An Elder News Extra: 16 September 2009

Deja Vu: Past Political Debate

category_bug_politics.gif On radio, television, in books, film documentaries and the internet, Danny Schechter has been fighting the good, progressive fight since his college days. We first met in 1969 or 1970, when he hosted a radio show in Boston and I produced my then-husband's radio show in New York. Later, we both worked as producers at 20/20 on ABC-TV. (Danny's Wikipedia entry is here)

For several years, in connection with Globalvision, of which is he is co-founder, Danny has been writing the News Dissector blog – a never-miss stop on my morning news rounds. Yesterday, he published a remarkable story about the opposition surrounding the debate about the creation of the income tax, Social Security, the TVA and Medicare. The arguments being made against today's health care reform are astonishingly similar.

The fair use doctrine of the U.S. copyright law allows only limited reproduction of copyrighted material so I shouldn't publish Danny's blog post in its entirety. But I'm going to because it is so enlightening and hope that Danny won't mind. Perhaps some of you, in response, will visit Danny's blog, subscribe to it and maybe buy a book. You won't be wasting your time or money.

[From Danny Schechter the New Dissector – 14 September 2009]

My brother Bill, a historian and history teacher researched OPPOSITION TO HEALTH CARE REFORM IN (AMERICAN) HISTORICAL PERSPECTIVE:

“As to the general policy of an income tax, I am utterly opposed to it. I believe with Gladstone that it tends to make a nation of liars. I believe it is the most easily concealed of any tax that can be laid, the most difficult of enforcement, and the hardest to collect; that it is, in a word, a tax upon the income of honest men and an exemption, to a greater or lesser extent, of the income of rascals; and so I am opposed to any income tax in time of peace…I hope that if the Constitution is amended in this way the time will not come when the American people will ever want to enact an income tax except in time of war.”

- Republican Congressman Sereno E. Payne of New York, 1912

Built government dams that generated “public power: to help electrify rural America and provide a “yardstick” for fair energy prices.

“[We] are willing to be put out of business if it can be done in a plain straightforward business like manner, but we do object to our Government putting us out of business.”

- John D. Battle, Executive Secretary of the National Coal Association

“A cruel hoax [and part of an] unjust, unworkable, stupidly drafted, and wastefully-financed” program.

- Alf Landon, Republican presidential nominee , 1936

Report of House Way & Means Republican members on proposed Social Security Bill, 1935 (Excerpts)
• The Federal Government has no power to impose this system upon private industry;

• We also oppose these two titles because they would not in any way contribute to the relief of present economic conditions, and might in fact retard economic recovery;

• The original bill contained a title providing for voluntary annuities;

• This was another attempt to place the Government in competition with private business.

• These titles impose a crushing burden upon industry and upon labor. They establish a bureaucracy in the field of insurance in competition with private business;

• They destroy old age retirement systems set up by private industries, which in most instances provide more liberal benefits than are contemplated under title II.

4. MEDICARE (1965)
The AMA placed advertisements in major newspapers and funded radio and television spots, all deploying the usual red-brush of “socialism,” and even the specter of jack-booted federal bureaucrats violating “the privacy of the examination room.”

From the narration from an anti-Medicare AMA recording:
“Now this is the choice we’re faced with: on the one hand, we can help those who need help while preserving the right of the self-reliant to finance their own care. Or we can legislate a compulsory national health scheme for the aged, regardless of whether they need it or not...Americans are being asked to choose between a system of medicine practiced in freedom and a system of socialized medicine for the elderly which will be expanded into socialized medicine for every man, woman, and child in the United States.”

The voice of Ronald Reagan: “Write those letters now. Call your friends, and tell them to write them. If you don’t, this program I promise you will pass just as surely as the sun will come up tomorrow. And behind it will come other federal programs that will invade every area of freedom as we have known it in this country, until, one day...we will awake to find that we have socialism. And if you don’t do this, and if 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.”


As you know, Social Security and Medicare are the two most popular public programs ever created by the federal government. I will not repeat all the reasons we have discussed here about why the public option is crucial. But now, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who strongly supported it until this past weekend, and Senate leader Harry Reid have backed off support and Maine Senator Olympia Snowe, a member of the “gang of six,” on one of the Sunday political talk fests, called for no public option at all.

A majority of Americans (although not a majority of elders) support a public option. Without it, a health reform bill will continue and perpetuate corporate domination of health care. There is no reason for any member of Congress not to support a public option other than the millions of dollars the health industry has poured into their election campaigns.

Many of us have been regularly writing our Congressional representatives. Please don't stop and it is now critical to include Pelosi, Reid and Snowe. Here is how to contact them:

Nancy Pelosi
Email form
Phone 202.225.0100

Harry Reid
Email form
Phone 202.224.3542

Olympia Snowe
Email form
Phone 202.224.5344

You will also find postal addresses at the above links.

At The Elder Storytelling Place today: Judy Vaughn – Tabu


This puts some excellent historical perspective on the sad truth that conservatives almost always view the status quo as the nearest thing to perfection that can be attained.

Such thinking allows the fortunate to take credit for their own favored positions and blame the desperate for their difficulties.

One American in six has no insurance? It's a pity, conservatives say, but nothing can be done that won't make things worse. Hang on to what you have.

The environment is in crisis? Change will mean financial ruin. Move to a cleaner place.

Public education is a mess? It's their own fault. Send your kids to private school.

And on and on and on.

Excellent points. It did not occur to me to write Pelosi, Reid and Snowe. They need to keep hearing that elders support this. I will e-mail them today and continue to do so until the final bill passes.

Of course the Republicans have always been against any progressive measure and will continue to be so due to their ideology that less government is better. I don't care how many facts you throw in their face, they stubbornly cling to their mantra.

Thanks for the historical perspective. Altho' it doesn't surprise me, I feel better seeing things in this context. I remember the outrage among physicians(where I worked) when medicare was proposed & again when it passed. It would appear that the legislators we've elected need a history lesson or two! Thanks again Ronni. Dee

Many thanks for pointing us to Danny's post, and all of its historical perspective. I'm passing it along to one of my favorite podcasts who specializes in the same. Its title: "My History Can Beat Up Your Politics".

Unfortunately, the conservative right wingers are much more organized today and more vicious in their attacks.

I sent emails to all those listed. I had also sent email to John McCain, Baucus, and some others.

Verrry interesting! Thanks for this piece. Really puts a significant historic perspective on this current milieu. Would that more attention was paid to history today maybe that would help resolve some issues, but seems not many care about history any more.

25% of the residents in the state of Oregon are living & dying without "health insurance"

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