What isn't so dry is the tale of the hissy fits thrown by the opposition to enacting an insurance program for elders at every stage of the legislative and political process. Depression-era Republicans foresaw terrible consequences if government stepped in to help old people:
The Roosevelt administration's painstakingly designed plan was denounced over the conservative talk radio of the day by Fr. Coughlin. Altman points out that Coughlin's CBS radio show, the Golden Hour of the Little Flower, "had a larger share of the listening audience than today's Howard Stern, Rush Limbaugh, Paul Harvey, and Larry King put together."
There was a (sadly familiar) strain of crazy zeal in the opposition to Roosevelt. Organizations claiming to be outside the political parties threw themselves into his re-election campaign.
William Randolph Hearst's newspapers knew they couldn't directly stop the old age insurance initiative, but they could claim they had a better idea -- and make the Republican candidate for President Alf Landon tow their line.
It's interesting to see that print publications of the 1930s used the same convention of all caps to indicate shouting as internet forums do today.
Landon went down to defeat in 1936, still whining about the intrusions that the Social Security program would inflict on the people.
These historical oddments make it clear that the howls we're hearing out of DC Republicans, media celebrities peddling resentment, and the Tea Party have been around for a long time. Experience with Social Security and Medicare doesn't seem to moderate whatever anxieties underlie them. More calculating entities, like corporate medicine and insurance companies that profit from the status quo, exploit them still.
I have sympathy with President Obama's instinct to tell people to just calm down -- clearly the country needs, again, a good dose of that. But he also needs to call out the entities that stir this pot of chronic anxieties to enhance their own power and profits. It would be great to hear from him occasionally the sort of thing Roosevelt was able to say at his second inaugural: