I never cared much for history when I was growing up. It was my worst subject by far in high school, and I had to force myself to do well in it during college. Somewhere along the way, though, that began to change. I wouldn’t say that I particularly love history, but I appreciate it. History holds valuable lessons (if we are willing to look for them) and it provides context for the present.
David Leonhardt–whose writing I especially enjoy–recently had a piece in the New York Times that examined the history of Republicans and Medicare. It’s a quick read, but for those of you strapped for time, here’s the gist: My how things have changed!
Back in the 1960s when Medicare was first proposed, the Republicans fought against it with all their might. The AMA even hired the young actor and aspiring politician, Ronald Reagan, to describe Medicare as a slippery slope to socialist America. Sound familiar? Well, it is……almost.
Yes, claims of socialized medicine have remained popular on the right when health reform winds up on the agenda, but the focus has shifted. Back then, Medicare was the devil. Lately, the Republicans seem hell bent on preserving and expanding Medicare. They added a costly drug benefit (Part D), which they did nothing to try and pay for. By contrast, with the latest reform, Democrats have targeted inefficiencies in Medicare to partially offset the cost of coverage expansions, while Republicans have sought to preserve the waste in Medicare. The bottom line is that Republicans are adamant about preserving–even growing–the very program they once despised as the harbinger of America’s downfall.
It makes me wonder: If health reform survives the next couple of elections and becomes fully implemented, how long will it take the very Republicans who voted against the legislation to switch sides and support the new status quo?