The Left is energized about tackling income inequality. Now they just have to figure out how to get everyone else on board.
Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said Tuesday that a successful vote on unemployment insurance suggests that for politicians, issues like the deficit and the Affordable Care Act “are becoming less important than helping the average American get by.” Other Senate Democrats think this shift means good things for new minimum-wage laws, and President Obama is set to make income inequality the focal point of his State of the Union address later this month.
The average American, however, needs some more convincing. Health care reform should be lawmakers’ top priority in 2014, according to an Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research public opinion survey published last week.
The issue topped 52 percent of Americans’ list of resolutions for the New Year. Forty-two percent chose unemployment, and 39 percent picked the economy as the biggest concern. Thirty-one percent said politicians should focus on the federal deficit.
Immigration reform, which Obama has vowed to pass this year, was cited as the top priority by just 28 percent of respondents.
For some, unemployment and the economy are inextricably linked. Combined, the issues surpass health care from in terms of public concern, which may suggest that Americans are ready to put economic inequality ahead of other issues. As The Washington Post‘s Sarah Kliff wrote Wednesday, “Americans are bored with Obamacare.” Maybe they’re bored enough to reevaluate their to-do list for the government.
But with the mess of the health care roll-out still fresh in people’s minds, the issue is unlikely to budge from the political center stage just yet, at least for a few more months. Republicans are certainly still interested, and looking to bundle income inequality and unemployment issues and sweep both into a resurgence of anti-Obamacare talking points.
According to last week’s poll, 76 percent of Americans are not confident that the government will make real progress on any issue facing the nation in 2014. That bleak outlook, combined with looming Republican roadblocks, means Democrats face an uphill battle kicking health care reform off stage.