Monday, November 9, 2009

“Lead, Follow or Get Out of the Way” [Thomas Paine]

Where were the Republicans on Medicare in the 60s?
by Charlie Leck

I think a massive campaign ought to be undertaken to remind Republican senior citizens where their party was on Medicare when the idea was first advanced. They stood in the same rigid trenches in which they stand today in opposition to a public option in health care reform legislation.

Remember, prior to Medicare, about one-half of all seniors in the U.S. had no health care coverage – none. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out why our nation’s insurance companies did not want to insure seniors. So, they made the cost so prohibitive that most seniors could not afford it.

When the idea of Medicare was proposed, the insurance companies, just like they have in these days, lined up four-square against the legislation and lobbied Republicans to defeat the plan. The Republican members of Congress got their talking points from insurance company lobbyists.

Conservatives, like Ronald Reagan, mightily opposed the idea of Medicare.

“If you don’t stop Medicare…,” Regan told a crowd in 1961, “you and I are going to spend our sunset years telling our children and our children’s children what it once was like in America when men were free.”

Oh my!

It was over 44 years ago that Medicare became a reality in the United States and access to health care was nearly instantly improved. The plan has allowed older folks to live longer and healthier lives. It is now, in fact, hailed as a great success. Medicare brought with it many side-bracket advantages along with its direct ones. For example, it led to the desegregation of southern hospitals.

Republicans were warning that Medicare would lead to socialism in America. What it led to was better health care for older Americans. Republicans fought the plan tooth and nail.

Barry Goldwater asked very sarcastically: “Having given our pensioners their medical care in kind, why not food baskets, why not public housing accommodations, why not vacation resorts, why not a ration of cigarettes for those who smoke and of beer for those who drink?”

Now, in historical perspective, Goldwater’s remarks sound much like the screaming idiots who have gathered at tea party rallies all across the nation. I could just hear Minnesota Congresswoman Michele Bachman asking the same question in her screeching, irritating voice.

There were Republican lawmakers who forecast a “Soviet-style model” in caring for seniors.

Those seniors ought to be reminded today of the Republican Party’s fanatical opposition to Medicare legislation and how, over the years, they have hatched one plan after another to end Medicare or, at least, privatize it.

Instead, Republicans are trying to frighten seniors by telling them that the proposed health care reform would mean a significant diminishment of their Medicare benefits. These attempts are out-right lies and there is not a word in the legislation that would either do that directly or cause it to happen indirectly.

If you’d like to see, point by point, the ludicrous arguments the Republicans have leveled against Health Care Reform with a public option, go to this release by the Chairman of the House Committee on Education and Labor (Representative George Miller). There you’ll see each wild-assed charge put to a fact-check and refuted in the absolute.

By the way, what’s behind the sudden revival of the public option? Let’s tell it plain, now! The progressive wing of the Democratic Party just wouldn’t let up. They made it clear that the Party was going down in the next election if they broke their promise to the voters on health care.

When a few Congressional members came around and announced they were putting a public option back into the bill, the fragile lion in the white somehow found his lost courage and jumped back into the fray.

Way to go Howard Dean! You never stopped fighting.

Congratulations to the wonderful progressives who wouldn’t be quiet on this one!

Now let’s hope the lions in the Senate finds some courage, too.

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