Conservatives push Reagan's 1961 attacks on "socialized medicine" but ignore that he was criticizing Medicare

››› ››› JOCELYN FONG

On August 14, the Drudge Report, Rush Limbaugh, and O'Reilly Factor guest host Laura Ingraham featured a recording of Ronald Reagan speaking in 1961 against "socialized medicine" for the American Medical Association's Operation Coffee Cup Campaign against Medicare. Neither Drudge, Limbaugh, nor Ingraham, however, noted that Reagan was speaking out against an early version of Medicare, which has become very popular since it was enacted 44 years ago, or that Reagan's dire predictions of curtailments of freedom were never realized.

Conservatives reach back to Medicare fight to fearmonger about heath care reform

Drudge Report: By 9 a.m. on August 14, the Drudge Report featured the headline, "1961: Reagan Speaks Out Against Socialized Medicine," with a link to a YouTube video of a 1961 recording, "Ronald Reagan Speaks Out Against Socialized Medicine."

From the Drudge Report on August 14:

reaganmedicare

Limbaugh: "I get chills up my back." After airing several clips from the 1961 recording, Limbaugh stated, "I tell you, I get chills up my back. I feel like I'm listening to my dad. My dad said the same thing to me: 'You boys are going to be slaves.' " Limbaugh added, "The battle never ends. Well, battles end. The war will never end. Remember the history of the world is communism, socialism, totalitarianism, statism. That's the history of the world. ... And after they own the White House, and after they own the House of Representatives, and after they own the Senate, and after they own the Pentagon, and after they own everything else in government they can populate, they will then own you. And that's what Reagan was trying to warn of back in 1961." [Rush Limbaugh Show, 8/14/09]

Ingraham: "I have to believe that Ronald Reagan is smiling down on these town hall forums." Guest hosting Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor, Ingraham stated: "Powerful arguments against socialized medicine have been around not for months, but for decades. Ronald Reagan was saying this back in 1961." After playing a clip from Reagan's recording, Ingraham added, "I have to believe that Ronald Reagan is smiling down on these town hall forums where law abiding and hard-working Americans are standing up for freedom." [The O'Reilly Factor, 8/14/09]

Reagan's 1961 missive was against Medicare's precursor legislation

Reagan's 1961 message was recorded as part of the American Medical Association's "Operation Coffee Cup," the goal of which "was to defeat legislation called King-Anderson, a congressional health care bill designed to assist older Americans that, in a watered-down version, ultimately came into being as Medicare." In the recording, Reagan warned that if the bill were passed, doctors would be told by the government where to live and where to practice, and that "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."

Medicare is overwhelmingly popular among enrollees and the American public

Seventy-seven percent say Medicare is "very important" for the country. An April 2009 health tracking poll by the Kaiser Family Foundation found that "[j]ust over three in four Americans say the Medicare program is 'very important' for the country as a whole, and just over half say it is very important for their own family. Seniors -- who make up the bulk of current participants -- are even more likely to say the program is important to them: nine in ten of those aged 65 and up say the program is important to them and their family, with nearly all of these (78 percent overall) calling it 'very important.' "

Commonwealth Fund: Medicare beneficiaries age 65+ "reported greater overall satisfaction." A May 2009 Commonwealth Fund survey concluded that "elderly Medicare beneficiaries reported greater overall satisfaction with their health coverage, better access to care, and fewer problems paying medical bills than people covered by employer-sponsored plans."

Medicare rated higher than private health insurance plans. As Mark Blumenthal wrote on National Journal Online, surveys by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services found that in 2007, "56 percent of enrollees in traditional fee-for-service Medicare give their 'health plan' a rating of 9 or 10 on a 0-10 scale. Similarly, 60 percent of seniors enrolled in Medicare Managed Care rated their plans a 9 or 10. But according to the CAHPS [Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems ] surveys compiled by HHS, only 40 percent of Americans enrolled in private health insurance gave their plans a 9 or 10 rating." Blumenthal added, "More importantly, the higher scores for Medicare are based on perceptions of better access to care. More than two thirds (70 percent) of traditional Medicare enrollees say they 'always' get access to needed care (appointments with specialists or other necessary tests and treatment), compared with 63 percent in Medicare managed care plans and only 51 percent of those with private insurance." [NationalJournal.com, 6/29/09].

