Last updated on: 9/28/2010 | Author:

Landmark Entitlement Programs: Pro & Con Reactions at the Time of Their Passage

Aug. 14, 1935 – Social Security Act

President Roosevelt signing the Social Security Act into law. Source: “Social Security Celebrates 75-Years of Service,” (accessed June 21, 2010)
Apr.19, 1935:House Vote (372-33)
June 19, 1935:Senate Vote (77-6)
Aug. 14, 1935:President Franklin D. Roosevelt signs HR 7260 into law (PL 271)
Full Text: Social Security Act

“Before the 1930s, support for the elderly was a matter of local, state and family rather than a Federal concern (except for veterans’ pensions). However, the widespread suffering caused by the Great Depression brought support for numerous proposals for a national old-age insurance system. On January 17, 1935, President Franklin D. Roosevelt sent a message to Congress asking for ‘social security’ legislation. The same day, Senator Robert Wagner of New York and Representative David Lewis of Maryland introduced bills reflecting the administration’s views. The resulting Senate and House bills encountered opposition from those who considered it a governmental invasion of the private sphere and from those who sought exemption from payroll taxes for employers who adopted government-approved pension plans. Eventually the bill passed both houses, and on August [14], 1935, President Roosevelt signed the Social Security Act into law.

The act created a uniquely American solution to the problem of old-age pensions. Unlike many European nations, U.S. social security ‘insurance’ was supported from ‘contributions’ in the form of taxes on individuals’ wages and employers’ payrolls rather than directly from Government funds. The act also provided funds to assist children, the blind, and the unemployed; to institute vocational training programs; and provide family health programs.”

Our Documents Initiative, “Social Security Act (1935),” (accessed June 28, 2010)

Historic Pro and Con Quotations on Social Security around the Time of Its Passage:

PRO Social Security

Franklin D. Roosevelt, 32nd President of the United States, stated the following in his Aug. 14, 1935 remarks at the signing of the Social Security Act, available at

“This social security measure gives at least some protection to thirty millions of our citizens who will reap direct benefits through unemployment compensation, through old-age pensions and through increased services for the protection of children and the prevention of ill health.

We can never insure one hundred percent of the population against one hundred 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 against the loss of a job and against poverty-ridden old age.

It will act as a protection to future Administrations against the necessity of going deeply into debt to furnish relief to the needy. The law will flatten out the peaks and valleys of deflation and of inflation. It is, in short, a law that will take care of human needs and at the same time provide the United States an economic structure of vastly greater soundness.”

Aug. 14, 1935 – Franklin D. Roosevelt

Robert L. Doughton, US Congressman (D-NC), made the following statement during the Apr. 11, 1935 US House of Representatives floor debate on the Social Security Act of 1935:

“The social-security bill is one of the most important measures ever placed before Congress for its consideration…

So long as the country was largely agricultural, and industry was conducted on a small scale, there was relatively little need for such measures of protection as the social-security bill will provide. The insecurity of the worker arising from unemployment and dependency in old age was much less than at present. The industrialization of society, the development of large corporations, the increasing use of machinery, the great number of unemployed, as well as the increasing number of persons dependent in old age, make it necessary that we take measures which will restore to the American worker and his family the degree of social security which he formerly enjoyed…

Let no one say that insurance against these serious social dangers is contrary to our institutions, or that it will undermine the integrity of the American citizen.

The advantages of social insurance over public relief are many. It does not carry with it the stigma of charity with its devastating effect on the morale of our population and its loss of self-respect… The worker’s right to benefits is conditioned upon his previous employment, and social insurance will do nothing to break down the sacred American tradition of self-reliance and initiative.”

