As a critical part of the "Great Society" in 1965, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed into law the bill that established Medicare, a single-payer medical plan for Americans 65 and older. It was designed to bring much-needed medical services to our older citizens who, with Medicare, are now living longer, and not just longer but healthier and more vibrant lives.
Americans love Medicare. Democrats love Medicare. Rank-and-file Republicans are split evenly between loving and hating it. Even tea party members love Medicare, carrying signs reading, "Keep your socialist hands off my Medicare."
Why wouldn't we love it? At age 65, people can stop worrying about being wiped out financially by medical expenses.
While the rest of the country loves Medicare, however, the Republican leadership hates it, and has ever since it was passed. President Ronald Reagan and the corporate interests that promoted him hated Medicare, warning that it would be the end of our American freedom. Then there was Bob Dole, who declared while campaigning for president that he knew it just wouldn't work. George H. W. Bush called it socialism, hoping that would be enough to change voters' minds.
But they were all wrong.
Bush learned that while Americans dislike socialism in the abstract, when it comes to Medicare and the peace of mind it brings, we really don't care what you call it. Medicare is the thing that provides a retirement foundation, and we are not of a mind to allow cracks in that foundation.
Since the attacks from those who have hated Medicare have fallen flat for four decades, opponents have come up with a new tactic. They really love Medicare, they say, but we just can't afford the current system, so their new proposals are meant to save it.
The population is aging, and medical costs are high. Adjustments to Medicare as a public program may be necessary, but these folks are not interested in frugality or honest negotiations. They are, after all, the same people who have taken a "no new taxes" pledge that protects those who don't need Medicare anyway.
They still just want to kill Medicare. It's what they have always wanted.
They will learn, as have all those in the past, that most voters who are not already on Medicare have relatives or friends or parents who are, and quite likely, when they think about those people and about their own futures, everything looks better with Medicare than without it.