From Blumenthal's post:

medicarechart

Chait: "You'd think conservatives would be embarrassed about this sort of talk"

In a July 20 entry on The New Republic's The Plank blog, senior editor Jonathan Chait wrote of Reagan's "utterly preposterous" 1961 recording:

National Review's Jonah Goldberg links to this Ronald Reagan diatribe against the Medicare bill. Goldberg says it's "still fresh today." This is true, but not in the way Goldberg thinks. Reagan made a series of falsifiable claims about Medicare that, listened to forty years later, sound utterly preposterous. I transcribed a few choice bits. Here's Reagan describing what will happen if Medicare is enacted:

First you [the governement] decide that the doctor can have so many patients. ... So a doctor decides he wants to practice in one town, and the government has to say to him, "You can't live in that town, they already have enough doctors, you have to go live somewhere else. And from here it's only a short step to dictating where he will go. Pretty soon your son won't decide when he's in school where he will go or what he will do for a livin [sic], but will wait for the government to tell him where he will go to work and what he will do. ...

And if you don't [stop Medicare] and I don't do it, 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.

You'd think conservatives would be embarrassed about this sort of talk. After all, can there be anybody who doesn't live in a militia compound who believes the passage of Medicare represented the death knell of that freedom in America? Does anybody think this business about the government dictating what city doctors live in has come true? Yet conservatives continue to trumpet it.

Limbaugh conservatives continue 75-year-old "socialized medicine" smear

A Media Matters for America analysis found that dating as far back as the 1930s, conservatives have attacked at least 16 different health care reform initiatives as "socialized medicine," or as a step toward that inevitable result.

Transcripts:

From the August 14 edition of Premiere Radio Networks' The Rush Limbaugh Show:

LIMBAUGH: Ronald Reagan in 1961, Operation Coffee Cup, the whole thing is 10 minutes, we don't have all 10 minutes of it, but Operation Coffee Cup campaign against socialized medicine as it was then proposed by Democrats. And here is just a portion. We have three sound bites of Reagan from a recording that was distributed by the American Medical Association.

REAGAN [audio clip]: Back in 1927 an American socialist, Norman Thomas, six times candidate for president on the Socialist Party ticket, said the American people would never vote for socialism. But he said under the name of liberalism the American people will adopt every fragment of the socialist program. One of the traditional methods of imposing statism or socialism on a people has been by way of medicine. It's very easy to disguise a medical program as a humanitarian project. Most people are a little reluctant to oppose anything that suggests medical care for people who possibly can't afford it.

LIMBAUGH: Ronald Reagan. And, by the way, Norman Thomas is the grandfather of Newsweek reporter Evan Thomas, and he was an avowed socialist. Here's the second of our three clips of Reagan.

REAGAN [audio clip]: Let's also look from the other side, at the freedom the doctor loses. A doctor would be reluctant to say this. Well, like you, I am only a patient, so I can say it in his behalf. The doctor begins to lose freedoms; it's like telling a lie, and one leads to another. First you decide that the doctor can have so many patients. They are equally divided among the various doctors by the government. But then the doctors aren't equally divided geographically, so a doctor decides he wants to practice in one town, and the government has to say to him you can't live in that town, they already have enough doctors. You have to go some place else. And from here it is only a short step to dictating where he will go. This is a freedom that I wonder whether any of us have the right to take from any human being.

LIMBAUGH: And that provision was part and parcel of HillaryCare, assigning doctors regionally, assigning them geographically. It went so far in Hillary's health care bill as to assign what specialty they would learn. Doctors were going to be totally controlled. And it would be no different in this health care bill if Obama and Reid and Pelosi and Waxman get what they want. Here's the next one.