Apr. 11, 1935 – Robert L. Doughton

CON Social Security

Harold Knutson, US Congressman (R-MN), made the following statement during the Apr. 12, 1935 US House of Representatives floor debate on the Social Security Act of 1935:

“In my opinion, the passage of this proposed legislation will further and definitely increase unemployment…[and] hold out an incentive or inducement to employers to reduce the number of their employees to a minimum in order to avoid or reduce the taxes imposed upon them by these two titles. I am convinced that at this time the annuity and unemployment provisions constitute a serious threat to recovery [from the Great Depression] because they impose two distinct pay-roll taxes, one of which falls entirely upon the employer and the other jointly upon the employer and employee…

Business recovery at the present time hangs in a very delicate balance. Every additional burden of this kind upon business, however small, tends to make recovery more remote: hence, imposing directly upon industry such a tremendous burden as I have mentioned is bound to cause a reaction which will result in prolonging the depression indefinitely.”

Apr. 12, 1935 – Harold Knutson

Allen T. Treadway, US Congressman (R-MA), made the following statement during the Apr. 12, 1935 US House of Representatives floor debate on the Social Security Act of 1935:

“I am strongly opposed to the provisions… which impose upon private industry a compulsory Federal retirement system for superannuated employees and exact a contribution from such employees and their employers, in the guise of a pay-roll tax, to set up reserves out of which to pay retirement benefits…

[T]he Federal Govemment cannot lay a tax for any other purpose than the raising of revenue for public uses. The tax imposed… is not a tax at all, but an enforced insurance premium for old-age annuities. The money raised by the tax is not intended for the support of the Government, but to pay the benefits…

The Constitution should either be respected or abolished. What is the sense of having it if we are going to spend most of our time trying to devise ways and means to circumvent it…

In my opinion, the proposed imposition of the pay-roll taxes… constitutes the greatest single threat to recovery of all the administration’s ill-advised policies. Business and industry are already operating under very heavy burdens. Many businesses at the present time are barely able to keep their heads above the water, and if they have to face a pay-roll tax for retirement annuities, and another pay-roll tax for unemployment insurance… they probably will be unable to continue in operation.

This ‘means more Unemployment, and more uncertainty.”

Apr. 12, 1935 – Allen T. Treadway

July 30, 1965 – Medicare (Social Security Act Amendments)

President Johnson signing the Social Security Act Amendments of 1965 which established the Medicare and Medicaide programs. Source: “Social Security Act Amendments (1965),” (accessed June 21, 2010)
July 27, 1965: House Vote (307-116)
July 28, 1965: Senate Vote (77-6)
July 30, 1965: President Lyndon B. Johnson signs HR 6675 into law (PL 89-97)
Full Text: Social Security Amendments of 1965

“In 1965, the passage of the Social Security Act Amendments, popularly known as Medicare, resulted in a basic program of hospital insurance for persons aged 65 and older, and a supplementary medical insurance program to aid the elderly in paying doctor bills and other health care bills. It was funded by a tax on the earnings of employees, matched by contributions by employers… In the first three years of the program, nearly 20 million beneficiaries enrolled in it.

Debate over the program actually began two decades earlier when President Harry S. Truman sent a message to Congress asking for legislation establishing a national health insurance plan. At that time, vocal opponents warned of the dangers of ‘socialized medicine.’ By the end of the Truman’s administration, he had backed off from a plan of universal coverage, but administrators in the Social Security system and others began to focus on the idea of a program aimed at insuring Social Security beneficiaries whose numbers and needs were growing.

The 1950 census showed that the aged population in the United States had grown from 3 million in 1900 to 12 million in 1950. Two-thirds of older Americans had incomes of less than $1,000 annually, and only one in eight had health insurance. Between 1950 and 1963, the aged population grew from about 12 million to 17.5 million, or from 8.1 to 9.4 percent of the U.S. population. At the same time, the cost of hospital care was rising at a rate of about 6.7 percent a year, several times the annual increase in the cost of living, and health care costs were rapidly outpacing growth in the incomes of older Americans.”

