The history of the 20th Century is one victory after another for Progressives. From the creation of national parks, the busting of monopolies, rise of trade unions, and child labor laws, to the civil rights movement, women's suffrage movement, rise of the middle class and the creation of Social Security and Medicare, the 20th century represents a people moving forward and spreading the benefits of economic prosperity and freedom. Every one of these advances was opposed by Regressives. Regressives fought to maintain the status quo of the "Gilded Age". It was a time of a weak federal government, no income..corporate...or capital gains taxes, a huge gulf between the rich and poor and no middle class to speak of. They opposed every step forward and protected institutions like Jim Crow, nativism and the concentration or wealth in as few hands as possible. (this is the age Newt Gingrich salivates over when he talks about new federalism and states rights)
in 1940, Franklin Roosevelt tried to ramp up production of war materials for a country unprepared for the war which was to come. Regressive corporate leaders, who opposed Roosevelt's entire New Deal, refused to cooperate until they were paid off with legislation granting them huge profits and a tax structure which allowed them to write off their expenses. Their refusal to cooperate almost gave Hitler his victory in Europe. Had the Soviet Union and England been unable to hold on in 1940, WWII could have resulted in an Axis victory. Regressives cared more about their interests then the country as a whole and the pattern has not changed in over 50 years.
It should be no surprise the war between Regressives and Progressives is still going on. Unfortunately, in the 21st century, they are winning more than they are losing. Labor is severely weakened. The environment under attack as regressives in the House attempt to weaken the Clean Water and Clean Air Acts. A Regressive Supreme Court majority overturned years of precedent giving corporations and the rich the ability to contribute as much as they wish to political campaigns drowning out the voices of opposition. Legislation to weaken collective bargaining, cut taxes for the rich, weaken child labor laws, undermine the minimum wage, reduce government oversight and reverse the gains of Social Security and Medicare has been introduced in Congress and state houses across the land. The gap between the rich and poor is growing, the middle class shrinking, and at a time when corporations are paying no taxes on billions of dollars in profit and moving more jobs overseas, they are lobbying to lower corporate taxes even further.
The latest assault comes in the form of a budget proposed by Rep. Paul Ryan. In it, Medicare as we know it would be eliminated by 2022. In its place would be a block grant program giving subsidies to Americans over 65 to purchase private health insurance. There would be no guarantee the subsidy would be enough to cover costs, no guarantee it would be tied to inflation, no guarantee insurance companies wouldnt raise their rates to eat up the subsidy. It would guarantee health care for the elderly would once again be a scary and iffy proposition. It would be a huge step backwards and as a nation we would regress a step closer to that "Gilded Age" which is the holy grail of everyone from Ryan to Gingrich to Boehner.
The latest Wall Street Journal poll found 54% of Americans willing to tinker with Medicare, but not much more than tinkering. Over 65% of older Americans say leave it alone. Medicare is a success story. Its overhead is the lowest of any health care provider. Its costs rise at a slower rate then health care costs in general. The satisfaction level of Americans on Medicare is over 70%. If Medicare were allowed to use its buying power appropriately, it would force drug companies to reduce the prices they charge for prescription drugs saving billions of dollars. (Congress specifically prohibited Medicare from doing this exact practice when it passed their prescription drug program). Means testing Medicare so those in the highest income brackets pay more, would save billions more. Computerized records save billions, and having other insurance pay first, backed up by Medicare, would save even more.
In 1965, when Lyndon Johnson proposed Medicare, over half the population over 65 lived under the poverty line. They had to choose between medical care and eating or paying rent. Since then the number of people over 65 living below the poverty line has dropped significantly. They dont have to choose between eating and medical care. Their quality of life has been enhanced. Since 1965, Regressives have sought to reverse those gains. In 1996, then Presidential candidate Bob Dole bragged about voting against Medicare and promised to eliminate it if elected. In 2011, Rep. Ryan has picked up the gauntlet and is continuing the war.
Are you a progressive or regressive? It cuts across party lines and is not exclusive to Democrats, Republicans or Independents. Is this nation better off progressing forward or retrenching back to another era? Are we a more secure nation with a large middle class, healthy seniors, universal education and the jobs which come with it, or are we better off with 1% of Americans controlling over 40% of all wealth...the middle class shrinking...educational opportunities going only to those who can afford them...dirtier air and water...corporations making billions and paying no taxes, banks too big to fail and the haves becoming the have mores?
The war on Medicare and Social Security is really a war against progress. If the 20th century was America's century, it's because the promise and benefits of America were spread to as many people as possible despite the kicking and screaming of regressives who fought tooth and nail to hold on to their money, power and privilege. Whose side are you on? As you analyze the upcoming election season, simply ask who represents progress and who doesn't. It will keep the battle lines clear.