The senator, his followers and well-disguised financiers have spent impressive amounts of money, passion and time to keep poor and middle-class citizens from achieving the protection of health insurance for the first time.
Yet, it seems their mission — to fix fear in the hearts of the poor and middle class that one illness would be financially disastrous — will fail. They have the Senate and the president to blame, and evidence suggests they will howl in anger.
While there may be a quiet sense of satisfaction at dining-room tables of the poor that Cruz’s cruel mission has failed, their celebration has been muted by colossal confusion over how to get the right insurance and a worry that the enemies of the lower classes will be after them again.
The Tea Party may have earned the overwhelming disgust of most of us, but it is still alive and it will be re-elected from cleverly engineered districts like the old, now-reformed British “rotten burroughs” that yielded lifetime seats for the party.
It is prudent that in the households of the non-wealthy they mix their Hamburger Helper dinners with anxiety that the enemies of the working classes will assault them again. It is a Republican reflex; remember how they said the sky was falling when Medicare passed.
Ronald Reagan: “[I]f 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.”
George H.W. Bush: He described Medicare in 1964 as “socialized medicine.”
Barry Goldwater: “Having given our pensioners their medical care in kind, why not food baskets, why not public housing accommodations, why not vacation resorts, why not a ration of cigarettes for those who smoke and of beer for those who drink?”
Bob Dole: In 1996, while running for the presidency, Dole openly bragged that he was one of 12 House members who voted against creating Medicare in 1965. “I was there, fighting the fight, voting against Medicare ... because we knew it wouldn’t work in 1965.”
As Igor Volsky notes on his blog, Republicans have attempted in the decades since Medicare’s creation to kill it and force it to “wither on the vine.” While Medicare is not without its problems, it has dramatically improved access to health care, allowed seniors to live longer and healthier lives, helped greatly reduce poverty amongst the elderly, contributed to the desegregation of Southern hospitals, and has become one of the most popular government programs.
Before Medicare was passed as part of Lyndon Johnson’s “Great Society” bundle of social legislation, about one half of the nation’s elderly did not have hospital insurance, and 1-in-3 lived in poverty.
Of course, the possibility of a “debt bomb” if our fiscal affairs are neglected is something we should worry about, but that doesn’t mean we have to balance the budget on the backs of the poor and elderly.
Instead of Democratic “spenders” and Republican “cutters,” why not a bipartisan program of further economic stimulation with a portion of the increased taxes pledged to pay down the debt?
Looking back on the Affordable Care Act as we do the fury over passage of Medicare in 1965, it should make one ponder, “What lies in the heart of a party which would deny to the elderly and lower classes the basic necessities of life?”
H. Brandt Ayers is the publisher of The Star and chairman of Consolidated Publishing Co.