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Be Careful What You Wish For

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A new poll out today on health care reform illustrates the blow-back from years of anti-government framing, by both conservatives and progressives.

In measuring public opinion about the bill to overhaul health care, the Associated Press and GfK found that public attitudes turned sharply negative AFTER the bill was signed into law.

Clues to explain this unusual movement are to be found in the details deeper in the poll results.

Despite the clearly positive impact the legislation will have on consumers' pocketbooks, AP/GfK reports that "the public doesn't seem to be buying it....Fifty-seven percent said they expect to pay more for their own health care, contrasted with 7 percent who expect to pay less. And 47 percent said they expect their own medical care to get worse, compared with 14 percent looking forward to an improvement."

These results reflect the fact that most folks now expect to be worse off when government programs expand, when government takes action. And this mind-set is so strong that people will remake facts to fit their opinion, as illustrated with health care reform. Now that the bill has been signed, people expect things to get worse.

While directly criticizing the role of government is a frequent theme of conservative talking heads, progressive advocates often repeat and reinforce that theme with poorly constructed criticism of government decisions. Rather than criticize particular decision-makers or the special interests who influence them, progressives often just broadly name and blame the "federal government," feeding into the notion that government is a bad thing, an independent actor, rather than the expression of public will and community responsibility.

And the chickens have come home to roost.