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Social Security ‘Communist Plot,’ Medicare Called Government Takeover

The wild misrepresentations, outrageous charges and anger being hurled against health care reform today are nearly identical to charges leveled at two of today's most popular government programs — Social Security and Medicare — when they were proposed decades ago.

In 1934, President Franklin D. Roosevelt was branded a "Communist" when he urged Congress to pass Social Security. Newspapers, radio commentators and some members of Congress denounced FDR as a dictator and Social Security as a Communist plot to destroy the Constitution. 

Even respectable organizations jumped on the bandwagon. The American Medical Association called Social Security a "compulsory socialistic tax" that would lead to totalitarianism and "government control over the lives and fortunes of people."

Medicare was denounced as a sinister government takeover of the nation's health care system. It was attacked as "brazen socialism" on the Senate floor. Ronald Reagan, in a 1961 political ad, and George H. W. Bush in his 1964 campaign for the U.S. Senate, also condemned Medicare as socialism, though they both later defended the program.

Today, Medicare is one of our nation's most successful social programs, providing health care coverage to 36 million seniors, at lower administrative and overall costs than private industry.  But the wild charges about health care reform persist: that the public insurance option will "socialize" our health care and drive insurance companies out of business, that Americans will be forced to wait in long lines to see the doctor or get emergency surgery, that the elderly and others will be required to go before "death panels" that will encourage them to forego treatment that might prolong their lives, and that it will lead to government "rationing" of health care.

You decide: Health care reform based on facts or decades-year-old scare tactics.