If Medicare "Weakened Us As A People," Why Does Sen. Rubio Want To "Save" It?

August 25, 2011 9:16 am ET — Matt Finkelstein

Yesterday, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) raised some eyebrows with his full-throated condemnation of Medicare and Social Security, which he claimed "weakened us as a people." The New Republic's Jonathan Chait and Think Progress' Igor Volsky point out that Rubio's recollection of a society in which the sick and elderly could simply turn to their neighbors for care is unrealistic, but what's really interesting about the senator's lament of the safety net is how far it deviates from what he was saying just a few months ago.

In May, when Republicans were aggressively spinning Rep. Paul Ryan's (R-WI) plan to transform Medicare into a voucher system, Rubio contributed to the effort with a video titled "Why we must save Medicare." In the video, Rubio describes how important Medicare was for his parents, who never made enough money to afford quality health care. "America needs Medicare," Rubio declared. 

For me, Medicare is not a political talking point. My parents immigrated to the United States in the late 1950s. They worked hard for over 40 years to provide their children the chance to do all the things they themselves could not. But they never made much money.

As a result, they retired with precious little in savings. Medicare was and is the only way they could access healthcare.

When my father got sick, Medicare paid for his numerous hospital stays. And as he reached the end of life, Medicare allowed him to die with dignity by paying for his hospice care. [...]

America needs Medicare. We need it to continue without any benefit reductions for those like my mother currently in the system. And we need it to survive for my generation and my children's generation.

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How can Rubio reconcile those two radically opposing sentiments? Yesterday's nostalgia for an era when people relied on each other in lieu of government assistance sounds more like "chickens for checkups" than "America needs Medicare." Of course, Rubio supports a plan to "save Medicare" that would dramatically shift the cost burden from the government to seniors — and their neighbors — so you can probably guess which philosophy he really believes.

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