I visited a 55-year-old friend who is politically involved and considers himself extremely well informed. He spent today canvassing for Elizabeth Warren in Waltham, Massachusetts. Armed with a clipboard and data sheets on 50 solid Democrats and/or undecided voters, he was somewhat surprised by the shabbiness of the houses that he visited, all inhabited by people getting various amounts and kinds of government assistance. He said that the stories of how the native-born folks had ended up in poverty often started with a health problem. Thus he was hoping that one thing Warren will do is make health care available to poor Americans. “What about Medicaid?” I asked. He was not aware of the existence of this program. I said “I think it might be the fourth largest federal program, after Social Security, the military, and Medicare”. That did not help. He did not know about any government program to pay for routine medical care for any American under age 65.
[http://www.hhs.gov/budget/budget-brief-fy2013.pdf shows that Medicaid will consume about 30 percent of DHHS’s $941 billion budget or about $282 billion, but this does not count spending by the states. Page 66 of the document explains that this $282 billion is 58 percent of the total for the 57 million Americans enrolled in Medicaid. That means the total spending is about $486 billion.]
My friend could not understand how people in red states could be so stupid as to attempt to reduce the size of the federal government. “I think people in Texas get back 15 times the money that they spend in federal taxes. It is people in the blue states who pay to run the country.”
[http://taxfoundation.org/article/federal-spending-received-dollar-taxes-paid-state-2005 shows that Texas gets 94 cents of federal spending for every $1 that the state’s residents pay in taxes. Of course, this does not mean that the average Texan gets back 94 cents in value for every $1 spent. Most of the spending is presumably military and health care-related. So a hospital and doctor might get $50,000 for performing a procedure, but that doesn’t mean the patient experiences $50,000 in value (especially since the procedure might have been obtained for $8,000 in France or Israel). See this New Yorker article regarding Medicare spending in Texas.]
Separately, I had dinner with some foreigners on Friday evening. A couple from Canada who lives here in Massachusetts said “Is Scott Brown a Republican? I thought that he was an independent.” Conclusion: political advertising works remarkably well!