Labor Secretary Slashes Reagan, Conservatives As 'On The Wrong Side of History'

Labor Secretary Tom Perez appeared on NPR's Diane Rehm Show on Wednesday and spent most of his hour defending Obamacare. Rehm suggested there was staunch opposition to Obamacare, which may not be based on facts: "this is a question that doesn't so much have to do with facts as impressions. Why do you believe Republicans and some Democrats have been so opposed to the Affordable Care Act?"

Perez said denying "self-sufficiency" to uninsured people is "not America," then went on to slam conservatives -- and Ronald Reagan in particular, twice -- for being on "the wrong side of history," just like they were on Medicare.

PEREZ:  I find it hard to understand why there are as many people as there who are so determined to insure that a struggling person, who's trying to climb that ladder of opportunity, can't have access to healthcare, which is one of those building blocks of self-sufficiency. I think we're on the right side of history. I know that. I also know we're on the right side of the future because, in the most remarkable country on the planet, the notion that 45 million Americans can't have health insurance, that's not America....

You may recall Ronald Reagan did an album during the Medicare debate. There's this wonderful album of Ronald Reagan talking about how Medicare is going to lead to socialized medicine. He was on the wrong side of history. I think there are a lot folks right now who are on the wrong side of history. And I'm really proud to be with the president and the American people on this because we're helping to address one of the most critical needs in America, which is access to a healthcare safety net.

Then, again, in the last ten minutes: "There's a lot of people across America, Diane, as you know, who are spending day and night trying to undermine the Affordable Care Act. I mean, again, you know, this is different from Ronald Reagan who did an album because Ronald Reagan -- and I gave Diane the album cover, which has a wonderful picture, by the way, of Ronald Reagan. And I'm very jealous because he has hair, and I don't. But Ronald Reagan speaks out against socialized medicine. This was the milieu in 1961. And that was the talking point. And here today the Affordable Care Act is a job killer. CBO debunks that. The facts debunk that. But we must continue to play Whac-A-Mole on that."

Perez sidestepped Rehm when she cited David Remnick’s article in The New Yorker and implied conservatives might be racist: “Do you believe race has had something to do with the president's failure to be able to deal with members of Congress?” She tried a second time: "So you don't think race is in the mix here at all?"

Rehm did ask Perez about labor unions being unhappy with Obamacare, and Perez blamed Obamacare opponents:

REHM: You've also got labor leaders complaining that the ACA has subjected union health plans to new taxes and mandates while not allowing them to share in the subsidies. How you do deal with that?

PEREZ Sure. Well, we've been working very closely with labor unions to address their concerns. In the ideal world, when you have a law that is as sweeping as the Affordable Care Act was, you would work collaboratively with the other side to attempt to address any consequences of that law. We don't have that luxury here because the view of the other side here is to repeal. They don't want people with pre-existing conditions to have the new protections. So what we've been doing with labor unions is attempting to listen and address their concerns. And what we're seeing is a lot of progress.

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