Former advisor to Bill Clinton, Paul Begala, has summed up the GOP’s approach to Medicare exactly:
Republicans don’t want to “fix” Medicare or “reform” Medicare. And Lord knows they don’t want to “modernize” it or—as the deeply disingenuous Paul Ryan says—“protect and strengthen Medicare.” No, they want to end it.
Even before the program was created in 1965, some of the biggest names in the Republican Party opposed providing health care as an earned benefit for seniors. The appropriately named senator Roy Blunt summed up what most Republicans believe: “Well, you could certainly argue that government should never have gotten in the health care business…”
Despite Republicans’ firm convinction that seniors are being deprived of the pleasure of spending the last few years of their life wrangling with private insurers, Medicare is an unmitigated success. Before the program about half of seniors had no health insurance—today nearly all are covered. And Medicare is more efficient and popular than private insurers. A 2011 poll found that 88 percent of Americans believe that Medicare has been good for the country.
After spending a few years trying to play the defender of Medicare, the GOP is as determined as ever to kill or at least mortally wound the program’s guarantee. Here are five times they’ve done their best to end one of the most popular things the federal government ever created.