Most Americans, they're just trying to figure out how to go about their lives and how can we make sure that our elected officials are looking out for us. And that means because it's a big, diverse country and people have a lot of complicated positions, it means that in order to get stuff done, we're going to compromise. This is why FDR, when he started Social Security, it only affected widows and orphans. You did not qualify. And yet now it is something that really helps a lot of people. When Medicare was started, it was a small program. It grew.
Under the criteria that you just set out, each of those were betrayals of some abstract ideal.
1936-1937 | Approximately 30 million applications for SSNs were processed between November 1936 and June 30, 1937.
Geez! Obama sounds just like Hannity or Beck! And what about the notion that this was some sort of hard-fought compromise? Well, of course blacks were almost entirely excluded, due to how racist the country was. But within those restrictions, the Democrats had a landslide majority, and even the small slice of Republicans in Congress didn't put up much of a fight. From Social Security Online (History):
And the legislative backstory is similarly placid:
Proposal Introduced in Congress
Shortly after the 74th Congress convened in January 1935, President Roosevelt sent his "Economic Security Bill" to Capitol Hill. The Administration proposal was transmitted to the Congress on January 17, 1935 and it was introduced that same day in the Senate by Senator Robert Wagner (D-NY) and in the House by Congressman Robert Doughton (D-NC) and David Lewis (D-MD). The bill was referred to Senate Finance Committee and the House Ways & Means Committee.
The House Ways & Means Committee held hearings on the bill from January 21, 1935 through February 12, 1935. The Senate Finance Committee held hearings from January 22, 1935 through February 20, 1935.
Renamed the "Social Security Act"
During a Ways & Means meeting on March 1, 1935 Congressman Frank Buck (D-CA) made a motion to change the name of the bill to the "Social Security Act of 1935." The motion was carried by a voice vote of the Committee.
Committee Reports & Initial Passage
The Ways & Means Committee Report on the Social Security Act was introduced in the House on April 4, 1935 and debate began on April 11th. After several days of debate, the bill was passed in the House on April 19, 1935 by a vote of 372 yeas, 33 nays, 2 present, and 25 not voting. (This vote took place immediately followed a vote to recommit the bill to the Committee, which failed on a vote of Yea: 149; Nay: 253; Present: 1; and Not Voting: 29.)
The bill was reported out by the Senate Finance Committee on May 13, 1935 and introduced in the Senate on June 12th. The debate lasted until June 19th, when the Social Security Act was passed by a vote of 77 yeas, 6 nays, and 12 not voting.
Conference Report & Final Passage
Due to differences between the House and Senate versions, the legislation then went to a Conference Committee which met throughout the month of July. Final Congressional action on the bill took place when the Conference Report was passed by voice vote on August 8, 1935 in the House and on August 9th in the Senate.
Signed Into Law
On August 14, 1935 President Roosevelt signed the bill into law at a ceremony in the White House Cabinet Room.
As for Medicare, recall, Obama said:
When Medicare was started, it was a small program. It grew.