Students of history may get a chuckle when they hear Republicans define Obama’s health care plan as “socialism.” If we look to the past, we see Obama’s plan is pretty much in line with Republican President Richard M. Nixon’s failed efforts in 1974.
Like Nixon, Obama seeks to tweak America’s existing private health care system, rather than replace. Like Obama, Nixon sought to simply make access universal, put more emphasis on preventative care, limit out-of-pocket expenditures and ensure that Americans would not go bankrupt because of a catastrophic illness.
Read Nixon’s plan for health reform, in his own words and you’ll see that opposition to Obama’s similar plan, if any, should be coming from his own party and not the Republicans. In fact, some of it is: Democratic House members have been threatening to not support any health care reform that does not include a public option.
The so-called public option is, Obama says, but a sliver of his overall health care plan; only five percent of the population would have access to it, and only a subset of that would choose it. Obama has readily telegraphed his willingness to drop it in exchange for bipartisan support.
The Republican opposition to Obama’s modest health reforms appears to be more politics than true opposition to the plan’s elements. After the losses it experienced in the last election, the only way the party out of power can see to regain strength is to deny the President any victories. As Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC) has famously said “If we’re able to stop Obama on this it will be his Waterloo. It will break him.” The Republicans risk being seen as cynical, as polls show most Americans believe they are not making a good faith effort to work with Obama on health care.
By not over-reaching on health care, the young President seeks to move America one step closer to a country where no one dies because of lack of access to health care, and no one goes broke because they get sick.
The old saying goes that “only Nixon could go to China.” Perhaps health care will be Obama’s China.
RELATED: See this YouTube clip on Nixon’s and Ted Kennedy’s competing health care plans in 1974.