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The headline over Steve Chapman's column in Thursday's Tribune:
Obamacare proves the virtues of federalism
"Why is same-sex marriage, which was once politically preposterous, faring so much better than health care reform?" Chapman wonders. "Why has liberalization of marijuana laws happened without provoking threats of secession? One simple reason: Those changes have taken place at the state level—and only in states that chose them . . .
"Health insurance reform might have taken a similar route."
It's a strong argument that I fault only for the comparison it doesn't draw. That would be to the program whose creation Barry Goldwater opposed when he ran for president in 1964, the one Ronald Reagan denounced before it was even a gleam in LBJ's eye, warning in 1961 that unless "socialized medicine" was stopped "you and I are going to spend our sunset years telling our children, and our children’s children, what it once was like in America when men were free."
Would we have Medicare at all if it had been created piecemeal, state by state? Would any state have offered health coverage to the ailing and elderly knowing it would be inviting in the needy populations of all the states that did not?
So Medicare was launched as a federal program in 1966 and soon most of the naysayers shut up. It's not hard to understand why, when the Affordable Care Act was being assembled, Medicare and not legal marijuana served as an inspiration and example.