DOES THE RIGHT NOT REALIZE REAGAN WAS WRONG ABOUT MEDICARE?…. Most folks have probably heard the audio of Ronald Reagan in 1961, before he sought elected office, railing against Medicare. It was recorded as part of the American Medical Association’s campaign against a precursor to the legislation that would become law several years later.
What I don’t quite understand is why the right looks back at the recording with such fondness a half-century later.
For the greater part of the last two years, the conservative Heritage Foundation has based part of its campaign against health care reform on the argument that reform means a weakening of Medicare. Most recently, Heritage’s James Capretta railed against the Affordable Care Act by arguing that it “will reduce seniors’ access to quality health care by limiting the health care plan options currently available to them.”
The charge is not only false but also ironic given that Republicans have repeatedly voted for Medicare cuts totaling more than a trillion dollars and we’ve heard barely a squeak from the folks at Heritage. Nevertheless, their new appreciation for Medicare — the most expansive and expensive government program — is worth something.
It’s somewhat surprising, then, that Heritage chose to honor President Ronald Reagan’s 100th birthday by sending out a video in which the Gipper assails Medicare.
This comes up from time to time. Jonah Goldberg touted it in 2009, just as the debate over health care reform was picking up in earnest. Around the same time, Drudge, Rush Limbaugh, and Laura Ingraham did the same thing, highlighting the audio’s ongoing salience and relevance. Yesterday, it was the Heritage Foundation’s turn.
Have these folks actually listened to the recording they’re so impressed with? Reagan argued that if Medicare became law, we’d see federal officials empowered 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 passed, 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.”
As Jon Chait explained a while back, “You’d think conservatives would be embarrassed about this sort of talk. After all, can there be anybody who doesn’t live in a militia compound who believes the passage of Medicare represented the death knell of that freedom in America? Does anybody think this business about the government dictating what city doctors live in has come true? Yet conservatives continue to trumpet it.”
It’s quite odd. We know with the benefit of hindsight that the warnings in Reagan’s diatribe were silly, if not crazy. That conservatives listen to the recording 50 years later, and fail to notice that the scare tactics were wildly wrong, is disconcerting.