It was 12 years ago next week when Art Laffer, a Republican economist with an unfortunate track record, came up with an argument he thought might be effective against the Affordable Care Act, which was still taking shape at the time.
“If you like the Post Office and the Department of Motor Vehicles and you think they’re run well,” Laffer said, “just wait till you see Medicare, Medicaid and health care done by the government.”
It was a foolish comment for all sorts of reasons, not the least of which was the fact that Medicare and Medicaid were, and remain, large government programs.
But for many on the right, this has long been a point of confusion. During the ACA debate, then-Rep. Robert Inglis (R-S.C.) was confronted by a voter at a townhall event who told the South Carolina Republican to “keep your government hands off my Medicare.” Soon after, then-President Barack Obama shared a letter he received from a voter who wrote, “I don’t want government-run health care, I don’t want socialized medicine, and don’t touch my Medicare.”
All of this came to mind today reading a similarly confusing tweet from House Republican Conference Chair Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.):
“Today’s Anniversary of Medicare [and] Medicaid reminds us to reflect on the critical role these programs have played to protect the healthcare of millions of families. To safeguard our future, we must reject Socialist healthcare schemes.”
For anyone who has even a basic familiarity with Medicare and Medicaid, the Republican’s missive was head-spinning. Indeed, when Medicare and Medicaid were being created, it was Stefanik’s ideological forebearers who warned Americans that these programs were socialist health care schemes.
And yet, generations latter, as far as Elise Stefanik is concerned, it makes sense to celebrate socialized health care programs while simultaneously denouncing socialized health care programs.
For what it’s worth, I suspect the congresswoman knows how foolish her statement is. Stefanik is a Harvard grad, after all, who worked at the White House Domestic Policy Council. She must have some rudimentary understanding of what programs like Medicare are and what words like “socialist” actually mean.
And yet, Stefanik apparently feels compelled to push claims like these anyway, presumably because she believes the Republican base is easily fooled by nonsense, and because she expects mind-numbing rhetoric like this to serve her well politically.