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Tilting at Windmills

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July 20, 2009

IN A WAY, IT IS STILL FRESH TODAY.... Over at "The Corner," Jonah Goldberg highlights this 1961 clip from Ronald Reagan, criticizing Medicare. Goldberg said Reagan's criticism of the landmark health care program is, nearly a half-century later, "still fresh today."

As Jonathan Chait explained, "This is true, but not in the way Goldberg thinks."

Listening to the recording now, it's kind of embarrassing to hear how very wrong Reagan's attacks on Medicare were at the time. In 1961, Reagan was a GE spokesperson, known for his conservative politics. When he lashed out at the idea of Medicare, it wasn't surprising, but it was the message itself that was so bizarre.

According to Reagan, Medicare 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.

In a line that may sound familiar to Sarah Palin fans, 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 completely wrong. As Chait put it:

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.

Why? Reagan's diatribe is "still fresh" because it's exactly the same sort of rhetoric conservatives employ against health care reform today. I imagine his readers are supposed to consider it "fresh" because they're supposed to substitute "Obamacare" in their head every time Reagan refers to Medicare. This allows them to sustain a mental condition wherein hysterical conservative predictions about the last social reform are forgotten in the specific, but remembered in the general and applied to the next social reform.

Reagan's misguided diatribe from 48 years ago also serves as a reminder that we hear the same arguments from conservatives, over and over again, every time real reform is on the table. Republicans, Fox News, and Limbaugh, for example, reflexively shout "socialized medicine" whenever the issue comes up -- just as the right has done for 75 years.

Steve Benen 3:50 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (37)

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I e-mailed Jonah Goldberg and mentioned that in the clip Reagan was opposing Medicare, which is now an extremely popular government program. I asked him if he thought that the Republican party should now also opposed Medicare and he said yes. Actually, his exact words were "Fine with me given how it sucks." I wrote back to say that I hoped he would encourage congressional Republicans to take that position.

Posted by: Amy on July 20, 2009 at 3:53 PM | PERMALINK

Republicans: Consistently wrong for 48 years and proud of it!

It´s also a good thing that our current system doesn´t lock people into jobs they hate just for the medical benefits, and prevents them from leaving to work in the public sector or from starting their own business, or handicaps small businesses relative to larger ones. It´s a really good thing.

This Republican rhetoric is getting rather sad. Even the most insulated Americans are waking up to how horrible our current system. I think the only reason the Republicans are making the argument is to cover up the fact that congress is bought and paid for by the insurance-medicine complex.

Posted by: inkadu on July 20, 2009 at 3:57 PM | PERMALINK

Gee, Ronald Rayguns, spokesperson for one of the major corporations... in essence, Rayguns was a Corporatist -- not to use the more historically prevalent term. Funny (in a sad way, not a happy funny) how Jonah -- that cursed nepotisticrat in the belly of the beast --had to turn the beast inside out to make Rayguns the Freedom Messiah. ...and so, Goldberg's "massive major opus"...

hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahhaahhaahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahhaahhahaahahahahahaha

Posted by: neill on July 20, 2009 at 4:00 PM | PERMALINK

The DNC needs to use this in an ad with exactly that message--conservatives were wrong then and they are wrong now. Who are you gonna trust, the morons who shouted wolf of the leaders who want to expand on success?

Hoist with their own petard much?

Posted by: Joel on July 20, 2009 at 4:02 PM | PERMALINK

This "Democracy Now" interview with former CIGNA spokesman-turned-whistleblower Wendell Porter is extremely revealing about the tactics used to defeat national health care.

http://www.democracynow.org/2009/7/16/former_insurance_exec_wendell_porter

Posted by: Pamela on July 20, 2009 at 4:03 PM | PERMALINK

Obama is a Commie socialist, who will sap and impurify our precious bodily fluids. We must preserve our essence.

