This morning Nicholas Kristof puts those who oppose the sham of a healthcare bill makes its way through the Congress on the wrong side of history:
It’s now broadly apparent that those who opposed Social Security in 1935 and Medicare in 1965 were wrong in their fears and tried to obstruct a historical tide. This year, the fate of health care will come down to a handful of members of Congress, including Senators Joe Lieberman, Blanche Lincoln, Ben Nelson and Mary Landrieu. If they flinch and health reform fails, they’ll be letting down their country at a crucial juncture. They’ll be on the wrong side of history.
I think that Mr. Kristof’s reading of history is highly selective. He neglects to mention that the House version of the Social Security Act of 1935 passed 372-33 with overwhelming majorities of both political major political parties voting Aye, the Senate version similarly passed 77-6, and the version that emerged from conference was approved by acclamation. If the healthcare bill is passed at all—far from assured at this point—it is likely to pass both houses with narrow majorities composed exclusively or nearly exclusively of Democrats. It would, indeed, be historic to pass such a major piece of social legislation in such a fashion but not in a good way, a wholly political act.
The experience with the Social Security Act of 1965 that enacted Medicare and Medicaid was similar.
Further, at present there is a dilemma about the present legislation that wasn’t present in either the Social Security Act of 1935 or that of 1965. If the Congress funds the bill as they currently plan, by reducing compensation paid to Medicare providers, they will de facto repeal universal healthcare for the elderly that Mr. Kristof celebrates. If they repeat what they have done in the past when they have pledged to reduce the compensation paid to Medicare providers and restore the cuts via other legislation, the plan will be in the red from Day One.
I think it’s also worth remembering that the tide of history does not flow in a single direction. A longterm care rider was added to Medicare under Ronald Reagan. The premium payments proved so unpopular that the legislation was quickly repealed in a panic.