“Let’s talk about socialism over a cup of coffee!”
I’m not a huge history buff but I ought to be. It’s good for the soul to look back and realize that today’s headlines will be tomorrow’s footnotes. If that much.
I decided to follow a tip someone gave me about Operation Coffee Cup, a group sponsored by the American Medical Association to fight the creation of the Medicare system during the presidency of Harry S. Truman. Sure enough, there was such a thing. Some of the folks who now hate socialized medicine but are clinging to their Medicare coverage for dear life ought to consider that the two used to be considered one and the same by those who fought Truman on this. The more I researched this, the more I wanted to read. Yes folks, it’s all there in black and white. We are repeating ourselves.
From Roger Lowenstein in “A Question of Numbers” for the New York Times:
“The term [‘socialized medicine’] was popularized by a public relations firm working for the American Medical Association in 1947 to disparage President Truman’s proposal for a national health care system. It was a label, at the dawn of the cold war, meant to suggest that anybody advocating universal access to health care must be a communist. And the phrase has retained its political power for six decades.”
“The AMA conducted a nationwide campaign called Operation Coffee Cup during the late 1950s and early 1960s in opposition to the Democrats’ plans to extend Social Security to include health insurance for the elderly, later known as Medicare. As part of the plan, doctors’ wives would organize coffee meetings in an attempt to convince acquaintances to write letters to Congress opposing the program. In 1961, Ronald Reagan recorded a disc entitled Ronald Reagan Speaks Out Against Socialized Medicine exhorting its audience to abhor the “dangers” which socialized medicine could bring. The recording was widely played at Operation Coffee Cup meetings.”
Yes, in a big jolt of deja vu, I saw that there used to be coffee cup meetings and political cartoons and newspaper columns about how the creation of a Medicare system would spell doom for the American way of life. Funny, but the AMA later did a reversal on its opposition to Medicare. This new system allowed folks to go see their doctors in rates that were unheard of before the system was created. Docs were getting paid and Americans were getting more health care, and who could possibly remember what the fuss was all about?
I believe that years from now, perhaps decades, the history of “socialized medicine” fears will see another paragraph added: The Tea Party opposition to health insurance reform will be in that paragraph and our offspring will read about it all and chuckle. President Obama, you are in good company. President Truman and President Frankin D. Roosevelt also had to defend themselves against charges of socialism. (Yes, the creation of the VA system to respond to the unique needs of U.S troops also was once considered a communist plot by those who opposed it.)
Personally, I’m a member of the red wine opposition party. I’m opposed to selfishness and greed when my fellow Americans’ health is at stake and I’ll drink to that any chance I get. My doctor says it’s good for my heart.
I need the wine as I continue to do my history reading: From the Archives of Slate Magazine, in a 2007 article entitled “Who’s Afraid of Socialized Medicine,” there is this prophetic paragraph:
“To some, the prospect that socialized medicine would still frighten anyone is absurd. Fears that “creeping socialism” might insidiously erode American freedoms are a relic of a distant age, like worries about fluoride in the water. Even so, the socialized medicine meme may have transcended the fevered ideological climate that spawned it. The words retain a talismanic power—a power that will soon be tested again.”