Middle Class Want Government Benefits?
The middle class adores its government benefits as long as the programs reward work. ACA does.
Andy wonders whether the American middle class will accept government benefits.Â I think that they will, and already do.
And this because, as Andy rightfully suggests, the issue has been framed deftly.Â People think of Social Security and Medicare as insurance, not as a government benefit.Â They think that they have paid for it.
Now, it’s trickier with ACA, because not everyone benefits from it.Â 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.Â the latter two only go to working people, and Food Stamps mostly goes to working people.Â They have been stable and generally politiically robust.Â 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.Â Liberals never understood that the public hated and still hates “welfare” because it is unconditional cash assistance.Â It is far from unreasonable to think that unconditional cash assistance destroys the work ethic.
Health insurance is different.Â 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.Â FDR famously called poor relief a “narcotic”; I can’t see anyone outside the Tea Partiers believing the same thing.Â
The woman in the story that Andy references might think so, but let us remember: the Tea Partiers aren’t America.Â They just claim to be.Â And this woman is really an outlier: she says that Social Security doesn’t work well.Â Let the GOP run on that.Â Go ahead; make my day.
Author: Jonathan Zasloff
Jonathan Zasloff teaches Torts, Land Use, Environmental Law, Comparative Urban Planning Law, Legal History, and Public Policy Clinic - Land Use, the Environment and Local Government. He grew up and still lives in the San Fernando Valley, about which he remains immensely proud (to the mystification of his friends and colleagues). After graduating from Yale Law School, and while clerking for a federal appeals court judge in Boston, he decided to return to Los Angeles shortly after the January 1994 Northridge earthquake, reasoning that he would gladly risk tremors in order to avoid the average New England wind chill temperature of negative 55 degrees.
Professor Zasloff has a keen interest in world politics; he holds a PhD in the history of American foreign policy from Harvard and an M.Phil. in International Relations from Cambridge University. Much of his recent work concerns the influence of lawyers and legalism in US external relations, and has published articles on these subjects in the New York University Law Review and the Yale Law Journal. More generally, his recent interests focus on the response of public institutions to social problems, and the role of ideology in framing policy responses.
Professor Zasloff has long been active in state and local politics and policy. He recently co-authored an article discussing the relationship of Proposition 13 (California's landmark tax limitation initiative) and school finance reform, and served for several years as a senior policy advisor to the Speaker of California Assembly. His practice background reflects these interests: for two years, he represented welfare recipients attempting to obtain child care benefits and microbusinesses in low income areas. He then practiced for two more years at one of Los Angeles' leading public interest environmental and land use firms, challenging poorly planned development and working to expand the network of the city's urban park system. He currently serves as a member of the boards of the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy (a state agency charged with purchasing and protecting open space), the Los Angeles Center for Law and Justice (the leading legal service firm for low-income clients in east Los Angeles), and Friends of Israel's Environment. Professor Zasloff's other major activity consists in explaining the Triangle Offense to his very patient wife, Kathy.
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