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President Lyndon B. Johnson signing the Medicare Bill at the Harry S. Truman Library in Independence, Missouri. Former President Harry S. Truman is seated at the table with President Johnson. The following are in the background (from left to right): Senator Edward V. Long, an unidentified man, Lady Bird Johnson, Senator Mike Mansfield, Vice President Hubert Humphrey, and Bess Truman.
LBJ signs Medicare into law, with Harry S. Truman watching.
On July 30, 1965, President Lyndon Baines Johnson signed the Social Security Amendments establishing Medicare and Medicaid. The guest of honor at the signing ceremony was former President Harry S. Truman, who fought for most of his political career for this goal.

When Medicare remains on the chopping block, offered up by a Democratic president in hopes of gaining some small concession from Republicans on taxes, a reminder from President Johnson about just how Medicare came to be seems in order. From his speech that day:

In 1935 when the man that both of us loved so much, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, signed the Social Security Act, he said it was, and I quote him, "a cornerstone in a structure which is being built but it is by no means complete."

Well, perhaps no single act in the entire administration of the beloved Franklin D. Roosevelt really did more to win him the illustrious place in history that he has as did the laying of that cornerstone. And I am so happy that his oldest son Jimmy could be here to share with us the joy that is ours today. And those who share this day will also be remembered for making the most important addition to that structure, and you are making it in this bill, the most important addition that has been made in three decades.

History shapes men, but it is a necessary faith of leadership that men can help shape history. There are many who led us to this historic day. [...]

[T]here is also John Fitzgerald Kennedy, who fought in the Senate and took his case to the people, and never yielded in pursuit, but was not spared to see the final concourse of the forces that he had helped to loose.

But it all started really with the man from Independence. And so, as it is fitting that we should, we have come back here to his home to complete what he began.

President Harry Truman, as any President must, made many decisions of great moment; although he always made them frankly and with a courage and a clarity that few men have ever shared. The immense and the intricate questions of freedom and survival were caught up many times in the web of Harry Truman's judgment. And this is in the tradition of leadership.

But there is another tradition that we share today. It calls upon us never to be indifferent toward despair. It commands us never to turn away from helplessness. It directs us never to ignore or to spurn those who suffer untended in a land that is bursting with abundance.

Over nearly 40 years, four Democratic presidents and countless members of Congress worked ceaselessly for the goal expressed by LBJ the day he signed Medicare into law, and presented President Truman with the first Medicare card issued, that "men and women in pain who will now find ease," that "those, alone in suffering who will now hear the sound of some approaching footsteps coming to help," that "those fearing the terrible darkness of despairing poverty—despite their long years of labor and expectation—who will now look up to see the light of hope and realization."

That's a legacy that cannot be squandered. It's a legacy that shouldn't be minimized by turning it into nothing more than a bargaining chip tossed out in the hopes of reaching a mean agreement with a bunch of hostage-takers for nothing more than some tax code adjustments. There are few things that should be sacrosanct in American politics. For the Democratic party, the achievements of Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid—measures that have saved generations of Americans from lives of pain and poverty—must be.

Tell President Obama: Medicare works. Stop pursuing a grand bargain that will do little more than hurt seniors and undercut the most successful health care program in America.

Originally posted to Joan McCarter on Tue Jul 30, 2013 at 09:18 AM PDT.

Also republished by Daily Kos.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (27+ / 0-)

    "The NSA’s capability at any time could be turned around on the American people, and no American would have any privacy left, such is the capability to monitor everything. [...] There would be no place to hide."--Frank Church

    by Joan McCarter on Tue Jul 30, 2013 at 09:18:42 AM PDT

  •  I'm completely confused by this... (0+ / 0-)

    because my parents told me, growing up, that my birthday was the same day medicare went into effect.  They even called me "medicara" as a joke for the first week I was alive.  But today's not my birthday.  This diary (and it's right, I checked!) says it went into effect 7/30/65, but my birthday is 11 months later, 7/1/66.  That's a pretty big gap for my parents to have gotten wrong!  Did it roll out in phases?  I have to go cal my parents now and figure this out!

    "What the cynics fail to understand is that the ground has shifted beneath them"

    by ItsJessMe on Tue Jul 30, 2013 at 10:05:12 AM PDT

  •  Grand Bargain = Sell Out (8+ / 0-)

    Worse given that the freaks he wants to sell us out to hate him, hate us and are just fucking bastards that will take a mile for every inch given.


  •  That last paragraph is so right-on. (7+ / 0-)

    If only we had leaders that shared those convictions.

  •  Don't we have to call it "LyndodCare" now? (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    tardis10, micsimov, a gilas girl

    Mr. Universe is a known degenerate Robotophile, and his sources include former Browncoat Traitors. What is their agenda in leaking top secret information about the Reavers and endangering us all?

    by JesseCW on Tue Jul 30, 2013 at 10:11:46 AM PDT

  •  Hey, I'm 18 months older than Medicare (0+ / 0-)

    I sure hope it outlives me a good long time.

