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Social Security and Medicare Laws: Presidential Statements

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I was thinking, for obvious reasons, about previous Presidential statements on sweeping changes to the Health and Welfare (and happiness pursuit) of the nation:

1) Presidential Statement on Signing the Social Security Act, August 14, 1935 (Roosevelt)

Today a hope of many years’ standing is in large part fulfilled. The civilization of the past hundred years, with its startling industrial changes, has tended more and more to make life insecure. Young people have come to wonder what would be their lot when they came to old age. The man with a job has wondered how long the job would last.

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….

This law, too, represents a cornerstone in a structure which is being built but is by no means complete. It is a structure intended to lessen the force of possible future depressions. It will act as a protection to future Administrations against the necessity of going deeply into debt to furnish relief to the needy….”
(read full statement)

2) STATEMENT OF THE PRESIDENT [Johnson] – March 23, 1965 (Medicare bill voted out of Ways and Means):

“… The Committee’s action is an historic one — the first time that a House Committee has acted favorably on a medical insurance bill for all of our older citizens. It is an action which all Americans can and should welcome….” (read full statement)

3) Statement by the President Following Passage of the Medicare Bill [Johnson] by the Senate, July 9, 1965 (on the bill’s way to conference):

“… when the conference has completed its work, a great burden will be lifted from the shoulders of all Americans. Older citizens will no longer have to fear that illness will wipe out their savings, eat up their income, and destroy lifelong hope of dignity and independence. For every family with older members it will mean relief from the often crushing responsibilities of care. For the Nation it will bring the necessary satisfaction of having fulfilled the obligations of justice to those who have given a lifetime of service and labor to their country….” (read full statement)

4) President Lyndon B. Johnson’s, Remarks With President Truman at the Signing in
Independence of the Medicare Bill [Johnson] July 30, 1965

“… Because the need for this action is plain; and it is so clear indeed that we marvel not simply at the passage of this bill, but what we marvel at is that it took so many years to pass it. And I am so glad that Aime Forand is here to see it finally passed and signed–one of the first authors.

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, Mr. President, 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….

But there is another tradition that we share today. It calls upon us never to be indifferent toward despair. It commands us never to turn away from helplessness. It directs us never to ignore or to spurn those who suffer untended in a land that is bursting with abundance….
….
And this is not just our tradition–or the tradition of the Democratic Party–or even the tradition of the Nation. It is as old as the day it was first commanded: “Thou shalt open thine hand wide unto thy brother, to thy poor, to thy needy, in thy land.”

And just think, Mr. President, because of this document–and the long years of struggle which so many have put into creating it–in this town, and a thousand other towns like it, there are men and women in pain who will now find ease. There are those, alone in suffering who will now hear the sound of some approaching footsteps coming to help. There are those fearing the terrible darkness of despairing poverty–despite their long years of labor and expectation–who will now look up to see the light of hope and realization.

There just can be no satisfaction, nor any act of leadership, that gives greater satisfaction than this….” (read full statement)

President Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library
President Lyndon B. Johnson Presidential Library
Other Presidential Libraries