Following the announcement of Rep. Paul Ryan's 2012 budget proposal, I knew that I would write about it, but I wasn't sure what angle (or angles) I wanted to approach the issue. As I considered approaches, I realized that I likely would have to write more than one post, and I wanted to be more deliberative than I would have been, if I'd written something yesterday.
I think it's clear that Republicans are gunning for the most offensive (to them) aspects of President Lyndon Johnson's Great Society. Medicare and Medicaid are both components of the Great Society, having been established in 1965-66. And though it's not mentioned in Ryan's budget proposal (as far as I know), the Corporation for Public Broadcasting is another creation of the Great Society. I did not know that the same person, John Gardner, who ushered in the implementation of Medicaid and Medicare also ushered in the implementation of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting in 1967. Of course we know what many conservatives think of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. So, it shouldn't be a surprise to anyone, particularly following the madness related to the NPR scandal, that there is yet again a push to deny federal funding of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. It's these three components of Johnson's Great Society that are the big gets for the GOP. Though, I've never quite been sure of what the demise of these programs would mean for them.
In a way, I can only speculate on the loathing of these three programs by conservatives. Perhaps it's a sense of derision that the government should help people in need? I know that conservatives I know often talk about people making "poor choices," and that those who make "poor choices" should suffer the consequences. This makes Ryan's suggestion of a voucher system for the elderly an interesting one. There is always the probability that people will choose private insurance that will not be able to meet their needs, most likely because of costs. I suppose if you follow the "poor choices" argument, then it was a poor choice not to (say) go to college and law school (and finish) in order to hedge your bets on the possibility of earning a sufficient income to provide cover as you age.
Interestingly, I think that Medicaid is more reviled than Medicare. Medicaid helps poor people, and I it is clear that conservatives and Republicans really don't care what happens to the poor (well, they do like those poor people who vote for them). I never believed the line that many conservatives give about their policies actually helping the poor. Trickle down economics did not work. Chimera is a fitting descriptor for that economic theory. Governmental guarantees of some form of service related to health care, through Medicare and Medicaid, may be flawed, but those guarantees have helped the people in those programs. It seems that from the Republican and conservative perspectives the offense is that a private company didn't make money, that people are seemingly getting over on someone, and that governmental help provides a benefit to the undeserving. Clearly, programs like that must be dismantled. Apparently, they hurt America.
Any sane person knows that many government programs need to be overhauled. I would love to see programs related to historic preservation, historic sites and national parks re-tooled to ensure the most bang for the taxpayers' bucks. We all should want greater efficiency in government; it does indeed save money. But, I do not think that the virtual abolition of the American health care safety net is the best move. I also don't think that we need to pretend that Ryan's plans related to Medicare and Medicaid are not anything short of dismantling the two programs. As Ryan stated, his effort here "isn't a budget. This is a cause." He should repeat that in every interview, and then be made to explain his point in explicit terms.
I might have to break out some of my old history books and re-examine the Great Society and its various programs. I also need to re-examine the programs of the New Deal, because I know that many conservatives and Republicans would love to get rid of Social Security as well. A conservative friend of mine didn't appreciate my position that conservatives and Republicans really just want a dismantling of the governmental safety nets that were put together in the middle of last century, but I have seen nothing that suggests that my position is wrong. I think it's fair to say that their philosophy holds, now, that individuals need to be responsible for their money, and should win or lose in the marketplace on their own. I simply don't share that view. I think that we should have a safety net. I think that we should, as a civilized society (though I sometimes wonder if we are anymore), should offer help to the least among us. Not everyone who finds him/herself in a tough circumstance made "poor choices." Sometimes things happen, and we have been a society, particularly since the middle of the last century, that offers help through those tough times through our government.
I am sure that aspects of Ryan's budget proposals will actually come to pass. That's just where we are as a nation now. I suppose this will be a way for some to get their country back.