“The last Republican president who cared about the poor was Richard Nixon.” — Garrison Keillor

October 17, 2009

RICHARD NIXON

RICHARD NIXON

The AARP recently pointed out in its monthly bulletin that President Richard Nixon in 1972 proposed a health-care reform program that was shot out of the sky, with U.S. Sen. Edward M. Kennedy wielding one of the guns.

“Nixon’s plan,” editor Jim Toedtman wrote, “required employers to provide health care insurance for their employees. It provided federal subsidies for the poor and created rural health clinics and a network of state committees to set industry standards, guarantee basic coverage and coordinate insurance for the self-employed. In the process, it would have extended health care coverage to almost all Americans.”

SEN. EDWARD M. KENNEDY

SEN. EDWARD M. KENNEDY

According to Toedtman’s commentary, Kennedy told the Boston Globe earlier this year that Nixon’s initiative was a “missed opportunity” and that, “We should have jumped on it.”

Should have. What were the chances that a Democrat, and a Kennedy at that, would support a sweeping program like that coming from Nixon? Ted Kennedy had his own ideas about health-care reform, and the twain never met. As a result, 37 years later, the problems perceived with health care then — cost and accessibility — are exponentially worse, partisanship still trumps the general welfare, and fundamental reform is no more likely, no matter what bill Congress may pass.

Nixon, meanwhile — if he can hear the debate from where he reposes — is probably as surprised as anyone to learn from his own party that he was a socialist.

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3 Responses to ““The last Republican president who cared about the poor was Richard Nixon.” — Garrison Keillor”

  1. Chuck Pizar Says:

    Good job bringing an under-reported story to light. Very interesting.

  2. Ron Says:

    Nixon gets a bad rap from the new generation of Republicans and Tea Party activists who now consider him a liberal. Those were different times though, geopolitics was more important than it is now it seems, and Nixon was a pragmatist more than an idealist. A great man in many respects, he was in his element at the highest levels.

  3. charlespaolino Says:

    No president since Nixon and few before him have had his combination of competence and pragmatism. It’s too bad Shakespeare wasn’t around for Nixon’s administration; Bill would have loved him.

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