Lyndon Johnson must be dancing in his grave. He could never have imagined that conservatives would come to embrace Great society so much.
Let me explain. In the last few weeks, conservative groups have left no stone unturned in their efforts to prevent healthcare reform. One such effort has been to turn senior citizens against healthcare reform by launching ads arguing that proposals to cut Medicare amount to achieving universal healthcare on the backs of seniors. You can see one such ad here.
This is ironic because conservatives have traditionally opposed government run health programs. Here is something Ronald Reagan said about health reform efforts in the 1960s:
But at the moment I'd like to talk about another way because this threat is with us and at the moment is more imminent. One of the traditional methods of imposing statism or socialism on a people has been by way of medicine.
There are three possibilities here:
1. Conservatives have suddenly fallen in love with government run healthcare programs
That after all, is what Medicare is. So that begs the question, if Medicare is such a good system that it doesn’t need any cuts, what’s so bad about a potential public option in healthcare? Also, can someone who supports such a large entitlement program, even for the elderly really be considered a conservative?
2. Conservatives think it’s unfair to take away Medicare since benefits have been promised, but still think “socialized medicine” is a bad idea
This is the most favorable interpretation of what some conservatives are doing. The logic goes that people pay taxes into Medicare, and have been promised benefits for decades, so taking away the benefits is unfair, even if Medicare is a bad program in conception. Still Medicare has well known fiscal issues in upcoming years. Currently, the program is on track to deplete the trust fund financing its hospital benefits in 2019. You’d think conservatives would be in favor of doing something about that.
3. This is a totally cynical ploy to torpedo healthcare reform
Seniors vote more than other age demographic. Cutting billions of dollars is sure to be unappealing, at least until the Obama administration does a better job making its case that cuts won’t affect the care Seniors get. By mobilizing Senior citizens, conservatives can make it very difficult to achieve any meaningful reform.
Regardless of which of these three it is, conservatives have unwittingly bought into the Great Society welfare state.