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Happy birthday Medicare! post 1

a little night musing's picture

For Medicare's birthday, I'm reposting two oldies but goodies

LBJ's Ruby Slippers

Larry Dewitt has written an account of how Medicare came to be passed, with information gleaned from the LBJ tapes to give more background and insight into LBJ's thinking. I've posted this excerpt before, but on the eve of the anniversary I think it is good to reflect on it again. As we prepare to fight those who want to "reform" entitlement programs like Social Security and Medicare, we can be inspired by LBJ's statement: "We do know that it affects the economy. . . . it helps us in that respect. But that's not the basis to go to the Hill, or the justification. We've just got to say that by God you can't treat grandma this way. She's entitled to it and we promised it to her."

Probably the most revealing conversation regarding LBJ's political values and sentiments as they related to Social Security and Medicare was an extended conversation he had with his Press Secretary, Bill Moyers. In this conversation, recorded on March 10, 1965, Johnson permits himself to reflect almost philosophically on his support for a provision in a pending bill which would provide a retroactive increase in Social Security payments. Moyers is arguing that the President should support the retroactivity clause because it will provide a stimulus to the economy. Johnson supports the provision, but he makes clear to Moyers that he does not see programs like Social Security and Medicare as being about economics.

Johnson: My reason though is not because of the economy. . . . my reason would be the same as I agreed to go $400 million on health. I've never seen an anti-trust suit lie against an old-age pensioner for monopoly or concentration of power or closely-held wealth. I've never seen it apply it to the average worker. And I've never seen one have too much health benefits. So when they come in to me and say we've got to have $400 million more so we can take care of some doctors bills, I'm for it on health. I'm pretty much for it on education. I'm for it anywhere it's practicable. . . . My inclination would be . . . that it ought to retroactive as far back as you can get . . . because none of them ever get enough. That they are entitled to it. That's an obligation of ours. It's just like your mother writing you and saying she wants $20, and I'd always sent mine a $100 when she did. I never did it because I thought it was going to be good for the economy of Austin. I always did it because I thought she was entitled to it. And I think that's a much better reason and a much better cause and I think it can be defended on a hell of a better basis. . . . We do know that it affects the economy. . . . it helps us in that respect. But that's not the basis to go to the Hill, or the justification. We've just got to say that by God you can't treat grandma this way. She's entitled to it and we promised it to her."

[edited lightlly from a previous post]

Ruby slippers reference from here, indirectly.

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Submitted by hipparchia on

thanks for posting these! i enjoyed rereading the lbj essay. it's a good reminder that you should fight for what you want, not what you think you can get.

i'm glad to hear your mom's doing well. i've always remembered what paul krugman said about "rationing by hassle." we can look to get a lot more of that now that we [almost] have "universal" "coverage."

Submitted by jawbone on

LBJ, TR and Progressives of his era, FDR, Truman, all the forgotten activists who worked so hard, so very long, to achieve this incredible part of the social safety net.

Turning 65 is worth it just to get on Medicare.

So terribly sad Obama couldn't see that Medicare for All would have been the best way to go AND would have guaranteed his reelection. Repubs would have had to bribe someone to be the sacrificial goat who would run against Obama. Bad as his foreign policies are, his civil liberties, etc., his lack of jobs programs and any accountability efforts for the banksters, had he implemented, in as timely a fashion as LBJ got Medicare up and running, a Medicare for All he would be a political god.

But, had he been the type of pol who had recognized that Medicare for All was to best thing to do, he also probably would have done more for everyone in the lower economic quintiles.

Oh, well.... Not many miracles actually occur in one lifetime.

So, LBJ, a huge thank-you. You're accomplishment is saving my life, 'cause I was completely tapped out by those high individual health insurance premiuns paid to the for-profit bastards.

And, Barry, WFT is wrong with you?

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Submitted by twig on

I have been saying the same thing for years now re: Medicare for All. If O had done that, his re-election would be in the bag, especially once people got to use the system and found out that they didn't have to sell every worldly possession to get medical care. Plus, in the early months of his administration when he was still in the honeymoon phase, he could have made that happen.

But nooooooo, he had to pay off the insurance companies. So here we are, supposedly consoled by the fact that our kids can stay on our policies until they turn 26 or whatever it is. Yeah, and then what? Are there decent jobs with health benefits for any of these kids? Don't think so ... least not in my son's experience. Two degrees, great resume, personable, blah blah blah (insert more Mom describing child adjectives here) and the best he can get is an internship with no future. Thank dog he does not have student loans to pay off -- what a f*cked up system we've got.

Submitted by hipparchia on

So here we are, supposedly consoled by the fact that our kids can stay on our policies until they turn 26 or whatever it is. Yeah, and then what?

my latest plan is to get a fake id saying i'm 24 and then getting added to my parents' medicare... ;)