I was struck by this line Palin used in the debate the yesterday:
Freedom is always just one generation away from extinction. We don’t pass it to our children in the bloodstream; we have to fight for it and protect it, and then hand it to them so that they shall do the same, or we’re going to find ourselves spending our sunset years telling our children and our children’s children about a time in America, back in the day, when men and women were free.I did not realize at the time that she was quoting Ronald Reagan (She cited him, but I must have been typing and missed it), but the line jumped out at me as uncharacteristically eloquent for her. It didn't have a "youbetcha" attached to it, which was a dead giveaway that it was pre-scripted. So I was not terribly surprised in the postgame show to hear the origin of the quote; I could easily imagine President Reagan saying that in a State of the Union address.
Except that it wasn't President Reagan who said it. It was private citizen Reagan who said it in 1961, in a jeremiad against Medicare titled "Ronald Reagan speaks out against Socialized Medicine."
Listen to it. It's quite a blast from the past. I am always fascinated by reminders that Reagan had such a long history of political activism prior to becoming President (his election is the first one I clearly remember). Also interesting is that this was an LP commissioned and distributed by the AMA. I forget how regressive an organization it was back in the day.
It's also instructive to listen to it and see how profoundly wrong he was. He decries this "compulsory insurance" program as unwise and unnecessary, predicts that it will restrict the freedom of doctors to choose where they practice and the freedom of patients to choose their doctors. He is very clear in asserting that this is the "foot in the door" of socialism and that the inevitable consequence of enacting Medicare will be the downfall of capitalism.
Of course, it didn't quite turn out that way. Medicare isn't perfect, but forty years down the road, it's fair to say that it's the most successful government program ever. (Save perhaps Social Security.) It's wildly popular, and yes, even more efficient than private insurance. I'm not going to defend Medicare carte blanche -- it has many flaws, some inherent, some reparable, and the rate of medical inflation poses problems going forward. But in the long run, it is completely clear and inarguable that it has been a huge success and America, and American medicine, are much better off for having it. When you listen to Reagan's warnings, note how similar they are to the prophecies of doom uttered by the current opponents of universal health care. The plans on the table are considerably better than Medicare -- they are market-based and are not single-payer. So listen to Reagan, and remember that the opponents of government-adminstered health insurance were wrong in 1961, and they are wrong today.