I can’t decide whether this should make me feel better

by David Safier

David Leonhardt, writing in the NY Times, describes some of the 20th century yelling and screaming over every expansion of the safety net. He begins with a who-said-this quote which happens to be Reagan's statement against Medicare in the 1960s:

“We are against forcing all citizens, regardless of need, into a compulsory government program,” said one prominent critic of the new health care law. It is socialized medicine, he argued. If it stands, he said, “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.”

Here is Leonhardt's two paragraph listing of the howls over federal income tax, Social Security, minimum wage and mandatory overtime pay, not to mention Brown v. Board of Education and civil rights marches.

The federal income tax, a senator from New York said a century ago, might mean the end of “our distinctively American experiment of individual freedom.” Social Security was actually a plan “to Sovietize America,” a previous head of the Chamber of Commerce said in 1935. The minimum wage and mandated overtime pay were steps “in the direction of Communism, Bolshevism, fascism and Nazism,” the National Association of Manufacturers charged in 1938.

After Brown v. Board of Education outlawed school segregation in 1954, 101 members of Congress signed a statement calling the ruling an instance of “naked judicial power” that would sow “chaos and confusion” and diminish American greatness. A decade later, The Wall Street Journal editorial board described civil rights marchers as “asking for trouble” and civil rights laws as being on “the outer edge of constitutionality, if not more.”

The next time a conservative sings the praises of Martin Luther King and strikes that "We all supported his fight for freedom" stance, note that it was a Wall Street Journal editorial that went after civil rights marchers. Today's conservatives would have nodded their heads in self righteous agreement.

And remember, it was the political ancestors of today's "Keep your hands off my Medicare" crowd who screamed against Medicare. Today, Medicare is saving their asses, literally, but somehow, health care for others is a commie plot that robs us of our freedoms.

So should this make me feel better or worse? Maybe what's going on today is just Same old-Same old. But somehow, it feels more powerful and more frightening than that.

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