Posted by: *ding dong* HUAC Calling on July 20, 2009 at 4:12 PM | PERMALINK

It's truly sad how often Jonah Goldberg reveals himself yet again to be a true mental android on every subject he chooses to write about.

If he were a movie, they'd have to call it "Goldberg - Cheap and Wrong". Extra credit if you know which movie this is a riff on.

Posted by: Curmudgeon on July 20, 2009 at 4:13 PM | PERMALINK

The DNC needs to use this in an ad with exactly that message...

Hell no, not actual Reagan video. The lion's share of the audience over 40 that is -- will immediately go all glassy-eyed, rise from their seats and go all "Yes, master..." on us, wandering around with their arms out straight in front of them. (Anyone under 40 will wet themselves laughing, to be sure, but they don't vote as often...)

The St. Ronnie Legend has gone to a place where it's no longer killable with mere facts -- it's garlic-and-silver bullet time.

Posted by: Davis X. Machina on July 20, 2009 at 4:19 PM | PERMALINK

I second Pamela's recommendation of Amy Goodman's interview with former insurance executive Wendell Porter on Pacifica Radio's Democracy Now -- I listened to it last week and posted a link to it here at the time. It is really a must-listen (or must-read if you prefer the transcript) for anyone concerned about so-called "health care reform".

Bottom line: there is really only one "reform" that is needed, and only one "reform" that will actually do what's needed, and that is to get rid of the for-profit medical insurance corporations who contribute absolutely NOTHING WHATSOEVER OF VALUE to the health care system, and reap enormous profits from ripping people off and condemning them to death by denying coverage for the health care that they paid for and are entitled to.

The insurance corporations are literally killing people every single day, while their executives -- like Porter before he resigned and became a whistle-blower -- jaunt around the country in corporate jets eating gourmet feasts off of gold-plated china, while they figure out new ways to deny coverage to sick people and strategize about how to lie to the American people so they can keep their profitable death-grip on the American health care system.


Posted by: SecularAnimist on July 20, 2009 at 4:20 PM | PERMALINK

It would be humorous except that it still works. It is the same with social security, probably the most successful government program of all time. Fiscally sound, you still get the constant bleat about how there may be a gap in coverage in 30+ years. My father who has been collecting social security for almost 20 years told me 40 years ago that it was a Ponzi scheme and he would never see a dime's return on his contributions. He has recieved the benefits of medicare, but says he would have been dead 20 years ago if we had the Canadian system because he would not have been able to get a timely angioplasty. Of course a lot of these folks also think the moon landing was faked--after all how could a government that scews up everything ever have pulled off a feat like that?

Posted by: Terry on July 20, 2009 at 4:36 PM | PERMALINK

Funny seems insurance companies control where people move to (is it in your network?) and what job they have (what insurance does it come with?).

So as long as men are subservient to the Corporate we are free! Because you know, elections have no consequences for governments so there is no accountability.

Posted by: MNPundit on July 20, 2009 at 4:47 PM | PERMALINK

It's truly sad how often Jonah Goldberg reveals himself yet again to be a true mental android on every subject he chooses to write about.

At least he got what and where he has completely on his own merits, unlike you something-for-nothing graspers.

Posted by: Lucianne on July 20, 2009 at 5:07 PM | PERMALINK

I have to laugh, Palin channeling Reagan. They've both got Alzheimer’s? The only thing that's fresh is the (new low!) level of stupidity coming from the Republicans..

Posted by: Gallop Trollop! on July 20, 2009 at 5:07 PM | PERMALINK

You are letting the real world blind you to the wingnut "reality". In the wingnut world Reagan = God and therefore can never be wrong. The wingnuts consider Reagan's speech from nearly 50 years ago correct and prophetic because the Obama health reform plan will create the nightmare scenario the all-knowing Ronnie foresaw back then. As always Reagan was right because the creation of medicare has led to the current health care plan. You see there are no contradictions in the wingnut world.

