Policy

A Mob of Senior Citizens

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Paul Krugman wrote last Friday that the "mob aspects" of the protests at health care "town hall" meetings are "something new and ugly." David Hyman reminds him that they aren't:

A virtually identical scenario played out in 1989. By an overwhelming margin, Congress had enacted the Medicare Catastrophic Coverage Act in 1988. The Act provided more extensive hospitalization benefits and prescription drug coverage, but it imposed the costs of that benefit on the elderly.

Congress was soon flooded with angry letters and there were numerous confrontations with angry constituents when individual congressmen returned to their districts. As Andrea Mitchell observed on ABC News, "the elderly are not against the new benefits — unlimited hospital care, new at-home benefits, prescription drug coverage; they just don't want to pay for them."

The turning point came on August 17, 1989, when Dan Rostenkowski, House Ways and Means Chairman and one of the most powerful men in Congress, found himself fleeing a crowd of irate senior citizens protesting the Catastrophic Coverage Act.

Representative Rostenkowski had scheduled a meeting in his home district to hear constituent concerns and speak about the advantages of the Medicare catastrophic coverage act. A crowd of angry senior citizens waved signs protesting the fact they would have to pay more taxes to fund the covered benefit. People shouted "coward," "recall," and "impeach" after Representative Rostenkowski refused to speak with them and got in his car. One senior citizen (Leona Kozien) even jumped on the hood of Congressman Rostenkowski's car to stop him from leaving.

See your angry-old-people footage right here: