(p. 12) FROM the very beginning of the nation’s modern social welfare system — even before Michael Moore began to explore the issue — there was a tension in it: What should the government be expected to provide? What should be left to the individual? How much government is too much?
The questions were asked even in 1935, not exactly a time to instill confidence in the resilient power of private markets. Senator Thomas Pryor Gore, Democrat of Oklahoma, put it bluntly when Frances Perkins, the secretary of labor, testified on Capitol Hill that year about President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s plan for a new program called Social Security.
”Isn’t this socialism?” Senator Gore demanded. When Ms. Perkins denied it, he asked again: ”Isn’t this a teeny-weeny bit of socialism?” In recent days, on Capitol Hill and on the campaign trail, a new version of that debate has been flaring, this time around an issue that the New Dealers decided (perhaps wisely) to put off for a later date: health care.