4 Political Concepts Ruined by Their Boring Names

Date: Saturday, December 25, 2010 1:23 AM
Category: Allgov Blogs
Sometimes a policy or concept becomes popular because it acquires a catchy name. The Car Allowance Rebate System, for example, would not have captured the public’s imagination had it not become better known as “Cash for Clunkers.” Here are four concepts in serious need of new names if they are to be taken seriously.
 
1. Net Neutrality
My eyes automatically glaze over when I hear this term. For those who are not passionate about the issue, net neutrality means that Internet carriers like AT&T, Verizon, Comcast and Time Warner must allow access to all web sites at an equal speed. Opponents of net neutrality want a two-tiered system that would allow the carriers to charge a fee if you want your site to be accessed faster. Two-tier is a pay-for-play scheme that would increase telecom profits. Two-tier would also allow Internet providers to block access to sites that compete with sites with which they have signed a contract.
 
On December 21, the FCC passed new rules relating to net neutrality. But only a tiny number of people can explain what those new rules will really do, particularly since the FCC has not yet released the full text of the new guidelines. Proponents of net neutrality would probably gain more attention if they rebranded their cause “Internet First Amendment,” “Internet Equality” or something else that evokes interest and sympathy.
 
2. Single-Payer
I’m a supporter of the concept of single-payer health care, but usually when I mention it to people, they have no idea what I’m talking about. Yet when I explain it, they are almost always interested.
 
In the single-payer system, the government pays for everyone’s health care, but you choose your own doctors and you make most of the decisions. In the United States, we already have single-payer systems. They’re called Medicare and Medicaid. If you are at least 65 years old or you are disabled, the government pays for your health care, but, generally speaking, you are free to choose your own doctors and hospitals. A full single-payer system would extend such coverage to Americans who are younger than 65 and not disabled.
 
Polls show that a majority of Americans find the single-payer system appealing, yet it was not even considered in the Congressional health care reform debate. A full single-payer system would significantly increase government spending, but it would also dramatically decrease the nation’s overall health care spending because the insurance industry charges almost 30% in profits and overhead, whereas the figure for Medicare, as an example, is only 4%.
 
If this system is ever to gain traction in the national debate, it needs to be renamed “Medicare for All” or “Government Pays, You Choose.”
 
3. Fracking
Fracking is an unusually disturbing method of extracting natural gas from deep sources in the ground. Its real name is “hydraulic fracturing” and it entails injecting millions of gallons of chemicals, sand or fluids into a well to crack open the rocks and allow easier access to the natural gas. Unfortunately, as presently performed, fracking is associated with environmental degradation, in particular water pollution. Considering that there appears to be no way to stop energy companies from rushing forward with fracking, the American people need to step in and, at the very least, dramatically improve regulation of the process.
 
Once again, however, it is impossible to attract attention to the issue because the term “fracking” is not an attention-grabber. It is somewhat obscene- or evil-sounding, which is probably a good thing and the reason the natural gas industry doesn’t use it. However, for the average citizen, it is too nebulous. A new term is needed that includes the fact that the earth is being blasted apart and dangerous substances are being added to drinking water.
 
4. Cap and Trade
This is another eye glazer. Cap and trade, otherwise known as “emissions trading,” gets a lot of coverage in the media, but only environmental activists and businesses that pollute seem to know what it means. Cap and trade is a pollution control system whereby companies are given a limit (a “cap”) to how much pollution they can dump into the environment. If they want to exceed their limit, they can buy a permit to do so from another company that is below its own limit. Currently, the main cap and trade programs in the United States deal with sulfur dioxide (acid rain) and nitrogen oxides. The primary sources of these pollutants are cars and coal power plants.
 
In theory, cap and trade rewards companies that control their emissions and punishes those that pollute. In practice, large corporations, rather than reducing their emissions, just factor the added expenses for polluting into their annual budgets.
 
Cap and trade strikes me as a wishy-washy method of dealing with air pollution…better than nothing, but not a real solution. If the general public is to become engaged in this issue, cap and trade will need a new name that is more clear and to the point. How about “Pay to pollute”? Proponents will not like this phrase, but at least it’s accurate.

 

-David Wallechinsky

Latest News

U.S. Ambassador to Luxembourg: Who Is Randy Evans?

A generous donor to the GOP, Evans became a senior advisor to Newt Gingrich’s unsuccessful 2012 presidential campaign. Evans used his relationship with Gingrich as a launch pad for both his political and legal career. Gingrich hired Evans as his outside counsel to represent him in several ethics investigations, which culminated in the House formally reprimanding Gingrich and ordering him to pay a $300,000 penalty, which lead to his resignation as Speaker of the House..   read more

Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy: Who Was Tom Marino?

Marino withdrew as nominee for "drug czar" right after a news report detailed his efforts to pass a 2016 law, at the behest of pharmaceutical interests, that made it harder to stop sales of addictive drugs by manufacturers and pharmacies. The report also disclosed his efforts to silence one of the law's critics. AlterNet's Philip Smith wrote: “Marino will be the sort of drug czar who is tough on Colombian peasant farmers, but not so tough on major U.S. pharmaceutical opioid manufacturers.”   read more

Director of the National Institute of Standards and Technology: Who Is Walter Copan?

Copan is a leading expert in the commercialization of technology who says his top priority is to implement the Cybersecurity Framework, an effort led by NIST to improve network security across federal agencies as well as industry. He will have to defend NIST’s budget ($962 million for FY2017), which Trump has proposed to cut by 24%, including a 13% cut to its seven research labs and an 86% cut to its industrial technology services program.   read more

Director of the Office of Public and Indian Housing: Who Is Hunter Kurtz?

In 2006, Kurtz took his first job related to housing, serving as special assistant to Assistant HUD Secretary for Community Planning and Development Pamela Patenaude. He then served as special assistant to the deputy chief of staff at HUD and as policy advisor in HUD’s Office of Congressional and Intergovernmental Relations. Kurtz later left federal service to work for the City of Detroit, which had been taken over by state government due to the city’s financial problems.   read more

In 9 Months, Trump has Bombed to Death more Civilians than Obama Did in 8 Years

At Trump's campaign rallies he pledged to “bomb the hell” out of the Islamic State. He openly mused about killing the families of terrorists, a blatant violation of the Geneva Conventions. Ten months into his presidency, alarming trends have emerged. An intense focus on destroying ISIS elements may be overriding the competing priority of protecting civilians. Because Trump has scaled back civilian oversight and delegated authority to colonels, the likely result is higher casualties.   read more
see more...