Deja Vu: A Look Back at Some of the Tirades Against Social Security and Medicare

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There’s a long history of government safety net programs which are now popular encountering major opposition at their births, and even long after. For some opponents, the devil is in the details; others decry the welfare state as straight-up socialism.

Two pieces of legislation stand out. First, in 1935, Franklin Delano Roosevelt signed the Social Security Act which created our public pension system. Then, in 1965, Lyndon Baines Johnson signed the Social Security Act Amendments which created Medicaid and Medicare. This slideshow looks at some of their outspoken critics — and the legislative roadblocks they created. It’s remarkable how similar the rhetoric is to what we hear from conservative Obamacare opponents today.

Alf Landon

Alf Landon on the campaign trail. (AP image)

In the 1936 election, Roosevelt’s challenger, former Kansas Governor Alf Landon, supported some of the president’s New Deal policies but thought Social Security had deep structural problems that required its repeal. In particular, Landon was upset that the program was financed through a payroll tax. “This is the largest tax bill in history. And to call it ‘social security’ is a fraud on the workingman,” he said in one speech. “I am not exaggerating the folly of this legislation. The saving it forces on our workers is a cruel hoax.”

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