Richson: Ignorance on Obamacare


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In light of the recent turmoil occurring in the U.S. government, it might be hard to make people laugh about anything remotely related to politics, but last week Jimmy Kimmel attempted to do so. What he produced was a testament to public ignorance that left me unsure whether to laugh cynically or to just bang my head against a wall for a few hours.

The late-night talk show host took to the streets to probe pedestrians’ views on the Affordable Care Act and Obamacare. The nature of the experiment implies that Kimmel may have had some assumptions about what the result would be, but he proceeded anyway. The polls indicate certain generalities, but no harm could be done in doing a bit of direct investigation. How informed actually are the members of the public?

Not very, apparently, but they think they are. While it is no crime to be less than an expert on pending government policies, if you are going to have an opinion, you should at least have the facts straight rather than discriminating on the sole basis of a policy’s name.

Kimmel essentially posed the question of which health-care plan is better, but (plot twist) the Affordable Care Act and Obamacare are the same thing. At the end of the video, Kimmel reveals this to an unsuspecting interviewee, to which she laughs and replies, “Thanks, you made me look stupid.”

The problem is that this was a common thread throughout the video, not an outlier. Comments referring to Obamacare ranged from calling the policy “un-American” to even “socialist” in nature. Yet when asked about the Affordable Care Act, most people questioned were in favor yet unable to specifically explain what it was about the Affordable Care Act that they agreed with other than that they simply did not approve of Obamacare.

Doubly upsetting is the fact that Kimmel’s late-night bit might actually be indicative of the general public’s feelings more broadly.

A recent Iowa poll showed that a majority of Iowans are in favor of nearly every part of Obamacare, yet nearly half said they disagree with the policy as a whole entity. This raises the question, as does Kimmel’s “experiment,” of whether people are actually informed or simply rejecting the policy on a superficial name basis.

There is no doubt whether health-care policy affects every citizen of this country, whether we are painfully aware of this or blissfully unaware. Time will tell what the best path to more accessible health-care entails, and it is always OK to have an opinion no matter what side you’re on. That’s what a democracy is. But it’s also difficult to take people’s opinions seriously when they have no legitimate reason for feeling the way they do or even any notion of what they claim to support being the same as what they claim to oppose.

It doesn’t have to be this way, of course. Technology makes it easier than ever to get informed, read others’ opinions, and voice your own opinions. You can learn about anything you could possibly imagine and more than you would ever want to without even leaving your bed; thank goodness for long power cords.

But with ease of information flow comes a downside as well; people feel freer and more entitled than ever to run their mouths. This seems to have a domino effect. Everyone else is talking, so you’re going to as well. No matter what.

So if you just can’t hold your tongue, study up first, or you could wind up on national television for being nowhere near remotely correct.

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