It is positive to have views from all sides expressed in opinion columns, but some anti-government Tea Party types seem to make up their own facts as they write.  These pieces simply reinforced the catchy but antagonistic Reagan saying: “The most terrifying words in the English language are: “I’m from the government and I’m here to help.”

Sowing the seeds of socialism was created by Udo Keppler for Puck Magazine

I strongly disagree with their conclusions (and Reagan’s) and here’s why. I have conservative friends who have the same misguided opinions. They dislike the welfare state and “socialism,” like Medicare for All. But these same people have family members that have been or currently are on (among many others):

  • Medicare
  • Medicaid
  • Government retirement (which may be given after only 20 years of service)
  • Social Security
  • Meals on Wheels and other Office of Aging services

Every one of these services can be considered “welfare” and “socialism.” Of course, my friends would be insulted if I told them they and their families are dependent on liberal “socialist” programs. In this, they are similar to Reagan who said: “Social Security has nothing to do with the deficit” but then cut it anyway while pushing ill-advised tax cuts which ended up increasing the national debt.

I’m a capitalist as well as a social progressive. Yes, government on all levels is generally not efficient. But, it’s very effective in many areas.

And, in some cases it has proven to be more efficient than the private sector. For example, Medicare overhead/marketing is 2% versus 12% for private insurance companies. In this instance, socialized health insurance is clearly more cost-effective than private insurance. We are simply being held back from Medicare for All by the healthcare-industrial complex (insurance companies, providers, drug companies) that like things the way they are, with tens of millions of dollars in compensation to their CEOs. They say that universal coverage is unaffordable, but studies show differently. And, Canada and other democracies with universal healthcare all have per capita health expenditures a fraction of ours… with better results.

Traditional Medicare was clearly an expansion of government when enacted 50+ years ago, but it’s one that the public supports. Before Medicare, only about half of all seniors were covered by private insurance. Polls have showed that virtually no voters want to do away with it.

Similarly, numerous polls show support for Medicare for All. According to a 10-24-18 Hill/Harris poll, even 52% of GOP voters want it, as do 70% of all voters. 

Will Medicare for All cause our insurance system to fall apart as Trump said in his 2018 USA Today editorial? Let’s remember what Reagan said about Medicare before it was enacted: a. “From [Medicare] it’s a short step to all the rest of socialism;” b. ”Medicare will usher in federal programs that will invade every area of freedom as we have known it in this country.”; and c. if Medicare is passed: “we 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.”

None of this came true, America’s still free and capitalistic. This sort of rhetoric was and still is simply a way of scaring American voters away from expansion of domestic programs designed to help the less fortunate… that wealthier people like Reagan will pay for and therefore dislike.

I’ve used Medicare as an example, but I could use many others. Social conservatives have a bad habit of talking about the ills of “socialism.” However, I don’t hear them asking that we convert our government employees in our military into private mercenaries. And, when we have used military “contractors”, the expense to the USA has been much greater.

Further, conservatives totally ignore the fact that Bill Clinton and Congress stopped the rise in deficits by balancing the budget without cutting domestic programs. This feat was accomplished by the GOP and Dems working together to: a. cut military expenditures; b. grow the economy; and c. increase taxes.

The current right-wing administration has substantially increased the deficit for the last two years, largely due to tax cuts for the wealthy and corporations; that’s anything but fiscally conservative.

The point is that those on the right need to understand that the American public supports social programs once enacted, despite the outrageous rhetoric by conservatives before these programs are passed. And, with a reasonable, bi-partisan approach to budgeting, we can still achieve our goal of a balanced budget.

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Image: Sowing the seeds of socialism was created by Udo Keppler for Puck Magazine and is in the public domain – Library of Congress.


Jack Bernard

Jack Bernard

Jack A Bernard is a retired SVP with a national healthcare corporation. He was Chair of the Jasper County, Ga Board of Commissioners and Republican Party. He was also on the Board of Health for Jasper County and is currently on the Fayette County BOH. Bernard has over 100 columns published annually, primarily in the South.