Ezra Klein makes this point magnificently:
When Medicare was being considered, the American Medical Association hired Ronald Reagan to record a record housewives could play for their friends. It was called Operation: Coffee Cup, and you can listen to it in the clip atop this post, or read the text here.
Reagan was a more graceful speaker than Blackburn, but his point was much the same. Kill the bill. “If you don’t do this and if I don’t do it,” he said, “one of these days you and I are going to spend our sunset years telling our children and our children’s children, what it once was like in America when men were free.”
Well, the bill passed. And moments ago, Rep. Paul Ryan was on the floor of the House, bellowing against Democrats who would dare propose “across-the-board cuts to Medicare.” This is breathless opportunism from Ryan — he has proposed far deeper across-the-board cuts to Medicare, and is making arguments against the Democrats’ bill that would be far more potent and accurate if aimed at his own — but leave that aside for a moment. The GOP’s embrace of the program that Ronald Reagan fought, and that Newt Gingrich sought to let “whither on the vine,” is based on the lived experience seniors have had with the bill: It has made them more, rather than less, free.
Blackburn’s introduction aside, people do not “celebrate” the freedom to not be able to afford lifesaving medical care. They don’t want the freedom to weigh whether to pay rent or take their feverish child to the emergency room. They don’t like the freedom to lose their job and then be told by insurers that they’re ineligible for coverage because they were born with a heart arrhythmia.
When faced with the passage of programs that would deliver people from these awful circumstances, the Republicans adopt a very narrow and cruel definition of the word “freedom.” But when faced with the existence of programs like Medicare, and the recognition that their constituents depend on those programs to live lives free of unnecessary fear and illness, they abandon their earlier beliefs, forget their dire warnings and, when convenient, defend these government protections aggressively. There’s nothing much to be done about that. It is, after all, a free country. But Americans should feel free to ignore these discredited hysterics.
The House now has the votes to pass this thing.