Broun’s familiar madness

BROUN’S FAMILIAR MADNESS…. Rep. Paul Broun (R-Ga.) has a habit of making truly deranged remarks on the House floor, but his speech this week on health care reform was especially noteworthy.

“It’s absolutely critical,” Broun said, “that the American people stand up and speak to the leadership and demand something different, and that the American people demand that nothing is passed, particularly on health care….

“This health care plan can tell us what kind of car to drive, whether we can own guns or not to protect ourselves in our home, whether we can teach our children the way that we as parents believe our children ought to be taught. This is the largest takeover of liberty and freedom this country has ever seen.”

This is obviously very foolish. Not quite as foolish as the time Broun said President Obama reminds him of Hitler and that the Democratic president might establish a Gestapo-like security force to impose a Marxist dictatorship on Americans, but it’s awfully close.

But listening to Broun’s meandering nonsense, it reminded me how similar the right-wing critiques of health care reform are to the right-wing critiques of Medicare a half-century ago.

It was, after all, Ronald Reagan who said in 1961 that JFK’s proposed Medicare plan would lead federal officials to dictate where physicians could practice medicine, and open the door to government control over where Americans were allowed to live. In fact, Reagan warned that if Medicare became law, there was a real possibility that the federal government would control where Americans go and what they do for a living.

Reagan added, “[I]f you don’t [stop Medicare] and I don’t do it, one of these days 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.”

With the benefit of hindsight, we now know these crazy warnings were pretty silly. In Broun’s case, we don’t even have to wait 49 years before realizing how preposterous his panicky warnings are.

But the similarities nevertheless remind us that right-wing hysteria has a certain timeless quality. A half-century ago, Medicare, we were told, would give the government control over where we go, live, and work. Today we’re told a modest health care reform bill would give the government control over children’s upbringing, firearm ownership, and transportation decisions.

These guys never get tired of being wrong.