This is a column about Medicare, on its 50th anniversary (now, don’t slip away — I’m going to make this entertaining, vital and thought-provoking … I hope … OK, stage right, send in the Rockettes!), and I have lots of great quotes, too many to use. The one above isn’t anything more than a joke, really, but I thought you’d like it, and it might get your attention.

Kinky Friedman is a singer/songwriter (13 albums), novelist (35 books), humorist, politician, private investigator, animal rescuer and former columnist, which by itself qualifies him as a genius in my book. (The “former” part.) He claims to be the only full-blooded Jew to ever take the stage at the Grand Old Opry. He has his own brand of cigars, and tequila. He founded Utopia Animal Rescue Ranch, to care for stray, abused and aging animals, where, he claims, more than 1,000 dogs have been saved from euthanasia. Renaissance man. A modern Mark Twain in an oversized Stetson, also with ubiquitous stogie. See, not all Texans are Perry or Bush.

If only Kinky, the self-proclaimed Texas Jewboy, had won the race for governor of Texas in 2006 — he did get 13 percent of the vote — history might be way different. Kinky was always good at using satire and song to draw attention to social issues (he toured with Dylan).

On a more serious note, presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders said, “I don’t believe there’s a red state in America where people believe you should cut Medicare, Social Security and veterans’ benefits rather than doing away with corporate tax loopholes.” Sounding a silly note, John McCain once said, “We know that Medicare’s going broke in seven years, but we need to start over. That’s what the American people want us to do.” Oh, John, and you said it with a straight face. Get outta here, John. No, really. Get out of here. (I believe he said that on “Meet the Press” in March, 2010, so I guess that puts us two years from broke.)

But here’s the best quote about Medicare, in my opinion, and it doesn’t even name it. And it’s from a Republican.

“Should any political party attempt to abolish social security, unemployment insurance, and eliminate labor laws and farm programs, you would not hear of that party again in our political history. There is a tiny splinter group, of course, that believes you can do these things … Their number is negligible and they are stupid.”

That was from Dwight D. Eisenhower, a very popular mid-century president. Medicare did not exist then, but we can be sure he would have included it on that list of like programs.

Now, I’m not certain that the threat to Medicare is gone, because that “negligible and stupid” “tiny splinter group,” today parading as the Tea Party, seems to be ceded far more power and control in today’s GOP than the loonies in Ike’s time.

But without becoming complacent, let’s assume Medicare is safe. It’s had half a century of stellar performance. Regional director David Sayen, in a Daily Press columnlast weekend, called it “among the most efficient and well-managed health insurance programs in the world.” So what’s next?


Obama’s Affordable Care Act (ACA) was an astounding accomplishment (thank you, Harry Reid, but so many compromises had to be made that what we have now is only a start). What would make it great? What would catch us up to the rest of the civilized world?

Simple, really. Just expand Medicare, make it available to all.

Medicare is set up as a single-payer program, meaning no insurance companies (“death panels,” if you will) and their bureaucracies and high fees between you and the healthcare you need. You and your doctor decide, within established parameters. Having all healthcare billed under Medicare’s single-payer system would save us $400 billion per year. Yes, billion with a “b.”

The time has come. There’s a group of doctors who have been at the forefront of the fight. Some doctors would make less money under universal Medicare, but they also are the ones who see day to day the human suffering and death caused by our present system.

The PNHP (Physicians for a National Health Program) has advocated for reforming our health care system for nearly 30 years. The local branch is holding another garden party fundraiser Medicare birthday party, next Sunday, July 26, from 2-5 p.m., again at the home of Santa Monica’s Jan Goodman and Jerry Manpearl. They expect a larger crowd this year and have lowered the donation to match Medicare’s age, $50. The home and grounds are lovely, the food outstanding, there will be live music and fascinating folk to converse with.

I went last year and it was really interesting. The time flew. Our new U.S. Representative Ted Lieu will be speaking this year, as well as Wendell Potter, author of “Deadly Spin — an Insurance Company Insider Speaks Out.” And I’m very pleased that our mayor, Kevin McKeown, will be giving some opening remarks.

Pleased because I noted last year that McKeown has been a single-payer advocate for more than a decade. In 2003, he urged our City Council to back then-State Sen. Sheila Kuehl’s SB 921, which would have established “a single comprehensive health plan for all California residents at NO NEW COST (my emphasis) to the state,” he wrote to me.

He said he asked our Director of Finance to calculate the savings for our city, and $6 million was the figure he was given. Why, that’s almost enough to take care of some important stuff, like “schools, police, fire, social services, and parks,” McKeown suggested.

So if you want to hear how you can get behind this literally life-or-death issue, the push to bring us up into the top 50 nations for health care, this is the perfect place. Tickets are at medicare50pnhpla.eventbrite.com, or possibly at the event, at 939 San Vicente Blvd.

Kinky — you comin’?

QUOTE OF THE WEEK: “America’s health care system is neither healthy, caring, nor a system.” -Walter Cronkite

Charles Andrews has lived in Santa Monica for almost 30 years and wouldn’t live anywhere else in the world. Really. You can reach him at therealmrmusic@gmail.com.

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