REAGAN [audio clip]: You and I can do a great deal. We can write to our congressmen, to our senators. We can say right now that we want no further encroachment on these individual liberties and freedoms, and at the moment, the key issue is we do not want socialized medicine. Write those letters now; call your friends and tell them to write them. If you don't, this program, I promise you, will pass just as surely as the sun will come up tomorrow, and behind it will come other federal programs that will invade every area of freedom as we have known it in this country until one day, as Norman Thomas said, we will awake to find that we have socialism. And if you don't do this and if I don't do it, 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.

LIMBAUGH: I tell you, I get chills up my back. I feel like I'm listening to my dad. My dad said the same thing to me: "You boys are going to be slaves." Ronald Reagan and my dad, they grew up in the -- I mean, the thick of the Cold War. They knew who communists were, socialists, and they know what their intent was. And they were scared to death for my brother and me over what would happen if they weren't defeated. Here's Ronald Reagan in 1961 warning of the dangers of socialized medicine. That's how far back the left has been trying to get it. And he's right. It's a parallel, in a way, to global warming. The environmentalist wackos have made great inroads, because who wants a dirty planet, who wants to destroy the planet? Who can possibly oppose people who say they're trying to save animals and the planet? The same token, who can oppose a plan that's going to get health care for everybody?

Now, so far they've been beaten back; for 50 years they have been beaten back. But they never stop. The lesson here is they never stop, and there are plenty of Norman Thomases around today. They don't call themselves socialists. They don't even call themselves liberals. They call themselves progressives now. But when Norman Thomas said, "The American people would never vote for socialism, but under the name of liberalism the American people will adopt every fragment of the socialist program," that's no different than Rahm Emanuel saying, "We have to take advantage of this crisis." It's no different than Obama lying through his teeth about what the health care plan contains. It's what the left always does, folks. It's what they always have to do. They can't be open. You would reject everything they say they want to do if they were open and honest about it. So the battle never ends. Well, battles end. The war will never end. Remember the history of the world is communism, socialism, totalitarianism, statism. That's the history of the world. That's the history of mankind.

The United States of America is the exception. And that is part and parcel how you define American exceptionalism, founded on liberty and freedom and the knowledge that those traits, the liberty, freedom, all come from our creator. And there are people who for their own aggrandizement and power want to snuff that liberty out. That's just the way it is. And they've always been here in America, too. But they've never gotten as close to realizing their dream as they are now. They own the White House. They own the House of Representatives. They own the Senate. They must not own all of those after the elections of 2010. But they're never going to go away. They'll come back under the guise of some other issue or name trying to advance the agenda. It's just who they are. I don't care about their motivations. I don't care to try to explain motivations. It's just who liberals and socialists are. And after they own the White House, and after they own the House of Representatives, and after they own the Senate, and after they own the Pentagon, and after they own everything else in government they can populate, they will then own you. And that's what Reagan was trying to warn of back in 1961.

From the August 14 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor:

INGRAHAM: What happened to the Democrats being the party of the little guys? White House press secretary Robert Gibbs keeps saying that the town halls are not representative. It's just all a lot of chatter. And team Obama says that the people are just misinformed. The left has spent a lot of time, effort, and money trying to discredit the town hallers as the yahoo racist fringe.

Well, this strategy has clearly backfired. Look, Democrats have been caught flat-footed, it's obvious, by this popular uprising. But all those Harvard grads at the White House should have known better. Powerful arguments against socialized medicine have been around not for months, but for decades. Ronald Reagan was saying this back in 1961.

REAGAN [audio clip]: One of the traditional methods of imposing statism or socialism on a people has been by way of medicine. It is very easy to disguise a medical program as a humanitarian project. Most people are a little reluctant to oppose anything that suggests medical care for people who possibly can't afford it.

INGRAHAM: I have to believe that Ronald Reagan is smiling down on these town hall forums, where law-abiding and hard-working Americans are standing up for freedom.

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