By any other name

Krugman’s been on this for a while on his blog, and now he’s written a column about it.

What’s in a name? A lot, the National Republican Congressional Committee obviously believes. Last week, the committee sent a letter demanding that a TV station stop running an ad declaring that the House Republican budget plan would “end Medicare.” This, the letter insisted, was a false claim: the plan would simply install a “new, sustainable version of Medicare.”

Start with the claim that the G.O.P. plan simply reforms Medicare rather than ending it. I’ll just quote the blogger Duncan Black, who summarizes this as saying that “when we replace the Marines with a pizza, we’ll call the pizza the Marines.” The point is that you can name the new program Medicare, but it’s an entirely different program — call it Vouchercare — that would offer nothing like the coverage that the elderly now receive…

Reminds me of this:

What’s in a name? that which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet

Completely changing the nature of Medicare and still calling it Medicare isn’t the same as saying a rose will have the characteristics of a rose no matter what we call it, but it reminded me of that passage all the same.

On actual substance: Why don’t we do the stuff that hurts the least? Changing Medicare to a voucher system is something you can do when the other things you do didn’t work. I don’t see a reason it should be the first (or even like first ten) things you try.

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