Our Documents Initiative, “Social Security Act Amendments (1965),” (accessed June 28, 2010)

Historic Pro and Con Quotations on Medicare around the Time of Its Passage:

PRO Medicare

Lyndon B. Johnson, 36th President of the United States, made the following remarks at the July 30, 1965 signing ceremony for the Medicare Bill (Social Security Act Amendments of 1935), available at

“There are more than 18 million Americans over the age of 65. Most of them have low incomes. Most of them are threatened by illness and medical expenses that they cannot afford.

And through this new law… every citizen will be able, in his productive years when he is earning, to insure himself against the ravages of illness in his old age.

This insurance will help pay for care in hospitals, in skilled nursing homes, or in the home. And under a separate plan it will help meet the fees of the doctors…

No longer will older Americans be denied the healing miracle of modern medicine. No longer will illness crush and destroy the savings that they have so carefully, put away over a lifetime so that they might enjoy dignity in their later years. No longer will young families see their own incomes, and their own hopes, eaten away simply because they are carrying out their deep moral obligations to their parents, and to their uncles, and their aunts.

And no longer will this Nation refuse the hand of justice to those who have given a lifetime of service and wisdom and labor to the progress of this progressive country.”

July 30, 1965 – Lyndon B. Johnson

Harry Truman, 33rd President of the United States, made the following remarks at the July 30, 1965 signing ceremony for the Medicare Bill (Social Security Act Amendments of 1935), available at

“This is an important hour for the Nation, for those of our citizens who have completed their tour of duty and have moved to the sidelines. These are the days that we are trying to celebrate for them. These people are our prideful responsibility and they are entitled, among other benefits, to the best medical protection available.

Not one of these, our citizens, should ever be abandoned to the indignity of charity. Charity is indignity when you have to have it. But we don’t want these people to have anything to do with charity and we don’t want them to have any idea of hopeless despair.

Mr. President, I am glad to have lived this long and to witness today the signing of the Medicare bill which puts this Nation right where it needs to be, to be right. Your inspired leadership and a responsive forward-looking Congress have made it historically possible for this day to come about.”

July 30, 1965 – Harry Truman

CON Medicare

Donovan F. Ward, MD, 119th President of the American Medical Association at the time of the quote, made the following statement during the Feb. 6-7, 1965 American Medical Association House of Delegates Special Convention:

“Year after year, we have seen a piece of political quackery called medicare die in Congress, its promoters defeated by the sound judgement of the majority of the House Ways and Means Committee…

We doctors have charged not only that medicare is a deception, but it is also a danger, and we have itemized our reasons:

It would impose federal controls upon our hospitals, adding to their costs…

Medicare would endanger the relationship between the patient and his doctor, by denying the doctor his full range of choices in treatment…

Medicare also poses a serious danger to our healthy and rapidly growing system of private voluntary insurance plans which already cover more than 60% of Americans over 65…

[M]edicare would bring into existence an enormous permanent mechanism, imposing heavy additional taxes on all working people for all the years of their working lives, so that evey body – the well off as well as the poor… would be taken into a compulsory government system.”

Feb. 6-7, 1965 – Donovan F. Ward, MD

Ronald Reagan, 40th President of the United States, made the following statement in his 1962 recording ,”Ronald Reagan Speaks out against Socialized Medicine,” produced by Operation Coffee Cup:

“Back in 1927 an American Socialist, Norman Thomas, six time candidate for president on the Socialist party ticket, said the American people would never vote for Socialism, but he said under the name of liberalism, the american people would adopt every fragment of the socialist program…

One of the traditional methods of imposing statism or socialism on a people has been by way of medicine. It’s very easy to disguise a medical program as a humanitarian project – most people are a little reluctant to oppose anything that suggests medical care for people who possibly can’t afford it…

In our country, under our free enterprise system, we have seen medicine reach the greatest heights that it has in any country in the world…

We do not want socialized medicine [1962 King-Anderson bill, a precusror to 1965 Medicare Act]… behind it will come other federal programs that will invade every area of freedom as we have know it in this country until one day, as Norman Thomas said, we will awake to find we have socialism.”

