Three unforgettable initiatives

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webmaster | 05/10/14
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Three things happened in the 1960s — not counting the burst of rock and roll that was lobbed into America by Britain — that changed our lives over the long haul. They were these: The establishment of Medicare, the passage of the Civil Rights Act, and the inauguration of the war on poverty.

Medicare has been a success, and is a model for how a government program can work. It isn’t perfect, of course, but what is. However, it does provide health care for a large portion of the population and an income stream to fund it. Medicare is a single-payer program, and only about 7 percent of the total amount of money it spends is spent on administration. Compare that to the 30 or more percent that private insurers spend on administration. Obamacare should have been like Medicare — Medicare for all — and eventually it will be. But not until Obamacare has proven its unwieldiness in its present form.

The Civil Rights Act in some respects finished what the Civil War started, which was to assure that all were entitled to their rights of citizenry, regardless of whom their parents happened to be, or what their religion happened to be. The Civil Rights Act was the proper thing to do, for two reasons.

First, the Constitution guarantees civil rights to all its citizens. Second, society on its own did not respond to the constitutional guarantees. Too many states, even communities, tried to enforce various levels of segregation. That had to be dealt with, and the Civil Rights Act was the tool. But it wasn’t perfect, either. It will remain a work in progress.

As will the war on poverty, which addresses the widely held assumption that the people, through their various governments, have a responsibility to help the poor. This is the 1960s development that is the most contentious, large-ly because while people may agree in principle on the need to help the poor, the question of how much is far from settled. It never may be settled in the lifetimes of anyone now living.

There is more agreement that we need to help as individuals, as we perceive the need, than that we need to be forced to help through taxes.

 

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