Richard Nixon, Socialist

I exhumed an online article by McClatchy writer Kevin G. Hall, from November 2007, and composed in the context of Hilary Clinton’s presidential campaign. Here are the opening paragraphs of the article (which easily may be found online):

WASHINGTON — Even before Democratic presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton unveiled her new health-care plan, Republicans attacked it as socialized medicine. They neglected to mention, however, that her plan bears a striking resemblance to changes that were proposed in 1974 — by the late President Richard M. Nixon.

“It was an extremely extensive plan, as I remember, that would have given universal coverage” for health care, recalled Rudolph Penner, a former director of the Congressional Budget Office and economic official in the Ford administration.

Nixon introduced his Comprehensive Health Insurance Act on Feb. 6, 1974, days after he used what would be his final State of the Union address to call for universal access to health insurance.

“I shall propose a sweeping new program that will assure comprehensive health-insurance protection to millions of Americans who cannot now obtain it or afford it, with vastly improved protection against catastrophic illnesses,” he told America.

Nixon said his plan would build on existing employer-sponsored insurance plans and would provide government subsidies to the self-employed and small businesses to ensure universal access to health insurance. He said it wouldn’t create a new federal bureaucracy.

* * *

Ah, there’s much to bemuse one here. We might start with the last sentence quoted, in which Nixon is paraphrased as saying universal access to health insurance wouldn’t create a new federal bureaucracy.  The adjective “new” is quite tricky,  as it were.  “Yes, Mr. President, I imagine one could just expand the current federal bureaucracy to handle the new responsibilities.”

Second, we–or President Obama–might be tempted, briefly, to deploy the logical fallacy post hoc ergo propter hoc–“after which, . . . because of which.”  That is, not long after proposing the new health-care plan, Nixon underwent an impeachment-process and resigned. Hmmm.

Third, we might use Nixon’s proposal as a kind of landmark–a post stuck into the ground where the GOP right or center-right used to exist.  Even during the grim days of the Watergate scandal, Nixon proposed what probably seemed to most Republicans as a sensible plan, one that, in the long run, would benefit the economy in general and small businesses in particular.  The GOP right, led by–by whom?–seems to have moved considerably further right, at least on the issue of health-care.  Perhaps the GOP right is a victim of its rhetoric; that rhetoric seems to be based on the tenet that any government program not related to security and the military must be, by definition, “socialistic” or otherwise “bad.”

Probably “rhetoric” is not the apt term here to describe what seems to be an increasingly narrow range of ideological positions open to members of the GOP.  By contrast, members of the other big party seem to have a lot more ideological elbow-room: at least from an amateur observer’s point of view. No doubt political scientists have a different and more accurate assessment.

In any event, the vast majority of Republican members of Congress express an allergic reaction even to the vaguely defined “co-ops,” or at least that’s the strategic or tactical position they have taken now.  The de facto leaders of the party–Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh, Bill O’Reilly, Karl Rove, and Newt Gingrich–seem either to believe what they believe (getting insurance for the @ 46 million uninsured, etc., is a bad idea) or believe that, politically, opposition and much noise about socialism constitute the correct political move.

Beck, Limbaugh, O’Reilly, (Mark) Levin, Rove, Cheney, and Gingrich as de facto leaders of the GOP: What would Eisenhower think?


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