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Remarks to Reporters Concerning Medicare and Social Security in Lakeland, Florida

October 31, 1980

We have what I consider to be a very important matter to discuss with the American people through the press.

One of the most striking aspects of the debate this week between Governor Reagan and me was his attempt to misrepresent his long-held views and his record on a number of important issues. Two of those areas are social security and Medicare. As everyone in this Nation knows, social security and Medicare are among the greatest advances for simple humanity and decency in our country's history. They're also the pride of the Democratic Party.

In the debate Governor Reagan flatly denied that he had ever advocated making participation in the social security system voluntary. But, in fact, he did advocate exactly that on a number of occasions. This has been amply documented.

In addition, Mr. Reagan stated that young people today are paying in far more than they can ever expect to get out of social security. This is categorically untrue. The facts are that a typical young mother or father entering the system today will ultimately receive 3 1/2 times what he or she puts in, and that is taking inflation into account. But social security provides not only retirement benefits but disability insurance and survivor's benefits for widows and for children as well.

On Medicare, Mr. Reagan said in the debate that he never opposed the principles of Medicare. The facts are that he did indeed oppose Medicare, both in principle and in application. As a traveling salesman for the American Medical Association's campaign against Medicare, he sowed the fear that Medicare would mean socialism and that it would lead to the destruction of our freedoms. This is an album that was put out as a result of Mr. Reagan's campaign against Medicare, a professionally prepared effort on his part to kill Medicare.

This was the issue at stake. He traveled around this country, as he well knows, in an attempt to kill Medicare. Now he flatly denies that he did so. Just last year, Mr. Reagan wrote, presumably referring to himself, and I quote his words, that "those who claimed during the debates over Medicare or Medicaid in the 1960's that these programs would be the first foot in the door to massive Government interference in health care have been proven totally correct." Those are the words of Governor Reagan this year. Because social security and Medicare are so vital to the lives of our people, it's crucially important to set the record straight and to correct the misstatements that Governor Reagan made.

Because the misinformation which Mr. Reagan presented to a hundred million people during our debate can easily cause a totally unwarranted loss of confidence in the social security system, it's important to set the record straight, because no politician should be allowed to get away with rewriting history, even his own history. It's important to set the record straight.

I would like now to introduce two men who can give you a much more detailed analysis of these crucial issues. They're as well equipped to do that as any two people in our country. They have the confidence and trust of Members of the Congress and of leaders in the role in our country to give secure lives to the retired people of our Nation and to protect Medicare and social security. Wilbur Cohen. His intimate knowledge of the social security system dates back even further than the formal beginning of the system itself.

In 1934, as a research assistant to the special Cabinet committee appointed by President Franklin D. Roosevelt, Mr. Cohen actually helped to draft the original Social Security Act. Later, he served as Director of Research and Statistics for the Social Security Administration. As an Assistant Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare under President Kennedy, Mr. Cohen helped to draft and to secure the passage of Medicare. And as Secretary of HEW, in the Cabinet of President Johnson, he was in charge of the overall administration of both social security and Medicare. He now serves on the National Commission on Social Security, appointed by the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Tip O'Neill.

The other man is Robert Ball. Robert Ball served as Commissioner of Social Security under three administrations. He was responsible for the administrative implementation of Medicare. He started in the local social security office and rose to the highest position in the Social Security Administration as a recognition of his merit. He's the author of a definitive book on social security, published by the Columbia University Press about 2 years ago, and now serves on the Advisory Council on Social Security.

Mr. Cohen and Mr. Ball have between them some three-quarters of a century of knowledge and experience concerning social security and Medicare. They share my concern about setting the record straight and correcting the misstatements that Governor Reagan has made. I am proud to introduce them to you now. They will give you the benefit of their knowledge and their analysis.

Note: The President spoke at 1:11 p.m. at Lakeland Municipal Airport.

Jimmy Carter, Remarks to Reporters Concerning Medicare and Social Security in Lakeland, Florida Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/251987

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