    A corporation is an artificial being, invisible, intangible, and existing only in contemplation of law. --John Marshall

    by DoLooper on Tue Jul 30, 2013 at 10:14:30 AM PDT

  •  Great picture (9+ / 0-)

    Fantastic to see Hubert Humphrey in the background there. Those of us schooled on the Vietnam War fiasco and the Cato biographies need reminder of just how much LBJ accomplished of the progressive agenda.  

    I'm from the Elizabeth Warren wing of the Democratic Party

    by voicemail on Tue Jul 30, 2013 at 10:14:49 AM PDT

  •  would it be accurate (0+ / 0-)

    to say republicans are not against Social Security or Medicare - they just want to privatize them to their cronies in one form or another???

    "If fighting for a more equal and equitable distribution of the wealth of this country is socialistic, I stand guilty of being a socialist." Walter Reuther

    by fugwb on Tue Jul 30, 2013 at 10:17:32 AM PDT

    •  well... (0+ / 0-)

      privatizing them would ruin them.  They are against them because they are gubm't programs.

      Words can sometimes, in moments of grace, attain the quality of deeds. --Elie Wiesel

      by a gilas girl on Tue Jul 30, 2013 at 10:51:06 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  exactly my point. (0+ / 0-)

        As long as they can get taxpayer money into the hands of big business they're happy. Take SS and Medicare out of the hands of the government and put in the hands of business, well then they reduced the size of the gov and, even better, they're able to help out their masters....

        "If fighting for a more equal and equitable distribution of the wealth of this country is socialistic, I stand guilty of being a socialist." Walter Reuther

        by fugwb on Tue Jul 30, 2013 at 02:33:39 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  Well, (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    PhilK, greenbell, Mr Robert

    I guess we'll see what the Democratic party stands for. My guess is we'll be betrayed; after all, somebody has to pay for unfunded wars and tax cuts.

  •  Signed the letter to the President (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    ActivistGuy, Simplify, Mr Robert

    and urged him not to cut our social safety net programmes in order to appease Republicans because the GOP will never be appeased until these programmes are gutted and dismantled once and for all.

    The Democrats care about you after you're born. --Ed Schultz

    by micsimov on Tue Jul 30, 2013 at 10:21:56 AM PDT

    •  Under the hegemony of capital (0+ / 0-)

      your argument against it is exactly why that course will be followed, and why pols of both parties will be evaluated by the corporate overlords on their accomplishment in that direction.  

      Secret powers: Money, loud English, and The Bomb.

      by ActivistGuy on Tue Jul 30, 2013 at 10:33:03 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Soshulisum! (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    PhilK, betelgeux

    Ronald Reagan famously said that if Medicare passed, his grandchildren would look back to the day when "you and I were free."

  •  This is contrary to the cherished fantasies (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    PhilK, radv005

    Obama was the only president to get healthcare.  

    Along those lines, he didn't get women equal pay either.  

    Tell President Obama: Medicare works. Stop pursuing a grand bargain that will do little more than hurt seniors and undercut the most successful health care program in America.
    Seriously, a "Democratic" president needs to be told this.  
  •  Almost 50 years later (0+ / 0-)

    I stilll think Lady Bird looks like Lyndon.

    Secret powers: Money, loud English, and The Bomb.

    by ActivistGuy on Tue Jul 30, 2013 at 10:30:38 AM PDT

    •  blessed... (0+ / 0-)

      Lady Bird was the last First Lady until Michelle Obama who set a good example for all Americans and who seemed to truly care about all Americans.  

      Her Beautify America program saved lives by (a) eliminating many of the distracting, sight-blocking billboards that used to line the highways, and (b) encouraging the planting of wildflowers along the routes to calm frayed nerves and, by extension, to remind drivers to take a deep breath and proceed more responsibly.  

      Also, her words and actions endorsed the programs that were the high points of the Johnson administration:  Civil Rights, Medicare and the War on Poverty.

      Mrs. Nixon (who reinforced the image of Mrs. Eisenhower as a Republican woman knowing her place, keeping silent and getting soused) and Mrs. Carter had little if any wide-spread positive impact but admittedly Betty Ford, in her short term, did focus some attention on breast cancer and addictive medications.

      Nancy Reagan's involvement with the  "just say no" campaign seemed half-hearted and calculated at most and the product of a public relations firm. She mouthed a few scripted words and posed for a few pictures and that was that.  The Bush women's support of reading took all of two minutes to dream up and again was a lot of hot air that influenced absolutely no one but let them pretend that they were doing something for the little people (and no, in this context, "little people" does not mean children).  

      Mrs. Obama -- and Dr. Biden -- have had ambitious programs, including those for veteran's benefits,  military families' rights and benefits and combating obesity, and they seem genuinely committed to their causes.  

      We were blessed by the presence of Jacqueline Kennedy, Lady Bird Johnson, Michelle Obama and Dr. Biden, each of whom made positive contributions while helping bring their spouse's better instincts to the fore.

  •  Are you being indifferent to despair? (0+ / 0-)

    It seems that you expect everyone else hurt by the sequester and other deep budget cuts to be sacrificed just so the wealthy won't have their Social Security benefits reduced with means testing and there won't be a minor reduction in the level benefits will increase over time. You make a strong argument as long as everyone closes their eyes to the fact that the lack of a budget deal is hurting millions. Is Obama supposed to make no attempt at compromise at all and let everyone else suffer? Are you indifferent to the cuts in food stamps, jobs programs, and student aid? Because the cuts to other vital programs are much deeper than a change in calculating inflation.

