Today’s OOTD comes to us from … Paul Krugman. No, really! The New York Times columnist couldn’t quite believe his ears when Barack Obama attempted to explain the history of Social Security and Medicare at last week’s press conference. Obama claimed both were small, limited programs that grew in response to need:
This is why FDR, when he started Social Security, it only affected widows and orphans. You did not qualify. And yet now it is something that really helps a lot of people. When Medicare was started, it was a small program. It grew.
Under the criteria that you just set out, each of those were betrayals of some abstract ideal.
Except, of course, they did nothing of the kind. They started out “huge,” and became even more so:
This is all wrong: both programs were huge from the start. From the beginning, Social Security applied to all private-sector workers, except those in agriculture, domestic service, or casual employment — and yes, those exceptions happened to exclude the majority of African-Americans. Still, it was by no means a small program that grew big. Medicare covered everyone 65 and older right from the beginning, although initially it only provided hospital insurance.
It is, as Rosenberg says, odd that Obama doesn’t know this history.
No, it isn’t. Obama doesn’t know much about history, and his White House doesn’t know much about research, either.
Got an Obamateurism of the Day? If you see a foul-up by Barack Obama, e-mail it to me at [email protected] with the quote and the link to the Obamateurism. I’ll post the best Obamateurisms on a daily basis, depending on how many I receive. Include a link to your blog, and I’ll give some link love as well. And unlike Slate, I promise to end the feature when Barack Obama leaves office.
Illustrations by Chris Muir of Day by Day. Be sure to read the adventures of Sam, Zed, Damon, and Jan every day!