Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Anti-Health Care Reform Forces On The Wrong Side Of History

Nicholas D. Kristof reminds us of the history of opposition to progressive legislation such as Social Security and Medicare. Those who were on the wrong side of history in the past sound remarkably similar to those railing against health care reform today:

Indeed, these same arguments we hear today against health reform were used even earlier, to attack President Franklin Roosevelt’s call for Social Security. It was denounced as a socialist program that would compete with private insurers and add to Americans’ tax burden so as to kill jobs.

...Similar, ferocious hyperbole was unleashed on the proposal for Medicare. President John Kennedy and later President Lyndon Johnson pushed for a government health program for the elderly, but conservatives bitterly denounced the proposal as socialism, as a plan for bureaucrats to make medical decisions, as a means to ration health care.

Following the Senate's vote to open the health care debate, Senate majority leader Harry Reid drew similar lessons:

“Imagine if instead of debating either of the historic G.I. Bills — legislation that has given so many brave Americans the chance to go to college — if this body had stood silent,” Mr. Reid said. “Imagine if instead of debating the bills that created Social Security or Medicare, the Senate’s voices had been stilled. Imagine if instead of debating whether to abolish slavery, instead of debating whether giving women and minorities a right to vote, those who disagreed were muted, discussion was killed.”

Kristof warns that those who would obstruct health care reform today have not learned these critical lessons from American history:

It’s now broadly apparent that those who opposed Social Security in 1935 and Medicare in 1965 were wrong in their fears and tried to obstruct a historical tide. This year, the fate of health care will come down to a handful of members of Congress, including Senators Joe Lieberman, Blanche Lincoln, Ben Nelson and Mary Landrieu. If they flinch and health reform fails, they’ll be letting down their country at a crucial juncture. They’ll be on the wrong side of history.

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