1962 – Ronald Reagan

Mar. 23, 2010 – Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act

“‘The Affordable Health Care for America Act’ passes in the House on November 7, 2009 by a vote of 220-215 [and] ‘The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act’ passes in the Senate on December 24, 2009, following three weeks of floor debate, by a vote of 60-39…

President Barack Obama signing the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act into law on Mar. 23, 2010. Source: “Obama Signs Historic Health Care Bill,” (accessed June 21, 2010)
Dec. 24, 2010: Senate Vote (60-39)
Mar. 21, 2010: House Vote (219-212)
Mar. 23, 2010: President Barack H. Obama signs HR 3590 into law (PL 111-148)
Full Text:Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act

Most vocal opposition comes from the new Tea Party, a conservative group opposed in general to increased taxes and a larger role for government. Health insurance industry’s support is mixed, with concern about competition from a proposed public plan… Coverage of abortion services however is fractious, even among Democrats…

[On Mar. 21, 2010] The House of Representatives passes the Senate bill, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (voting 219-212) and sends it to the President for signature…

[On Mar. 23, 2010] President Obama signs the landmark legislation, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (P.L. 111-148) at the White House…

The historic health reform legislation requires that all individuals have health insurance beginning in 2014. The poorest will be covered under a Medicaid expansion.

Those with low and middle incomes who do not have access to affordable coverage through their jobs will be able to purchase coverage with federal subsidies through new ‘American Health Benefit Exchanges.’

Employers are not mandated to provide health benefits, however large businesses whose employees receive insurance subsidies will pay penalties. Small businesses will be able to access more plans through a separate Exchange.

Health plans will not be allowed to deny coverage to people for any reason, including their health status, nor can they charge more because of a person’s health or gender. Young adults will now have the option of being covered under their parents’ plan up to age 26.”

Kaiser Family Foundation, “Timeline: History of Health Reform Efforts in the US,” (accessed July 21, 2010)

Pro and Con Quotations on the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act Around the Time of Its Passage:

PRO Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act

Barack H. Obama, JD, 44th President of the United States, stated the following in his Mar. 23, 2010 speech, “Remarks by the President and Vice President at Signing of the Health Insurance Reform Bill,” available at

“Today, after almost a century of trying… health insurance reform becomes law in the United States of America…

This year, tens of thousands of uninsured Americans with preexisting conditions, the parents of children who have a preexisting condition, will finally be able to purchase the coverage they need…

This year, insurance companies will no longer be able to drop people’s coverage when they get sick. They won’t be able to place lifetime limits or restrictive annual limits on the amount of care they can receive.

This year, all new insurance plans will be required to offer free preventive care. And this year, young adults will be able to stay on their parents’ policies until they’re 26 years old. That happens this year…

Once this reform is implemented, health insurance exchanges will be created, a competitive marketplace where uninsured people and small businesses will finally be able to purchase affordable, quality insurance…

I’m signing this bill for all the leaders who took up this cause through the generations — from Teddy Roosevelt to Franklin Roosevelt, from Harry Truman, to Lyndon Johnson.”

Mar. 23, 2010 – Barak H. Obama, JD

The New York Times stated the following in its Mar. 22, 2010 editorial “Health Care Reform at Last,” available at

“The [health care reform] bill… represents a national commitment to reform the worst elements of the current system. It will provide coverage to tens of millions of uninsured Americans, prevent the worst insurance company abuses, and begin to wrestle with relentlessly rising costs – while slightly reducing future deficits…

Over time the reforms could bring about sweeping changes in the way medical care is delivered and paid for. They could ultimately rival Social Security and Medicare in historic importance.

The United States is the only advanced industrial nation that does not provide or guarantee health care coverage for virtually all of its citizens. It is a moral obligation to end this indefensible neglect of hard-working Americans. The bill does not quite reach full universality, but by 2019, fully 94 to 95 percent of American citizens and legal residents below Medicare age will have coverage. The bill achieves that by requiring most Americans to obtain health insurance, providing subsidies to help the middle classes buy policies on new competitive exchanges, and expanding Medicaid coverage of the poor to include childless adults and others not currently eligible…

Just as Social Security grew from a modest start in 1935 to become a bedrock of the nation’s retirement system, this is a start on health care reform, not the end.”

