Okay, I love Medicare and Social Security. They are life-saving programs. I go to the doctor and Medicare and my secondary insurance, The Empire Plan, both pay. I believe that this Lyndon Johnson program is among the top testimonials to a great president who was brought down by the huge mistake of a war in Vietnam; now we have a different president and a different cast of characters (and I do mean characters) in the House and Senate.
Of course, all of this has a lot to do with what happens in New York state and in Massachusetts, where I live. It is rumored that the great Lucille Ball once told a junior executive who allegedly advised her to add more intellectual content to her "I Love Lucy" show, "Don't fool with success." (She might not have said fool). It really doesn't matter if she said it or not; it's a great point. The Medicare program is truly one of the great successes of all times: so successful, in fact, that many people who believe in a universal, government sponsored health care program think it should be extended to everyone, cradle to the grave. Naturally, the Republicans hate it. They call it names and have railed against it for years. No matter that the United States is one of the few industrialized countries in the world that doesn't offer health care to all its citizens. I don't have to tell you that Obama's Affordable Care program is also on the radical Republican chopping block.
Now everything seems to have changed. The Republicans in the House of Representatives have favored killing the Medicare and Medicaid programs as we know them. Medicaid, designed as a safety net for the poor and elderly, is an easy target. They believe that the poor don't vote in large enough numbers to make a difference so they stigmatize those who have the least in life. It's terrible that they feel this way, especially for those who call themselves religious. But, as it has been said by some of our more despicable politicians, "It is what it is." We know that they will try to change the program and if they are successful, will alter the finances of many of our American states with a social conscience, especially the big and progressive states that voted against Donald Trump.
But it is with Medicare, a program established to take care of seniors over 65, where the Republicans are really playing with fire. People have so much allegiance to the program that the nasty Republicans in the House have to watch their step. Instead of just killing the program, they say that they are for either changing it or improving it. Are you kidding? We all know what they are up to. They hate what they call "entitlement" programs. They try to suggest that they are too expensive. They say there are better ways of doing things but we all know that their intention is to kill it.
It doesn't stop with Medicare, which means so much for so many of us. The Republican malevolence extends to Social Security, the signature piece of Franklin Delano Roosevelt's social legislation. When it was passed, people over 65 were hard to find, so many were dying. Now, people are living longer and the Republicans in the House are saying that the program will go broke in years coming up. That's a false argument — if the program needs more money, that's what our tax dollars should be used for. Not only that, the program would be solvent if the government hadn't been raiding the Social Security Trust fund for all these years.
Many of the people who have been the beneficiaries of these great programs voted Republican, thinking that their country has left them behind, but Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security are the foundations of a fairer system than what right-wing critics would leave us with. So when they mess with my Medicare and Social Security, I have no choice but to do whatever I can to stop them.
Alan Chartock is a professor emeritus at the State University of New York, publisher of the Legislative Gazette and CEO of the WAMC Northeast Public Radio Network.