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Obama and Democrats Forsake Lessons of the Past

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Townhall.com.

One of the worrisome aspects of President Obama’s peculiar brand of leadership is to watch how radically he and most Democrats in Congress have broken with the wisdom of liberal, Democrat leaders of the past. Media wags, largely ignorant or mostly indifferent to history, will tell you that the growing alarm over Obama’s leadership is all about style over substance. Don’t believe it. Obama and most of the Democrat congressional leaders seem interested in pandering to special interest groups, with little care for the overall economic health of the nation. They have betrayed their history and are mere shadows of their Democrat predecessors. Americans know it too.


The Democrat leadership has strayed far from their once-rational roots. For example, when enacting the landmark social welfare programs in 1935, (Social Security Act) and again in 1965 enacting Title 18 (Medicare), Democrats were almost unanimously concerned about the potential costs for future generations.

A reading of the floor speeches at the time shows that while Democrats wanted to expand programs for the needy. None were willing to do that, if it would erode the economic vitality of the entire nation. These earlier Democrats were moored by their concern for the financial health of the nation, the well-being of small businesses and concern about the potential for undue burdens to the American taxpayer that might arise as a result of far reaching entitlement legislation.

In August 1935, President Roosevelt said: “We can never insure 100 percent of the population against 100 percent of the hazards and vicissitudes of life, but we have tried to frame a law which will give some measure of protection to the average citizen and to his family.”

Roosevelt’s endorsement of the payroll tax to create an earned right that would “act as a protection to future administrations against the necessity of going deeply into debt to furnish relief to the needy” is a far cry from the current Democrat drumbeat that entitlements must cover all Americans (and illegals) regardless of the cost to the country.

In 1965, Democrats were clearly worried about the impact of the Medicare legislation. Medicare was viewed as an experiment that might not be sustainable, and therefore needed to be carefully reviewed. Democrat congressman, Wilbur Mills, then Chairman of Ways and Means argued: “when tax rates are as high as they are now, we must take into account the fact that any changes we make will inevitably have far reaching economic effects…It would be folly… To nationalize health care as some have proposed, and thus federalize medical personnel, institutions and procedures—eventually if not at the start—also would amount to a stunning new financial burden for every American taxpayer.”


It is also important to note that in 1965, Democrat supporters for expanded entitlement benefits realized they might be wrong. Reading though the debate in Congressional Register of 1965, one sees humility and open-mindedness. But, as Pelosi shows, the current Democrat leadership are rigid ideologues. To placate the ravening appetites of their left-wing extremists, special interest groups, they are willing to ruin the nation.

President Obama’s vision of America calls for an ever-expanding welfare state with ever-increasing government handouts and bailouts, even as the financial health of the nation teeters on the brink of insolvency. Then, to rub salt in the wounds of the fiscally conservative, Obama lectures on the need to address our “unsustainable” government spending, even as he continues to press for more spending aimed at supporting loyalists’ union causes, his own special interests, and dubious spending schemes.

Democrats from the 60s seemed determined to balance their desire for expansive entitlements with a respect the needs of those taxpayers--the businesses and workers-- whose taxes pay for it all. Above all, there was a cautious consciousness that huge, federally run government programs are rarely cost-effective and rarely operated efficiently.

In June 1966, discussing the implementation of the Medicare legislation, President Lyndon Johnson said “Washington is no place to patrol matters in 50 States. The farther you get away from the community, the less efficient you are and the more expensive you are.”


On the other hand, President Obama’s recent road tour (with stops at Facebook, Oprah’s couch and NYC) to promote the need for additional taxes to pay for spending schemes and to increase the debt ceiling without implementing dramatic spending cuts, reeked of demagoguery and implying that the federal government in Washington, is better suited to care for citizens than the citizens themselves. Or at least, that seemed to be his explanation, for the buzz-words adopted by the Left of “shared sacrifice” and “fair share” are deceptive. Just send your money to Washington and all will be taken care of and only the “rich” will pay; the middle class, citizen will be unaffected.

Is there any wonder why Americans are increasingly worried? Modern Democrats have lost their way and have become selfish, irresponsible and blind. They make intellectually dishonest pleas to protect unsustainable social welfare programs without the slightest interest in finding an honest way to pay for them.

Reading the speeches of Obama and other senior Democrat leaders gives one the distinct impression that they are far more interested in rewarding their core constituents than in protecting the nation’s financial health. Democrats would bankrupt the nation rather than make prudent and long-overdue changes to over-generous entitlement programs.

And that is why Americans are so worried.

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