Semantics is a branch of linguistics and logic concerned with the meaning of a word, phrase, sentence or text, and it is somewhat different than an outright lie. Politicians often use semantics to mislead and misinform voters about a policy that, if labeled accurately and truthfully, would never receive support and indeed, may doom a politician’s career. Republicans are not known for their veracity and they purposely mislead voters by using catch-phrases and buzz-words that fool their devotees into supporting policies that are not in the people’s best interest. A well-known example is Republican’s use of the phrase “job creators” as interchangeable with “wealthiest 1%” and they have been successful fostering support for increasing tax cuts for the rich by repeating that one phrase.
Republicans have long sought to privatize government programs to enrich corporations, and they have targeted various agencies and programs for transferring taxpayer dollars to the private sector under the guise of budget reduction and increased benefits to the public. Fortunately, Americans generally oppose turning over their tax dollars to private, for-profit corporations, so Republicans have generated new words to replace the term privatize. The current push to privatize Medicare has engendered words like voucher system and regardless the semantics involved, privatizing the popular healthcare program amounts to cutting Medicare. It would not be fortuitous for Republicans to announce they intended cutting Medicare, so they attempted to use semantics to trick the public into giving support for privatizing the health program.
Back in April, when Paul Ryan (R-WIS) presented the Heritage Foundation’s budget proposal, he offered a Medicare privatization scam that he labeled “premium support;” it was nothing more than a voucher system. Regardless of the label, the Heritage plan cut Medicare benefits for seniors and would increase their health care costs. A few days ago, Willard Romney said that he’s not aware of “anyone among Republicans who’s talking about cutting Medicare.” Apparently, Willard is thinking of a semantic shift because the Heritage plan, like Romney’s proposed fix for Medicare, results in drastic cuts to the successful health program.
It is astonishing that Romney said he does not know any Republicans talking about cutting Medicare because his own plan to privatize the Medicare program cuts Medicare benefits. Romney’s plan would allow Congress to vote on “the amount of premium support credits (vouchers)” that seniors receive to buy health care insurance. His plan, like the Heritage-Ryan plan, privatizes Medicare by shifting seniors to private plans and issuing them a voucher to purchase health insurance. The problem with Romney’s plan is that the vouchers will not keep up with private health insurance premiums and for seniors who cannot afford increased premiums, the result is lower quality health plans than what Medicare offers. According to Romney’s plan, it will be up to Congress to cap and approve voucher increases, or decreases, each year.
When asked if his plan would grow at the standard measure of consumer inflation or medical inflation, Romney said that Congressional action would determine whether or not the value of the vouchers would keep up with inflation or not. Romney cited Heritage as a reference for allowing Congress to annually decide how much the “total subsidy is going to be. And that would then set the limit of how much each person is going to receive.” Under the current Medicare program, for a set amount, all of a patient’s health care needs are met irrespective of Congressional action or the private sector’s increases. It is true that Congress appropriates Medicare funding, but since it is a mandatory program, it means Congress does not vote for it each year.
Willard’s plan places federal spending for senior’s health care at the whim of Congress that does nothing to reassure Medicare recipients that their coverage remains dependable or affordable. By his own admission, Romney’s plan depends on the principle that Medicare coverage will not grow at a rate dictated by medical inflation, but a rate decided on by a capricious body of lawmakers. Under his plan, the federal government’s contribution to Medicare is decreased (cut) leaving seniors to pick up the added cost or go without health care altogether. For seniors subsisting on Social Security alone, their decision will be to eat, go to the doctor, or die.
It is no wonder Romney is paranoid about calling his plan a cut to Medicare, because as it is now, Medicare is a dependable, popular, and life-saving program for a majority of seniors who exist on a fixed income. He says that no Republican is talking about cutting Medicare, but his own plan to “fundamentally transform Medicare into Medicare 2.0,” automatically cuts benefits depending on the whims of Congress and the cap on its growth every year. His plan, like the Ryan-Heritage plan will issue vouchers to seniors to buy private health coverage and if Congress decides on an amount lower than the cost of a private plan, seniors are left to fend for themselves. Medicare is a wildly popular program that guarantees affordable health care for millions of seniors regardless of private insurer’s premium increases, and Republicans cannot wait to transfer taxpayer contributions directly to the insurance industry that is notorious for raising premiums without cause.
It is outrageous that Romney says, in one breath, that no Republican is talking about cutting Medicare, and in the next breath that his plan cuts Medicare. Make no mistake, by decreasing the federal government’s contribution to Medicare, Romney intends to cut Medicare. It is irrelevant if they call it a voucher system, privatization, or premium support plan; all GOP plans cut Medicare. If one wonders why Republicans are hell-bent on decimating Medicare, there is a simple answer. Any government program that works well is an anathema to Republicans and if they can funnel worker’s Medicare contributions to for-profit health insurance providers, they will do it. There is another reason the GOP targets successful government programs; they disprove the Republican mantra that government does not work as well as private enterprise. Medicare works; it is cost effective, and people love it; so Republicans hate it.
Willard and his cronies can use semantic shifts to obfuscate cutting Medicare as much as they like, but they must understand that Americans do not want Medicare cut any more than they want Social Security cut. The American people can be ignorant and stupid, but they know that regardless the irrational word-play Republicans use for “cutting Medicare,” Americans will not tolerate privatizing, voucher-izing, or premium support-izing their wildly popular and effective government provided health care insurance. One has to wonder; what word for “no cuts” will Republicans understand?