Times Change – Republicans Don’t

8 mins read

If you were thinking that it’s the current health pandemic that has brought out the worst in the Republican party then you haven’t been paying attention. When Lt. Governor Dan Patrick said “there are more important things than living” as he was discussing the reopening of Texas’ economy: did that leave you dumbfounded?  Do Florida’s Rick Scott’s comments inferring that Americans (who have been rendered jobless because of the COVID crisis) would rather sit at home collecting unemployment than go to work: did that infuriate you?  Well, this is what Republicans have been about for generations.

For decades, Republicans have been the party of commerce. Subsidies for big corporations — Good. Subsidies to children, education, healthcare — Socialism. Tax write-offs to the wealthy — Good. Tax credits to the poor — Socialism. As President Harry S. Truman once said, “Socialism is their [Republicans’] name for almost anything that helps the people.”

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During the Great Depression, President Roosevelt was deeply torn at the sight of elderly Americans, ones who had worked a lifetime and were suddenly, totally destitute. This was his inspiration to create a system to provide for a nationwide retirement system. Up until the passage of the Social Security Insurance program, retirement was only for the well-off. Financially stable Americans purchased private insurance policies during their working years to provide a monthly income for when they retired. For most Americans, that extra monthly expense was out of reach, so they worked as long as they were physically able, stashed away as much money as they could, and then hoped that their family could care for them in their old age. 

Upon proposing the Social Security Insurance program FDR said it would “help those that have reached the age of retirement … to give a feeling of security as they look towards old age.” At the same time, Republican interests were testifying in Congress that passing the Social Security Act would be “discouraging thrift, and stifling individual responsibility.” Seven decades later in 2005, those are the same arguments the GOP used to support President G.W. Bush’s proposed privatizing of the program. 

When the Social Security Act of 1935 was voted on in Congress, 98% of Democrats voted in favor of it, the other 2% felt it did not provide enough. One-third of Republicans voted against it. The GOP has a disdain for any government program that improves the lives of its citizens. Three decades later in 1964, in Ronald Reagan’s “A Time for Choosing” speech, he railed against the Social Security program calling it a welfare” program. “They [Democrats] only use the term ‘insurance’ to sell it to the people.”  No, President Reagan; Social Security is not “welfare.” Workers and their employers pay into an insurance program and workers, upon retirement, are entitled to their monthly stipend. And even now, after the GOP had their tax giveaway to the top 1%, they then blamed Social Security for the increased budget deficits. As Sen. Lindsey Graham said, “We’ve made promises we can’t keep … Medicare, Social Security, and Medicaid, that’s why we’re in debt.” No, Senator Graham, those programs can be sustained. Our currently ballooning deficit was exacerbated by the 2017 tax cuts, which you voted for. 

Part of the Social Security Act established an Unemployment Insurance system for all states. While the Great Depression was raging, in 1931 Republican President Herbert Hoover referred to a supplement for the unemployed as “Federal charity” and suggested those affected should be provided for by family or private charities. In contrast, upon signing the bill into law, FDR said, “… we have tried to frame a law which will give some measure of protection to the average citizen and to his family against the loss of a job.” 

In 1954, Republicans overwhelmingly voted against Social Security Disability and defeated it. In 1956, Disability was brought to the floor again and 86% of Republicans in the Senate still opposed it. Fortunately, Democrats were in the majority and the program was approved, nonetheless.

After the1964 historic passage of the Medicare program, GOP presidential nominee Barry Goldwater was quoted as saying, “Having given our pensioners their medical care,” … “why not food baskets, why not public housing accommodations, why not vacation resorts, why not a ration of cigarettes for those who smoke and of beer for those who drink?” Because for Republicans, guaranteeing a minimum level of healthcare for seniors was as ridiculous and wasteful as free cigarettes and beer. In contrast, upon signing the Medicare Act, LBJ commented, “No longer will older Americans be denied the healing miracle of modern medicine. No longer will illness crush and destroy the savings that they have so carefully put away over a lifetime so that they might enjoy dignity in their later years.” 

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If you look at our current situation across the country, the Republican response to the COVID health crisis should be no surprise. Gov. DeSantis’ failing unemployment system is a result of decades of GOP control in Florida and their deep-seated notion that unemployment is charity to the undeserving. Gov. Kemp’s opening up of Georgia before any of the CDC milestones had been met draws from the GOP notion that commerce comes first; if it endangers the health of workers, that will simply be collateral damage. And, the President’s acknowledgment that “Well now it’s time to open it up. I’m not saying anything is perfect and yes, will some people be affected? Yes. Will some people be affected badly? Yes.” Yes, Mr. President, some people will be affected “badly.”

The differences between the parties’ philosophies could not be starker. It’s been that way for decades. Republicans have rejected any government assistance to its citizens. The “Safety Nets” of care and compassion in American society are all products of Democrats. Democrats have been working for Americans for generations.     

As the elections approach, now might be a good time to remember the words of Maya Angelou who said, “When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time”.  

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