Mar. 22, 2010 – New York Times

Nancy Pelosi, Speaker of the US House of Representatives (D-CA), stated the following during an Apr. 27, 2010 speech to the American Hospital Association titled “Pelosi to American Hospital Association: ‘In Backing Health Reform, You Stood Up for the Well-Being of All Americans,'” available at

“In passing this legislation, we made history for our country and progress for the American people. Others before us gave our nation Social Security and Medicare. This year, we added health care for all Americans…

This bill marks a giant leap forward for access and affordability. It will truly lead – as demanded in the vision of the AHA – to ‘healthier communities’ and enable millions more Americans to reach their ‘highest potential for health…

After a century-long struggle, health care reform is a reality for our nation.”

Apr. 27, 2010 – Nancy Pelosi

CON Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act

Jon Kyl, LLB, US Senator (R-AZ), made the following statement in his article “Health Care,” available at (accessed June 25, 2010):

“As 2009 drew to a close, the House of Representatives and the Senate each passed versions of a health-care reform bill based largely on President Obama’s call for government-run care – even though polls showed nearly two in three Americans opposed the plan. (A CNN poll in December found that 61 percent opposed the legislation, and just 36 percent supported it.)

Both the House- and Senate-passed versions of the bill would impose $500 billion in new taxes and cut roughly $500 billion from Medicare to pay for a new health-care entitlement, raise health insurance premiums for just about everyone, and increase Washington’s control over health-care decisions.

I voted against the Senate bill, the single most dangerous consequence of which is the inevitable rationing that would result in the delay and denial of care.”

June 25, 2010 – Jon Kyl, LLB

The Wall Street Journal stated the following in its Nov. 1, 2009 editorial titled “The Worst Bill Ever,” available at

“The health bill… which President Obama hailed as a ‘critical milestone,’ may well be the worst piece of post-New Deal legislation ever introduced…

[T]he bill creates a new and probably unrepealable middle-class entitlement that is designed to expand over time. Taxes will need to rise precipitously, even as ObamaCare so dramatically expands government control of health care that eventually all medicine will be rationed via politics…

The goal is to ram through whatever income-redistribution scheme they can claim to be ‘universal coverage.’ The result will be destructive on every level – for the health-care system, for the country’s fiscal condition, and ultimately for American freedom and prosperity…

As Congress’s balance sheet drowns in trillions of dollars in new obligations, the political system will have no choice but to start making cost-minded decisions about which treatments patients are allowed to receive. Democrats can’t regulate their way out of the reality that we live in a world of finite resources and infinite wants. Once health care is nationalized, or mostly nationalized, medical rationing is inevitable.”

Nov. 1, 2009 – Wall Street Journal

Peter Ferrara, JD, Senior Policy Advisor for Social Security and Medicare at the Institute for Policy Innovation, stated the following in his Aug. 2009

“National health plans similar to what President Obama is proposing have been adopted in other countries. They always start out promising universal access and free or reduced-price health care. But they end up with massive institutional bureaucracies whose purpose and function are to deny health care and medical services. Often they fail to control spending despite resorting to withholding care to politically weak groups…

[T]he health policy changes President Obama and Congressional Democrats support would cause millions of Americans to lose their choice of doctors and insurance coverage, require that access to care be strictly rationed, and cause the quality of care to deteriorate. Despite all this sacrifice, nationalizing health insurance in America would require major tax increases, slow economic growth, and increase the national debt…

America can’t finance all the promises it already has made to Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid beneficiaries. President Obama and Congressional Democrats are acting in a fiscally reckless and irresponsible way in the face of this long-term entitlement crisis. The Obama government takeover of health care is unnecessary. Real, long-lasting reform can be accomplished without the government taking over the health care system.”

Aug. 2009 – Peter Ferrara, JD