Having already determined that it’s absolutely untrue that Republicans opposed the 1965 Social Security amendments that created Medicare and Medicaid, I decided to dig a little deeper into the history books and find out what happened in 1935 when Congress enacted Social Security.
Well, what do you know: Most Republicans also supported the 1935 Social Security Act. 81 of 102 Republican Representatives and 16 of 25 Senators voted in favor. While this happened after the mid-term elections, the Congressional swing in favor of FDR’s party wasn’t massive: Dems picked up nine seats in the 1934 election. Furthermore, the House passed the bill in April and the Senate in June. FDR signed the bill in August. That’s lightning speed by 2009 standard. So, while I appreciate Tevi Troy’s noting that 97.6 percent of votes in the Senate, which favor a motion to proceed, result in eventual passage of the relevent bill, I continue to be optimistic.
(Not that anyone’s asking, but if I had been in Congress in either 1935 or 1965, I hope that I would have had the intestinal fortitude to vote against either bill.)
Furthermore, public opinion is different today. Although polls were not as thorough in 1935, scholars conclude that people broadly favored Social Security. This August, the president of the Pew Research Center questioned whether Medicare would pass today: In January 1965, 63 percent of subjects polled favored the program, a result dramatically different than today’s polls suggest.
The uphill struggle to institute a government monopoly over access to medical services may well reflect a more skeptical view of the nanny-state than previous generations had. All is not lost — far from it.
— John R. Graham is director of Health Care Studies at the Pacific Research Institute.