The party that cried wolf

Does this sound like Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas)? Maybe Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.)? How about the Koch brothers in one of their multi-million dollar ad campaigns against the Affordable Care Act (ACA)?

"This program I promise you will pass just as surely as the sun will come up tomorrow. And behind it will come other federal programs that will invade every area of freedom as we have known it in this country, until, one day ... we will awake to find that we have socialism. ... One of these days, you and I 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."

Actually, this is from Ronald Reagan in the early 1960s as he campaigned against Medicare, now one of the nation's most influential, effective and popular programs. He argued that this was akin to socialized medicine and that doctors were going to be told where to live and how to practice.

In 1962, a Gallup poll showed that 44 percent approved of Medicare and 40 percent wanted private insurance. Shortly after Medicare was signed into law and implemented by President Johnson, the approval jumped to 61 percent and disapproval fell to 31 percent.

In the mid-60's, nearly one in three elderly Americans lived in poverty and many were one illness away from bankruptcy. Medicare changed all that and, funny, virtually no one is crying "socialism" today. Maybe one of the reasons is that the number of seniors in poverty has dropped from one-third to less than 10 percent.

But that has not stopped the Republicans from crying "wolf" over the ACA. The outpouring of venom, disregard for the facts, unrelenting and false "horror stories," and now the wholesale effort to sink the ACA reminds many of their past efforts to destroy Medicare.

Make no mistake, there is serious money and political clout behind the effort to demonize the ACA. The constant pounding has taken its toll, combined with the lack of any large political committee or administration effort to counter it. 

Even with the barrage and the disaster of the rollout, the numbers are extremely encouraging. It appears that new sign-ups will approach the 7 million goal after all, with the torrent of activity coming up to today's deadline. Over 3 million young people are covered on their parents' health care plans, 8 million uninsured are eligible for Medicaid and 100 million have received preventive care such as mammograms and flu shots at no cost.

Despite the Republicans holding 50 "show" votes in the House to gut the ACA and Republican governors in 24 states denying 5 million people Medicaid coverage for ACA, it is taking hold. 

Remember, when Medicare and Medicaid were first established in 1965, only 25 states agreed to participate in Medicaid. It took until 1982 before all 50 states signed up. 

The real question now, as with Medicare in the 60's, is when will the Republicans stop crying wolf and accept the facts about the program? And will they pay the political consequences? 

If the Republicans spend the next seven months believing that the ACA is the one and only issue for them, they do so at their peril. The worst thing that the Democrats can do is to run from the ACA; the best thing they can do is call the Republicans on their long history of crying wolf.

Because once voters see that the ACA will help the vast majority of the nearly 50 million Americans who were uninsured and will provide real change for our nation's health care system, you will see Medicare-redo.

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