Framing the public option

10 Sep 2009 11:29 am
Posted by: Donna

I thought the President did a commendable job on his health care speech to the joint session. I’ve gotten to the point where I almost feel sorry for whoever the poor shlub is that the GOP is putting out to do the response. Rep. Boustany (R-LA) was actually smart to pre-record his remarks since who wants to be the sourpuss who follows President Hopey McInspirational?

I was pleased to see him call out the bogus rumors about death panels and taking money out of Medicare. I’d like to see him pushing for a stronger public option – requiring it to be fully self-supporting through premiums while private insurance companies get subsidized by taxpayers doesn’t exactly have me a-tingle with enthusiasm. But he did alleviate any concern that he was going to avoid the issue of a public option.

Democrats are vastly superior when it comes to policy, but the Republicans have us beat when it comes to selling ideas. Take this “public option” for example. It’s far from the worst debacle of a name for something the Dems have come up with – we gave a program that gives health care to children the unwieldy moniker of “SCHIP” after all – but we could have done better than “public option”. Thank your lucky stars they didn’t call it “the government option”, though I’m sure that was considered. Sean Hannity was gloating recently over a Fox News poll that showed support for a public plan dropping considerably when the “government” label was attached to it.

Personally, I like the word “nonprofit”, both for it’s positive connotations of community and philanthropy and because it can apply to government and non-government entities alike. “Public” is preferable to “government” but you still have the problem of a lot of right-leaning Americans associating it with Uncle Sam snatching their hard-earned money and giving it to undeserving lazy welfare queens. But many of those same Americans are active in their churches, or schools, or community organizations like Little League or Girl Scouts. Nonprofit organizations. Who could dislike the Girl Scouts? And calling it the “public option” all this time has created an impasse with many on the left where any option that is not run by the government is unacceptable, even though it’s very possible to create non-government programs that would do exactly (or nearly) what a government-run plan would do. Calling it “nonprofit” would change the frame on both sides of the political spectrum to something both sides would find agreeable. Of course, the Republicans will do their best to re-frame and malign the concept of nonprofit, as they’ve done with things like “liberal” and “community organizer” but I don’t know how far they’d get. Again, who could hate the Girl Scouts? And yeah, the insurance companies will hate it too, but who cares?

“You can choose between private insurance and a nonprofit plan. Which would you like?” Doesn’t that sound better than “public option”? What do y’all think?


  1. Comment by Krista on September 10, 2009 1:22 pm

    And Shakespeare said “…that which we call a rose, by any other name would smell as sweet.” Boy, was he wrong!

    If they really want to frame it, they’ll stop calling it “private insurance” and “public option”. What do they even mean? Private insurance sounds like the ivy league of insurance – everyone’s going to want it because it’s only an option for some, just like private school – but at least it tells you that it’s 1. private, 2. insurance of some sort. Public option tells you it’s 1. available to the public, 2. an option of some kind. Maybe if they changed the terms to “For profit insurance” and “Non profit insurance”, it would make a difference, but I don’t think that’s nearly enough to make it intuitive.

    Personally, I think they should go with the “Greedmonger insurance option” and “Comprehensive non profit option.”

  2. Comment by Donna on September 10, 2009 1:40 pm

    An excellent point, my blogmistress. How about “greedmonger extortion racket plan”?

  3. Comment by Timmys Cat on September 10, 2009 2:56 pm

    but the Republicans have us beat when it comes to selling ideas

    Ideas? Hah! They are better at selling innuendo, hypocrisy ,race baiting, lies and fear. To me those don’t count as ideas.

  4. Comment by Timmys Cat on September 10, 2009 2:57 pm

    Doh! Close tags.

  5. Comment by Donna on September 10, 2009 3:25 pm

    Hey, I never said they were GOOD ideas!

  6. Comment by Zelph on September 10, 2009 10:45 pm

    Republican are really good at repeating a simple message over and over to “catapult the propaganda”.

    They really only have two basic messages:

    1) Government can’t do anything right.
    2) Liberals are elitists who think they’re better than you.

    Repeat these messages over a long period of time with many exposures and you hammer them into the mind of Americans. Liberals think these argument are too silly to counter, so they lose time and time again. They even help with the second message by telling voters how stupid they think they are.

    Republicans understand the principles of advertising. Democrats are satisfied feeling smug that they’re above all this foolishness.

    Here’s a stupid message Democrats might try: Democrats care about the future of your children.

    Silly, isn’t it? If every Democrat running for office repeated some variation of this message, I really think it would work.

    Hope. Change. Rinse. Repeat.

  7. Comment by Donna on September 10, 2009 10:52 pm

    Zelph, they’ll say they care about the future of the children too. The “unborn” ones.

  8. Comment by Eli_Blake on September 11, 2009 12:03 am

    Well, except if you ask them to pay for prenatal care, then they are against it.

    However, zelph, I agree with you that we have to keep pushing to consign the Reagan paradigm that government is always bad to the dustbin. We just saw conservatism destroy much of our economy (reaching its zenith one year ago this week) and it’s time to go back to recognizing that Government is ‘of the people, by the people, and for the people’ (long time since I’ve heard that line) and can be a force for the betterment of people’s lives, not just something to be downsized and privatized out as the right would have you believe.

  9. Comment by Zelph on September 11, 2009 7:44 pm

    Republicans aren’t Pro-Life, they’re Pro-Birth. Once a child is born, they don’t care what happens to it.

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