Only Other People are Ignorant

By Gus Bouchard

Because most of us like to think of ourselves as “above average,” it’s easy entertainment to spend a few minutes bemoaning the latest indication of how stupid the general population is.

Consider “Jaywalking,” the popular segment on the Tonight Show in which Jay Leno goes out on the streets of Hollywood and ask a bunch of Californians (supposedly chosen at random) absurdly easy questions, like “what are the three branches of government,” or “how many toes do you have,” and then edits the footage to show only the two or three people who had absolutely no idea.

This segment remains extremely popular after more than twenty years, even though it is becoming increasingly difficult to make a Tonight Show audience feel smarter than other people.

How about a more recent example: when the Supreme Court of the United States (which people on the Internet are now calling “SCOTUS,” making it sound like something from “Dr. Who”) upheld the Affordable Care Act (a.k.a. “Obamacare”), disgruntled Tea Party types took to Twitter to proclaim they were so “fed up” that they were “moving to Canada.”

Great idea! Let me know how you like their healthcare system while you’re up there.

Of course, it’s hard to know how many of those tweets were serious, versus how many were deliberately tongue-in-cheek, but don’t let that get in the way of your indignant sense of superiority.

Amid all the outrage conservatives expressed over the law, I had to wonder how much they (or anyone else) actually knew about it.

First of all, we can obviously dismiss the notion that anyone has actually read the Affordable Care Act.  I doubt even all of the justices on SCOTUS have read it.  But they (and most Americans spewing an opinion) should have at least researched it a bit, one would think.

The Kaiser Family Foundation, which I’m assuming is a serious, reputable organization because it uses the word “foundation” in its name, offers a quiz that helps you learn how much you really know about the law.

In the spirit of “Jaywalking,” most of the questions on this quiz are pretty easy to figure out, even if you hadn’t done your homework (“does the law require all Americans to donate a kidney to an illegal immigrant, whether he/she needs one or not”).  But the number of correct answers is startlingly low.

This question only 45% of respondents got correct: “Will the health reform law allow a government panel to make decisions about end-of-life care for people on Medicare?”

The answer is “of course not, you nitwit.”  But with all the early controversy over “death panels,” it’s easy to see how people got confused. Early versions of the law would have reimbursed doctors for having voluntary discussions with patients about end-of-life plans, but that bit was dropped from the final legislation because of all the hysteria about throwing grandma to the wolves.

Will Obamacare cut benefits for anyone already on Medicare? Only 40% of Americans knew that it will not.

Will the law require all businesses, no matter how small, to provide insurance for their employees?  Only 25% of Americans realized that is such a hideous and misguided idea that not even Congress would approve of it.

Does Obamacare create a new government health plan to be offered along with private plans?  If you answered “no,” pat yourself on the back for being among the elite 27% who got that one right.

Is this the first time you’ve actually read any legitimate facts about the law?

I don’t even want to know how many answered “yes” to that one.




  1. T’would be nice if the PPH and BDN printed this verbatim.

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