2004-09 Ronald Reagan's Effort to Prevent the Enactment of Medicare
- when: 2004-09
- author: Larry DeWitt
- source: larrydewitt.net
- topics: Ronald Reagan Medicare Social Security 1980 US presidential race Operation Coffeecup welfare queen
- link: http://www.larrydewitt.net/Essays/Reagan.htm
- title: Operation Coffeecup: Ronald Reagan's Effort to Prevent the Enactment of Medicare
- summary: Ronald Reagan may have crystallized, in the minds of Republican strategists, the political ability of popular myth to be more powerful than the truth – as exemplified by his well-documented history of working against social programs (Medicare, Social Security) while convincingly denying it in debates with Jimmy Carter.
Reagan was notorious for taking a real event and transforming it into a mythical story, which he then repeated over and over, making of it an archetype for some political principle he held. When a welfare recipient in Chicago was publicly exposed in 1977 for having defrauded state welfare programs out of $8,000 by using two identities, Reagan transformed the news report into a story regarding a "welfare queen" who drove a Cadillac and who collected an annual tax-free income of $150,000 by using "eighty names, thirty addresses, twelve Social Security cards and . . . collecting veterans' benefits on four nonexisting deceased husbands." Reagan repeated this story of the Chicago welfare queen multiple times over the years, growing it like some kind of political fish-story with each re-telling. In the end, it seems clear that he could not distinguish his own mythical version from the historical one.