The GOP’s 40-Year Effort to “Pull the Plug” on Medicare

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During the health care fight this summer, the GOP has been warning seniors, in ominous tones, of the danger that Democrats might cut Medicare–conveniently forgetting that this has been the Republican party’s official position for more than a generation.

Thankfully, their words have been immortalized.

The below clip comes from a 1961 American Medical Association recording of then-actor Ronald Reagan warning that “one of the traditional methods of imposing statism or socialism on a people has been by way of medicine.”

Four years later, Congress would enact Medicare. At the time a Congressman named Bob Dole would vote against it. Thirty years later, as Senate Majority Leader, he bragged “I was there, fighting the fight, voting against Medicare . . . because we knew it wouldn’t work.”

That same year the Republicans, led by House Speaker Newt Gingrich, would shut down the government when President Bill Clinton refused to sign a Balanced Budget Bill that called for cuts to Medicare.

Then in 2006, rising Republican star Michael Steele would advocate cutting Medicare:

In 2007, Gingrich would double down:

In 2008, Republican presidential candidate John McCain campaigned on a platform of cutting $1.3 trillion from Medicare and Medicaid over 10 years.

Last month, leading Republican Roy Blunt said “government should have never have gotten in the health care business”:

Yesterday, though, RNC chairman Michael Steele rose to defend America’s flagship single-payer system from any cuts–without a trace of irony–insisting “we need to protect Medicare and not cut it in the name of ‘health-insurance reform.”

But perhaps Steele and other Republicans are beginning to realize how out of step his defense was with over 40 years of Republican dogma. Because today he said “this single-payer program known as Medicare is a very good example of what we should not have happen with all of our health care.”

Good to know.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Brian Beutler is TPM’s senior congressional reporter. Since 2009, he’s led coverage of health care reform, Wall Street reform, taxes, the GOP budget, the government shutdown fight and the debt limit fight. He can be reached at brian@talkingpointsmemo.com

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