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Same ‘Socialism,’ Different Year

Health care opponents fought against medicare and social security programs before they were for them.

After an extensive history of denouncing and proposing budget cuts to both Social Security and Medicare, all of a sudden conservatives are portraying themselves as staunch defenders of the two government-funded healthcare programs, Medicare and Social Security. This is because, over time, the measures they opposed have become the successful social programs the public knows and uses today—programs, that until very recently, were assailed by conservatives as “socialism,” and as an attempt to “Sovietize America.”

Now conservatives like to pretend that they are the true supporters of Medicare and Social Security.  Republican Party Chairman Michael Steele even published an editorial in the Washington Post, where he used disinformation to claim that there is a need to protect Medicare from healthcare reform, despite the fact that conservatives like Steele were the ones who strongly opposed the creation of the taxpayer-funded program.  So it’s not surprising that opponents are making the exact same arguments against healthcare reform that they used when they originally tried to kill Social Security and Medicare.

Here is a brief list of quotes, documenting an all too familiar argument that government health programs somehow go hand in hand with a socialist dictatorship.

It’s Socialism!

 “One of many ‘attempts to Sovietize America.”
Silas Hardy Strawn, Former Head of the United States Chamber of Commerce talking about Social Security in 1935


 “Voters must mobilize to defeat the Democrats’ ‘crown jewel of socialism.’”
Rep. Michelle Bachmann (R-Minn.) talking about healthcare reform in 2009

The best refutation of this argument is simply the definition of socialism: “A theory or system of social organization that advocates the vesting of the ownership and control of the means of production and distribution in the community as a whole.”  With health care reform, ownership of insurance would remain in the hands of the individual; control of health care decisions would remain with the individual and that individual’s doctor.  Even with a public option, private insurance companies would continue to exist and flourish.

It’ll Europeanize America!

 “The bill's passage would ‘end the progress of a great country and bring its people to the level of the average European’”
Former Senator Daniel Hastings (R-Del.) talking about Social Security in 1935

“My friends on the other side of the aisle wanted to Europeanize the healthcare system of the United States of America.”
Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) talking about healthcare reform in 2009

The sad truth is that the United States ranks 50th in the world for life expectancy even though the United States spends the most money on healthcare.  The proposed healthcare reform currently being debated will create a unique system, unlike any other in the world, and thus, this entire argument is false. 

It Creates Unchecked Government Power!

 “With Social Security, Americans would come to feel ‘the lash of the dictator.’”
Former Rep. Daniel Reed (R-N.Y.) talking about Social Security in 1935

 “Never in the history of the world has any measure been brought here so insidiously designed as to prevent business recovery, to enslave workers.”
 – Former Rep. John Taber (R-N.Y.) talking about Social Security in 1935

“The fact that the President has indicated he is still completely wedded to a government takeover of healthcare demonstrates that despite the rhetoric, he just hasn’t gotten the message from the American people. Americans have no interest in handing personal medical decisions to the government and are sick of Washington’s unchecked growth and power.”
 – Rep. Tom Price (R-GA) talking about healthcare reform in 2009

Government regulation has been demonstrated as absolutely necessary throughout the economic recession—from the most recent Toyota recall scandal to the abusive pricing techniques used by insurance companies.  A government takeover is not what health care reform will cause. Instead, it will create good, strong rules to serve as a basis for a robust, flourishing private industry that is fair to its consumers.

We’ll Lose Our Freedom

“Argued in 1961 that if Medicare wasn't stopped, ‘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.’”
Former President Ronald Reagan, talking about Medicare in 1961>

“I'm not going to dim the lights of freedom for my kids and theirs nor for anyone's in this country.”
Rep. Boehner (R-OH), talking about healthcare reform on the floor of the Senate in 2009

>Health care reform will create an exchange where people can shop around for different insurance options and easily compare them, thereby giving consumers the freedom to choose any plan they want.

If the public listened to these baseless attacks the first time around, we wouldn’t have Social Security, or even Medicare.  Next time someone makes a similar attack, remember, they weren’t right the first time, and they aren’t right now.

Tobin Van Ostern is the Network Associate for Campus Progress.

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