On Monday, the Republican National Committee (RNC) released its own "seniors' health care bill of rights," vocalizing the GOP's opposition to any health care plan that would decrease Medicare spending or limit end-of-life care to seniors.
In attempting to object to Obama's health care plan and avoid being labeled a "party of no," the GOP's new Medicare manifesto marks a significant turnaround for a party that once fought to trim back the government-run health plan for seniors and the disabled--a program which last year cost taxpayers over $330 billion.
How can the GOP claim that it's against a government take-over of health care, but work to protect Medicare, the government's largest health program? Let's look at where the party has stood in the past:
--Barry Goldwater in 1964 said, “Having given our pensioners their medical care in kind, 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?"
--Pres. Ronald Reagan proposed cutting $1 billion in Medicare spending in 1981 when the program only cost $40 billion/year. Prior to his presidency, Reagan lamented, "[I]f you don’t [stop Medicare] and I don’t do it, one of these days you and I are going to spend our sunset years telling our children and our children's children what it was once like in America when men were free."
--George H.W. Bush described Medicare in 1964 as "socialized medicine."
--During the mid-1990s, congressional Republicans proposed significant cuts in Medicare and Medicaid to pay for tax cuts.
--And in 1996, while running for president, Bob Dole took pride in the fact that he was one of 12 House members who voted against creating Medicare in 1965. "I was there, fighting the fight, voting against Medicare... because we knew it wouldn't work in 1965."
The Republican apple certainly has fallen far from the conservative tree.
To garner seniors' votes, President George W. Bush pushed to expand Medicare during his presidency and worked to include prescription drugs in the program. The legislation won Democratic support and went into effect in 2006, marking the largest increase in benefits since Medicare's creation.
Despite outcries from the conservative community, the GOP seems determined to follow in Bush's footsteps. The Republican Party instead seems more concerned with wooing the votes of today's senior citizens.
In pushing for a dramatic expansion of government-provided health care benefits in America, the Democrats have effortlessly forced the Republican Party to abandon its principles, and in effect, its own base.
Here's a lesson for congressional Republicans: there's a good reason why the number of people identifying themselves as "conservative" is on the rise today, yet the Republican brand continues to rapidly decline. Unless the party decides to return itself to its conservative roots, its credibility and effectiveness will continue to decay.