Commentary

Republicans Opposed Medicaid and Social Security, Too

July 20, 2017

By Arturo Castañares / Publisher and CEO

This week’s collapse of the Republicans’ attempt to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA) was just another blatant attempt to oppose programs aimed at helping seniors, working families, and children.

For eight years, Republicans in Congress have worked harder to defeat the ACA than they have worked to pass anything they champion. From the start, they have resisted expanding health care to millions of people that have gone without access for most or all of their lives.

When then-President Barack Obama was working to pass the ACA, that would later be referred to as Obamacare, Republicans opposed it and refused to vote for it. They warned that insurance prices would skyrocket and “death panels” would chose to let seniors die to save money. They warned that American businesses would collapse under the burden of offering healthcare coverage to their employees.

Then after Obamacare passed, Republicans in the House of Representatives began running bills to defund new law. Over the next few years, instead of working to fix any issues they thought weren’t working well, Republicans voted over 40 times to defund Obamacare without any viable plan that would do any better.

But their scare tactics and overblown hysteria aren’t new. Similar arguments were used by Republicans in the past against two other social programs that are now so universally popular that it seems unbelievable that serious politicians opposed them so vehemently.

In 1935, during the worst of the Great Depression, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt proposed a social safety net for seniors that would provide retirement benefits paid for through employer and employee taxes. Called the Social Security Act, it was the largest expansion of social benefits in the country’s history. Aimed at helping aging seniors, the law was lambasted by Republicans.

Opponents called Social Security a “fraud on the working man” and likened it to slavery and dictatorship.

During debate on the bill in 1935, Republican Congressman John Taber from New York said “Never in the history of the world has any measure been brought here so insidiously designed as to prevent business recovery, to enslave workers and to prevent any possibility of the employers providing work for the people.”

As we all know, the measure passed and Social Security has become an important piece of the support network for retirees, without which some would be homeless and without food and security. Since then, workers have been protected and businesses continue to thrive.

Another component of life for our seniors was also nearly derailed by Republicans in the 1960s. Passed as an amendment to the Social Security Act, what is now Medicaid was championed by President Lyndon Johnson to provide health coverage for seniors.

One of the most vocal opponents of Medicaid was a famous Hollywood actor that would go on to have his own successful political career.

“If Medicare passes into law, the consequences will be dire beyond imagining. 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.”

Those were the words of Ronald Reagan, who would later go on to serve as Governor of California and President of the United States.

We can all now recognize that Social Security and Medicaid have become important safety net programs for millions of Americans, including just about every senior we know. Without such programs, retired workers, spouses, and widows and widowers would left to suffer without reliable income, support services, and health care.

The Affordable Care Act is another important program that has already helped millions of Americans secure medical care that they could not afford or access before the law. It has it faults, but those issues could be fixed to improve the program if Republicans would commit to truly help Americans in need.

The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office has estimated that up to 23 million people would lose health coverage if the Republican plans to repeal and replace the ACA are passed.

This week, President Trump said he would rather pass a complete repeal of the ACA, which would cause insurance rates to double immediately, or even worse, he would wait for Obamacare to “fail” and then deal with health care reform in the aftermath.

Either of those two paths would lead to millions of Americans losing access to health care, and that would put people’s lives at risk.

No president should ever root for a law to fail, or hope that people will lose one of the most important pieces of their security. That’s not leadership, that’s cowardliness.

Trump took an oath of office to “faithful execute the Office of President of the United States” and that must include not letting an important social program die and leave millions of Americans, many of which voted for him, at risk of dying, too.

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