Just how much the welfare state has damaged America's political culture over the past 50 years was demonstrated on NBC's "Meet the Press" on Sunday, when former House speaker and current Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich dug a political knife into the back of House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan -- who is the most effectively outspoken fiscal conservative in Congress.
The knife had been handed to Newt by "Meet the Press" host David Gregory.
"Do you think that Republicans ought to buck the public opposition and really move forward to completely change Medicare, turn it into a voucher program where you give seniors some premium support ... so that they can go out and buy private insurance?" Gregory asked Gingrich, alluding to the Medicare reform plan included as a long-term policy goal in the House Republican budget authored by Ryan.
"I don't think right-wing social engineering is any more desirable than left-wing social engineering," said Gingrich. "I don't think imposing radical change from the right or the left is a very good way for a free society to operate."
So, what change does Gingrich want? On "Meet the Press," the former speaker went on to suggest that Medicare could be reformed by preventing it from paying "$70 billion and $120 billion a year to crooks."
"But not what Paul Ryan is suggesting, which is completely changing Medicare," asked Gregory.
"I think that that is too big a jump," said Gingrich. "I think what you want to have is a system where people voluntarily migrate to better outcomes, better solutions, better options, not one where you suddenly impose upon the -- I don't want to -- I'm against Obamacare, which is imposing radical change, and I would be against a conservative imposing radical change."
Clearly, Gingrich was suggesting here -- on the liberal establishment media's premier Sunday talk show -- that Ryan's proposal for long-term Medicare reform is somehow akin to Obamacare and would "suddenly impose" on Americans what Gingrich believes is "radical change."
Let's start with the historical perspective.
How many Americans received Medicare benefits in 1789, when George Washington was elected president? Zero.
How many Americans received Medicare benefits in 1964, when Lyndon Johnson was elected president? Zero.
Medicare was signed into law by LBJ in 1965. From the founding of the Republic until then, American seniors and their families -- sometimes with help from local communities and states -- took care of their own health care. The federal government did not provide seniors with health care and could not take it away.
Then LBJ and a Democratic Congress socialized the health care system for Americans over 65.