Poll: States, Not Feds, Should Take Lead on Health Care

05/25/2011 12:30 pm ET
  • David Sirota Newspaper columnist, radio host (AM760), bestselling author

There has been a long running debate among progressives about what arena is the best to push health care reform. Should the solution come from states or from the federal government? Some in Washington, D.C. have said that states should simply wait for the Wise Elders of the Beltway to act - but a new poll suggests that's not the way the public feels.

Check out this new Badger Poll from the swing state of Wisconsin. In all, 61% of the population "favors replacing the current health care system with a new system administered entirely by state government that covers all Wisconsinites." But here's the key:

Table 9. Who do you think would do a better job reforming the health care system, Wisconsin and the other states, or the federal government?

Wisconsin & Other States: 68%
Federal Government: 22%
Both Equally: 2%
Neither: 3%
Don't Know: 4%
Refused: <1%

This is an astounding number from a tell-tale state - a number that confirms a column I wrote back in January, and confirms a key thesis of my upcoming book about where uprisings start, and where they do not start. More than two thirds of the state says it would be better for the health care solution to come from states, rather than from the federal government - a major rejection of those who say progressives should focus their health care activism only on D.C.

The Progressive States Network (on whose board I serve) has worked closely with legislators in Wisconsin on their Healthy Wisconsin plan, and is working with legislators from states across the country on their state-based health care solutions. The organization has had to fight an uphill battle not just against conservatives and the health care industry, but also against a conventional wisdom among progressive donors, Beltway elites, and even some blogospheric voices who are so enamored with the Washington game that they cannot see what the Right long ago figured out: namely, that states are often where the real action is, because Washington is rigged to prevent change. Clearly, the public is way ahead of the Washington-centric conventional wisdom - likely because the public lives out here in the real world, far away from the D.C. echo chamber that tells everyone in D.C. that what they are doing is more important than what anyone else is doing.

This isn't to say that efforts to pass universal health care at the federal level are a waste - not in the least. As I said in my keynote speech to Health Care for All Colorado a few weeks ago, health care reform is not an either/or choice - we have to push for universal health care at both the state and federal level, and there are terrific people and organizations in D.C. who understand this principle. But too often, they are drowned out by the Washington dilettantes who say efforts in states are a waste. That line of thinking not only displays a fundamental ignorance about America's political topography and a shocking level of self-important vanity, but also just how out of touch with public opinion our nation's capital really is.

Join the book club for David Sirota's upcoming book, The Uprising, due out on 5/27.


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