“No one in America should go broke because they get sick”

Obama nails the “socialism” charge.

A couple of days ago, I offered the fantasy speech below as an example of what President Obama ought to say about the charge of “socialism.”


Franklin D. Roosevelt proposed Social Security. Republicans opposed what they called “socialist security.”

Lyndon Johnson proposed Medicare. Republicans opposed what they called “socialized medicine.”

Now we’re trying to make sure every American can afford health insurance that can’t be taken away if you get sick. And – sound familiar? Some right-wing extremists say it’s socialism.

Don’t believe them!


Well, it’s not entirely a fantasy anymore. From today’s weekly address:

We’ve seen it before. When President Roosevelt was working to create Social Security, opponents warned it would open the door to ‘federal snooping’ and force Americans to wear dog tags. When President Kennedy and President Johnson were working to create Medicare, opponents warned of ‘socialized medicine.’ Sound familiar? Not only were those fears never realized, but more importantly, those programs have saved the lives of tens of millions of seniors, the disabled, and the disadvantaged.

(And no, I don’t think there was any causal link between the post and the speech. It was the obviously right thing to say, and this is not a White House that misses obvious tricks.)

The whole talk is worth listening to, or reading. Obama does a great job on the “death panels,” and makes the key point that everything that the opponents of reform are warning about are happening right now under the current system. He also offered the one-liner the reform cause has lacked: “No one in America should go broke because they get sick.”

Author: Jonathan Zasloff

Jonathan Zasloff teaches Torts, Land Use, Environmental Law, Comparative Urban Planning Law, Legal History, and Public Policy Clinic - Land Use, the Environment and Local Government. He grew up and still lives in the San Fernando Valley, about which he remains immensely proud (to the mystification of his friends and colleagues). After graduating from Yale Law School, and while clerking for a federal appeals court judge in Boston, he decided to return to Los Angeles shortly after the January 1994 Northridge earthquake, reasoning that he would gladly risk tremors in order to avoid the average New England wind chill temperature of negative 55 degrees. Professor Zasloff has a keen interest in world politics; he holds a PhD in the history of American foreign policy from Harvard and an M.Phil. in International Relations from Cambridge University. Much of his recent work concerns the influence of lawyers and legalism in US external relations, and has published articles on these subjects in the New York University Law Review and the Yale Law Journal. More generally, his recent interests focus on the response of public institutions to social problems, and the role of ideology in framing policy responses. Professor Zasloff has long been active in state and local politics and policy. He recently co-authored an article discussing the relationship of Proposition 13 (California's landmark tax limitation initiative) and school finance reform, and served for several years as a senior policy advisor to the Speaker of California Assembly. His practice background reflects these interests: for two years, he represented welfare recipients attempting to obtain child care benefits and microbusinesses in low income areas. He then practiced for two more years at one of Los Angeles' leading public interest environmental and land use firms, challenging poorly planned development and working to expand the network of the city's urban park system. He currently serves as a member of the boards of the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy (a state agency charged with purchasing and protecting open space), the Los Angeles Center for Law and Justice (the leading legal service firm for low-income clients in east Los Angeles), and Friends of Israel's Environment. Professor Zasloff's other major activity consists in explaining the Triangle Offense to his very patient wife, Kathy.