Posted by: MW on July 20, 2009 at 5:13 PM | PERMALINK

"At least he got what and where he has completely on his own merits"

Merits? Please explain. Writing a conservative column amounts to filling out a fill-in-the-blank form. ___________ is happening, so we need tax cuts! The __________s want to kill you, so we need to start a war in ___________. _______s want to marry ________s, so we need a Constitutional Amendment!

A few years back, I was reading a book about the history of the Vietnam War. What was amazing was that the statements politicians were using then were nearly identical (sometimes verbatim) to the statements on the Iraq War. Just substitute 'terrorism' for 'communism,' and you have your statement. In thirty years, the Republicans hadn't even managed to tweak the phrasing a little. They were just using fill-in-the-blank statements.

Posted by: fostert on July 20, 2009 at 5:26 PM | PERMALINK

@5:07 PM:
At least he got what and where he has completely on his own merits, unlike you something-for-nothing graspers.

Thanks, Mom. Knew I could count on you, now and ever. Don't know where I'd be without you...

Posted by: Jonah on July 20, 2009 at 5:51 PM | PERMALINK

Reagan did get part of it right: Many of us, especially us older folks are locked into our current job for health care benefits, and are locked into almost guaranteed poverty if we get seriously ill, and lose out job.

Posted by: Glen on July 20, 2009 at 7:04 PM | PERMALINK

What horrible tyranny not to be able to die in a gutter somewhere if you're old and can't afford healthcare! I'm sorry but I will never be able to understand what conservatives mean by "freedom".

Posted by: will on July 20, 2009 at 7:13 PM | PERMALINK

I'm sorry but I will never be able to understand what conservatives mean by "freedom".

I still think that Anatole France explains it as well as anyone: "The law, in its majestic equality, forbids the rich as well as the poor to sleep under bridges, to beg in the streets, and to steal bread."

Posted by: dr sardonicus on July 20, 2009 at 7:47 PM | PERMALINK

Today the TARP special auditor released a report to Congress stating that the total cost to bail out Wall St (i.e. free market capitalism) could reach 23.7 TRILLION US taxpayer dollars.

Explain to me AGAIN how private enterprise and capitalism IS ALWAYS more cost effective than government run plans.

Posted by: Glen on July 20, 2009 at 7:51 PM | PERMALINK

$23.7 trillion dollars to fix capitalism and prop up rich people.

Compared to that figure, the cost of Medicare is a pimple on the back of a frog's a$$.

Posted by: Glen on July 20, 2009 at 7:54 PM | PERMALINK

Thanks, dr. sardonicus.

Posted by: shortstop on July 20, 2009 at 8:43 PM | PERMALINK

About 40 years ago my father-in-law was forced to deplane in New Zealand on his way back to the US from China after suddenly experiencing excruciating back pain. Medical personnel took him from the airport straight to the hospital where he was diagnosed with a ruptured disc. Doctors he never met before operated on his back within 24 hours and the operation went smoothly. He remained another several days in the hospital and recuperated fully.

When he prepared to leave the hospital my father-in-law asked for his bill which he expected to be in the tens of thousands of dollars. He was told, "This is New Zealand. We have national health care. It won't cost you anything."

Government officials didn't attempt to force my father-in-law to move to New Zealand and the last I heard the Kiwis are still a democratic country and love all their freedoms. I suspect the same would be true of Americans if their government were we to adopt a public health care option.

Posted by: pj in jesusland on July 20, 2009 at 9:46 PM | PERMALINK

To be fair, many things are true, but not in the way Goldberg thinks.

Posted by: SteveTGrav on July 20, 2009 at 10:23 PM | PERMALINK

The actual arguments made by Goldberg and other wingnuts are beside the point. What they have been arousing since the 60's is racism and sectional envy. When they say "Obama is a socialist" the typical non-plutocratic Republican hears "Obama is a n---".

Posted by: skeptonomist on July 20, 2009 at 10:34 PM | PERMALINK

You can go back even further to FDR and social security. FDR was called a "Stalinist" and compared to Hitler by the Republicans who opposed the New Deal. They've been consistently wrong for at least 77 years.

