'Ted Kennedy vs Nixon: National Health Insurance Debate'
During the over-the-top Camelot coverage of Ted Kennedy’s death (I got sick of the coverage somewhere around 8 p.m. last night), I thought I heard how Ted Kennedy regretted not striking a deal with Richard Nixon on universal health care in the early ‘70s. I thought: Huh? So I looked it up. Here it is (and above). The exact same dividing line as today: private vs. public health-care. Here are some random thoughts on that long-ago debate:
1.) Notice in the clip, from network coverage back then, how far apart Nixon and Kennedy were at the start of the debate. Notice toward the end of the clip how close they came to a deal that would have created the foundation for a new universal system. Kennedy later reportedly regretted ‘quibbling’ over points that could have led to a compromise. But it was insistence on that old deal breaker itself, the ‘cradle to grave’ program, what is now called the ‘single-payer’ system, that killed the deal. Think about the decades since without universal health coverage – and how liberals allowed that to happen by not compromising enough 40 years ago. Is this something the left is supposed to be proud of? …
2.) Over at the Gaggle, there’s an interesting line of discussion (based on the same debate video that they found on their own) about the impact of Kennedy’s ailment on the current health-care debate. There are generally two lines of thought: 1.) That we’d be closer to a deal if Kennedy had been healthy and fully engaged in talks. 2.) That a healthy and fully engaged Kennedy might not have made a difference, considering he was involved in two prior failed attempts on the same issue (during the Nixon and Clinton years). But the Gaggle gals introduce a third intriguing scenario: 3.) That Kennedy, assuming he truly learned from the early ‘70s debate, might have brokered a compromise that only a ‘Liberal lion’ could have brokered, i.e., a sort a Nixon-going-to-China deal. It’s an interesting thought.
3.) There’s no Nixon on the Republican side of the debate today. Conservative Republicans think not playing ball with Dems on health-care will deal a crippling blow to the Obama administration. But sometimes compromises are not only a way to achieve something, they’re also a way to head off something. I fear Democrats will come up with a truly Frankenstein-like health-care bill on their own, similar to the wretched stimulus package, partly because Republicans refused to accept the non-purist reality that Dems may well pass a bill on their own. Republicans have the opportunity to cement in place a largely private-insurance universal system. They may end up allowing the demise of a largely private-insurance system.
4.) In the same linked video, Kennedy talks of a government "cradle to grave" system (the phrase itself is a blast from the past, when you think about it). Kennedy didn’t just think up the concept out of the blue. I’ll repeat: The left’s obsession with a single-payer system pre-dates the ‘70s and the current "cost cutting" arguments. I’d trace the concept’s history to about the 1920s or 1930s. There’s an almost Anglo heritage to (and fixation with) a nationalized health-care system. I vaguely recall, reaching back to my old college history classes, Britain’s Ramsay MacDonald pounding away for years for a national system in the U.K. Britain’s Labor Party finally got what it long wanted after WWII, in the late 1940s, when there was still food and commodities rationing in the U.K. Some Americans, who famously so often ape whatever our former mother country says and does, are obsessed with the same non-cost-cutting dream of a national system.. (I can almost guarantee you Ramsay MacDonald never promised to "bend the cost curve.")