Archive for August 20th, 2009

George Lakoff offers some framing tips to the Democrats re health care reform

| August 20, 2009 | 4 Replies
George Lakoff offers some framing tips to the Democrats re health care reform

Linguist George Lakoff is asking how a man who did such a marvelous job campaigning for President has stumbled so often on the issue of health care. Lakoff thus wrote an article offering some a list of language/framing advice to the Democrats. Here’s the foundational concept:

The list of what needs reform makes sense under one conceptual umbrella. It is a public alternative that unifies the long list of needed reforms: coverage for the uninsured, cost control, no preconditions, no denial of care, keeping care when you change jobs or get sick, equal treatment for women, exorbitant deductibles, no lifetime caps, and on and on. It’s a long list. But one idea, properly articulated, takes care of the list: An American Plan guarantees affordable care for all Americans. Simple. But not for policy wonks.

The policymakers focus on the list, not the unifying idea. So, Obama’s and Axelrod’s statements last Sunday were just the lists without the unifying institution. And without a powerful institution, the insurance companies will just whittle away at enforcement of any such list, and a future Republican administration will just get rid of the regulators, reassigning them or eliminating their jobs.

According to Lakoff, Obama needs to break out of his wonkish way of talking about health care. He is mistakenly operating on the principle of “policy speak”:

If you just tell people the policy facts, they will reason to the right conclusion and support the policy wholeheartedly.

Lakoff argues that “policy speak” is a big mistake. Mere facts don’t win arguments. Rather, the facts need to make sense to people, resonate with them and inspire them to act. Here’s Lakoff’s version of what should be Obama’s basic message:

Insurance company plans have failed to care for our people. They profit from denying care. Americans care about one another. An American plan is both the moral and practical alternative to provide care for our people.

The insurance companies are doing their worst, spreading lies in an attempt to maintain their profits and keep Americans from getting the care they so desperately need. You, our citizens, must be the heroes. Stand up, and speak up, for an American plan.

Lakoff has lots of specifics. For instance, remind Americans that health care is a patriotic duty. Highlight the phrase “doctor-patient care.” Deny that the insurance companies care; rather, they clearly communicate that insurance companies make money by depriving us of care. Hammer the phrase “insurance company bureaucrats.” Tell Americans that their health care premiums are “private taxes” levied by insurers. Remind Americans that health insurers “govern our lives.” Talk about the “failure” of insurance companies. The “villainizing of real insurance company villains should have begun from the beginning.

George Lakoff is asking how a man who did such a marvelous job campaigning for President has stumbled so often on the issue of health care. Lakoff thus wrote an article offering some a list of language/framing advice to the Democrats. Here’s the foundational concept:

The list of what needs reform makes sense under one conceptual umbrella. It is a public alternative that unifies the long list of needed reforms: coverage for the uninsured, cost control, no preconditions, no denial of care, keeping care when you change jobs or get sick, equal treatment for women, exorbitant deductibles, no lifetime caps, and on and on. It’s a long list. But one idea, properly articulated, takes care of the list: An American Plan guarantees affordable care for all Americans. Simple. But not for policy wonks.

The policymakers focus on the list, not the unifying idea. So, Obama’s and Axelrod’s statements last Sunday were just the lists without the unifying institution. And without a powerful institution, the insurance companies will just whittle away at enforcement of any such list, and a future Republican administration will just get rid of the regulators, reassigning them or eliminating their jobs.

According to Lakoff, Obama needs to break out of his wonkish way of talking about health care. He is mistakenly operating on the principle of “policy speak”:

If you just tell people the policy facts, they will reason to the right conclusion and support the policy wholeheartedly.

Lakoff argues that “policy speak” is a big mistake. Mere facts don’t win arguments. Rather, the facts need to make sense to people, resonate with them and inspire them to act. Here’s Lakoff’s version of what should be Obama’s basic message:

Insurance company plans have failed to care for our people. They profit from denying care. Americans care about one another. An American plan is both the moral and practical alternative to provide care for our people.

The insurance companies are doing their worst, spreading lies in an attempt to maintain their profits and keep Americans from getting the care they so desperately need. You, our citizens, must be the heroes. Stand up, and speak up, for an American plan.

Lakoff has lots of specifics. For instance, remind Americans that health care is a patriotic duty. Highlight the phrase “doctor-patient care.” Deny that the insurance companies care; rather, they clearly communicate that insurance companies make money by depriving us of care. Hammer the phrase “insurance company bureaucrats.” Tell Americans that their health care premiums are “private taxes” levied by insurers. Remind Americans that health insurers “govern our lives.” Talk about the “failure” of insurance companies. The “villainizing of real insurance company villains should have begun from the beginning.

I recommend reading Lakoff’s entire article, which is detailed, and thoughtful.”

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Just A Question Or Three

| August 20, 2009 | 3 Replies
Just A Question Or Three

Just a couple of what seem to me like obvious questions. (I know, I’ve been writing a bit on the health care debate, and I’ll try to do some other things after this, don’t want to bore anyone, especially myself.)

I see a lot of protesters waving signs that contain something like this: HEALTHCARE REFORM YES, GOVERNMENT TAKEOVER NO. TORT REFORM NOW!

Something about that doesn’t quite add up. If health care is to be reformed, who is going to do it? The industry isn’t, not without a threat. Which means there will have to be something outside the industry doing the threatening. What might that be?

Hmm. The government?

And the nature of the reform, if it isn’t to be entirely self-serving on the part of the industry, will have to be devised by a somewhat disinterested party. Who might that be?

The government?

And tort law…well, that’s, as it says, Law. Which is legislation. Which is—wait for it!— the government!

So what is being asked for here?

That the government enact reforms that do not involve the government, do not make use of government authority, do not engage government offices, and will not grant the government any power to enforce.

So how will that work exactly?

Or is there some third party out there we haven’t been told about capable of doing all this reforming?

Oh, the market! Which basically is consumers, which is, well, all of us. The people.

But wait…isn’t the government supposed to be the duly elected voice of the people? So if the people are demanding reform, how are the people supposed to both express such a desire and then implement said reforms?

I guess, through their duly elected voice—the government.

But if the government is not to be trusted, I guess that means the people aren’t to be trusted. The people don’t know what they want, what is good for them, or how to go about managing the reforms they’ve demanded and, somehow, achieved. So there will have to be an appointed body of presumed experts who do know how to manage all this to act on the people’s behalf…

Who might that be?

The industry? Hmm. Well, since it’s the industry that needs reforming and the people who have demanded reform, handing management of the reform over to the very thing that needs the reform would seem, well, not to put to fine a point on it, stupid.

So I guess we’d have to elect a representative body to manage the reforms.

Oh, wait, don’t we already have such a body?

Yeah, it’s the government. So by demanding reform of an industry, it would seem reasonable that we not trust the industry (that already doesn’t do what we want it to do) to reform itself. It would be silly to create a whole other body to oversee all this when one already exists that has over two centuries of expertise in doing exactly this sort of thing.

So how is anything is going to change otherwise?

Just wondering, you know, because some of the demands sort of don’t make any sense.

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Biggest non-surprise: Bush admin pushed for fake terror alerts

| August 20, 2009 | 2 Replies
Biggest non-surprise: Bush admin pushed for fake terror alerts

Former Bush Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge just wrote a book in which he tells us what we already knew, according to Think Progress:

[He]was pushed to raise the security alert on the eve of President Bush’s re-election, something he saw as politically motivated and worth resigning over.

My initial reaction: If true, those responsible should be criminally prosecuted.
My second reaction: They won’t be.

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