Posted by: rudeboy on July 20, 2009 at 11:54 PM | PERMALINK

Thanks, Mom. Knew I could count on you, now and ever. Don't know where I'd be without you...

I'll tell you boy, without me you wouldn't be fit to get a job scrubbing toilets at all night truck stops. Now go fetch my bunion creme, it's time for my nightly foot massage.

Posted by: Lucianne in the Sky with Diamonds on July 21, 2009 at 12:31 AM | PERMALINK
Actually, his exact words were "Fine with me given how it sucks." I wrote back to say that I hoped he would encourage congressional Republicans to take that position.

I have yet to hear an elderly person complaining about Medicare. They go to the doctor they always went to, get whatever tests they need, and never get a bill, except for meds. I know people who have desperately counted the days until they turned 65 and could get Medicare.

I would love to know what Goldberg thinks "sucks" about Medicare. Neither my parents, nor my inlaws, nor any of their friends has ever had any trouble with it, and it is a hell of a lot better than the private insurance they had before age 65.

The drug benefit is a nightmare, though, confusing and counterproductive. Just what I'd expect from a Republican-designed insurance "reform."

Posted by: MadLibrarian on July 21, 2009 at 1:25 AM | PERMALINK

Both Goldberg and Chait miss how Reagan's diatribe is fresh today.

It's fresh because if we don't get this right and pass SINGLE PAYER *now* and instead settle for the Public Option charade, 50 yrs from now we'll be doing all this crap all over again.

Posted by: Disputo on July 21, 2009 at 3:58 AM | PERMALINK


"Facts are stupid things." - at the GOP Convention 1988

Posted by: Ronald Reagan on July 21, 2009 at 7:01 AM | PERMALINK

If I were Obama I'd go on national TV and play the Reagan recording and point out how the predictions were ridiculaous and have not come to pass. I would then show highlight reels of current GOP comments and compare; they are the same.

Posted by: Bob on July 21, 2009 at 7:50 AM | PERMALINK

I would love to know what Goldberg thinks "sucks" about Medicare.

Oh, that's easy. He has to pay taxes for it.

Posted by: Gregory on July 21, 2009 at 8:00 AM | PERMALINK

I remember that Reagan quote about "remembering when men were free" becoming an issue in the last presidential campaign. As soon as everyone pointed out that Reagan was talking about Medicare, they shut up about it real quick.

Posted by: Southern Beale on July 21, 2009 at 8:30 AM | PERMALINK

If he were a movie, they'd have to call it "Goldberg - Cheap and Wrong". Extra credit if you know which movie this is a riff on.

"Sarah - Straight and Tall" (with Glenn Close)?

Posted by: AfGuy on July 21, 2009 at 9:06 AM | PERMALINK

Actually, AfGuy, it was "Sarah: Plain and Tall." Not to be confused with "Sarah: Plainly Dumb," the right's favorite flick of the last 2 years.

Posted by: jjcomet on July 21, 2009 at 9:53 AM | PERMALINK

"Republicans, Fox News, and Limbaugh, for example, reflexively shout 'socialized medicine' whenever the issue comes up -- just as the right has done for 75 years."

When they find something that works, they stick with it. And, given the right's sterling success at blocking meaningful health care reform, who's to argue?

Posted by: Peter Principle on July 21, 2009 at 3:59 PM | PERMALINK

If you look up Chait's article in the latest New Republic, he has a long list of quotes by conservatives, not all Republican, saying how the republic is doomed if we have women's suffrage, abolition of child labor, pure food and drug laws etc. It's always the same argument. Conservatives are saying the same things today about social security that they said 70 years ago.

http://www.tnr.com/article/politics/the-rise-republican-nihilism

Posted by: sjpatejak on December 30, 2009 at 6:58 PM | PERMALINK




 

 

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