Republicans are making an all-out effort to sell the American people on their plans to save Medicare and Social Security. So it’s not surprising that they avoid mentioning their long-standing record of opposing these programs and trying to end them. Republicans opposed Medicare from its inception. In fact, Ronald Reagan called it “socialized medicine.” But unlike today’s Republicans, he didn’t propose to privatize it, bring in the insurance companies, and offer “premium support” to seniors, many of whom would then struggle to pay for it.
And when Franklin Roosevelt proposed Social Security, Republicans vehemently opposed it as “socialism.” It has become our most popular social program. So instead of talking about ending it, Republicans now talk about saving it. But here too, they favor some version of privatization. And they downplay the extreme benefit cuts and increased risks that come with their “personal accounts.” Ironically, those same Republicans who would push the American people to take risks in the financial markets oppose any meaningful financial regulation.
Most people don’t know that the Social Security Act of 1935 also contained a mandate that all states provide programs of unemployment compensation. Republicans were especially livid about that new “socialism.” Yet that’s become a fundamental part our safety net and has been a lifesaver for a huge number of Americans. Still, Republicans routinely oppose extending unemployment benefits for the long-term unemployed.
You can’t blame Republicans for trying to paint a pretty picture of their support for these programs, since the real picture has been so ugly.
David J. Roberts
Associate professor of accountancy
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