One year ago, fresh off his reelection, 52% of Americans approved of the job Obama was doing. Just 41% disapproved, giving him a net approval of +11. What a difference a year makes. On Saturday, Gallup reported that just 40% now approve of Obama. A majority of Americans, 53%, disapprove. Obama’s net approval is now -13, a 24-point swing away from Obama.
Obama has been in this position before. At the end of 2011, his poll numbers were almost identical to today’s, with 39% approval and 53% disapproval. He got back to 50% just after Labor Day. It is hard imagine his reversing his poll numbers this time, though. In 2012, he had a well-oiled campaign machine and Mitt Romney, a useful foil. Obama’s poll numbers now are entirely of his own making.
Obama’s misleading claim that “if you like your insurance, you can keep it,” has seriously undermined his credibility with the public. Just 50% of Americans say Obama is “honest and trustworthy,” while 47% say he isn’t. Even at his previous low in 2011, around 60% of Americans said he was honest. Once the public’s trust is lost, it is almost impossible to get it back.
It was well-known in Washington, when ObamaCare was being debated, that millions of people would lose their health insurance. The Senate added an amendment grandfathering existing policies because they knew the policies faced potential cancellation. The White House even debated how far Obama should go in his reassurances about existing plans.
Obama made the promise in the belief that individuals with cancelled policies would find better coverage on the exchanges and ultimately forgive the misleading claim. The great liberal fantasy is being empowered to make the “right” choices for people. Left to their own devices, most Americans will make the “wrong” choice in at least some area of their life, liberals believe.
Obama and the Democrats believed they could design insurance coverage, and an entire health care system, better than individuals or the market. They didn’t appreciate the unintended consequences of making sweeping changes to one-sixth of the economy.
The public rarely, directly, feels the impact of liberal policy. The cost to these policies is usually in things that don’t happen. The entrepreneur who doesn’t start a business because of regulation. The unemployed who can’t find a job because wage mandates are too high. They are intangibles. Economists and experts may understand the negative effects of these policies, but, for most of the public there is nothing to “see.”
ObamaCare is different, however. Every American is feeling at least some impact from the new law. In the coming months, the impacts will increase. Employers are already cutting hours ahead of their mandate to provide coverage. Other employers will drop their health coverage altogether.
Obama looked fazed at this press conference Thursday. He believed in the fantasy that the government could completely reorder the health system and the public would thank them for doing so. He believed that the plan would work. Just as he believed public works projects and a bailout of state governments would lift the economy.
The public didn’t see what could have happened if the market, not government, decided which companies survived or failed. They are seeing ObamaCare.
Obama is on the edge of a “preference cascade.” The public’s belief that he lied to them on ObamaCare will cause them to doubt everything else he has said. As his signature policy fails, other policies he promotes will be a harder sell to the public.
Obama has done one great service to America. He has shown, in an almost neon light display, the terrible consequences of liberal policy and the limits of government. For 5 years, Obama has run almost the entire liberal playbook. The public can now see how much of that book is a fantasy.