    •  Obama signed the sequester (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      greenbell, midwesterner

      No one forced him to do that. His actions follow in Bill Clinton's "end welfare as we know it" footsteps.

      Government and laws are the agreement we all make to secure everyone's freedom.

      by Simplify on Tue Jul 30, 2013 at 10:56:14 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  That's not relevant (0+ / 0-)

        to what we do moving forward.

        Your comparison to Clinton is a stretch. Clinton took the initiative in proposing conservative welfare reform. Obama was dealing with Republican hostage-taking and in the process got things progressives want, such as extending unemployment benefits and significant cuts to defense. At least, those were things progressives wanted until Obama made it happen. There's seems to be a collective amnesia about progressives ever caring about anything once Obama makes it happen.

    •  The Republican Party Rescue Act (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      PhilK, midwesterner

      Means testing Social Security so middle class seniors have the payroll tax they contributed diverted to the poor (and to the SIC and MIC.)  

      Means testing the "wealthy" is just another of the neolib BIG LIES.  Schumer thinks middle class is about $450K when he's saving fat cats from taxes but somehow $45K becomes "wealthy" when they want to steal your Social Security to payoff defense contractors.  

      •  Currently (0+ / 0-)

        the working poor struggling to get by are paying large payroll taxes and some of that money is being given to the retired wealthy who don't need it. There's nothing progressive about that.

        •  It isn't being GIVEN to the retired wealthy (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          They paid the payroll tax.  If you want to increase fairness raise the cap on the payroll tax.  That's what we've done in the past.  Why won't the lying liar neolibs do that?  Huh?  Think someone paid them off maybe?   What they want to do is cut benefits for middle class seniors, give a pittance of that to the poor and steal the rest.  Its the middle class that gets totally screwed by the means test, not the wealthy.  You get the wealthy with taxes and we can't have that

          All you are doing is falling for the administration's cynical bullshit.

          •  You like Obama's original plan. (0+ / 0-)

            The one specific change to Social Security Obama advocated long before Republicans started trying to force cuts was raising the cap for paying into the system. That's the only change the system really needs.

            But, you're ducking. Cry about neolibs all you want. There's still nothing progressive about taking from the working poor and giving it to the idle rich.

        •  That's turning Soc Sec into welfare (0+ / 0-)

          It has fared so well politically because it's not welfare—that was the genius of its design. It's slightly redistributive but not very much. No people who receive it should have to think they're getting extra help. Not that there's anything wrong with that either, but it's a distinct policy issue.

          I'm all for a healthy welfare system as well as for redistribution, given the unfair advantages, cheating, graft, and outright fraud that led to the current wealth imbalance. But redistribution should happen through the regular tax code and other government programs, not through the Social Security payroll tax.

          Social Security is our national pension and disability insurance plan, which every worker pays into, not welfare. Let's keep it that way. "No" to mission creep. "Yes" to Al Gore's "lockbox."

          Government and laws are the agreement we all make to secure everyone's freedom.

          by Simplify on Tue Jul 30, 2013 at 01:47:35 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  It already is welfare. (0+ / 0-)

            It's politically successful because everyone let's the middle class pretend it isn't welfare.
            There are differences in distribution based on need, rather than what someone paid into the system. Low-wage workers get a higher portion of their income in distribution than higher wage workers. So yes, there is redistribution already happening. There are also recipients who never paid into the system.
            All welfare is a kind of insurance program. We all pay taxes and welfare is there for anyone who needs it. Social Security isn't different just because it has its own extremely regressive taxing mechanism.

            Pretending Social Security isn't welfare does two things:
            1) Maintains its regressive tax structure that punishes the working poor.
            2) Makes it easier to throw other welfare recipients under the bus.

            That's a high cost just to satisfy the sensitive egos of people who don't like to think of themselves as social welfare recipients

  •  since you walk (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Mr Robert

    upright i assume you have a spine mr president so how about using it once in a while.

  •  Happy to read Obama's inspiring statements! (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Mr Robert, midwesterner

    Oh, wait.

  •  Okay, this is completely trite, (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    but I love Ladybird's dress in that photo!

    Medicare means the elderly don't have to depend upon their kids and grandkids to survive, which helps their kids and grandkids.

    As a kid and a grandkid of people who received Medicare, I know that there are and have been direct advantages in my life because my elders had their health care covered.  

    Words can sometimes, in moments of grace, attain the quality of deeds. --Elie Wiesel

    by a gilas girl on Tue Jul 30, 2013 at 10:48:59 AM PDT

  •  Medicare (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Sorry to have to say this, but LBJ should have brought about national health insurance when he had the chance.

  •  What you said! (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:


  •  Thank you Joan for sharing the eloquent words of (0+ / 0-)

    LBJ on my birthday, which is also the birthday of Medicare. Those words need to be repeated again and again in the halls of Congress by progressive congresspersons and senators.

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