Abusing Language

Usually it’s liberals who abuse language in the best Orwellian tradition, but evidently not wanting to be left behind, conservatives have now joined the party. In an article at the National Review Online, John Fund discusses a provision in the Obamacare law that requires members of Congress and their staffs to obtain the same health insurance policies that will be available on the government exchanges.

Fund claims this provision was meant to end what he calls “taxpayer-funded health-insurance subsidies” to those on Congress’s payroll. According to Fund, Obama evaded the law by ordering the Office of Personnel Management to interpret the provision to retain the “subsidies.” So now members of Congress and staffers will be the “only participants in the new Obamacare exchanges to receive generous subsidies from their employer to pay for their health insurance.”

But when referring to subsidies, Fund is talking about nothing other than health insur-ance benefits. Fund uses the word “subsidies” instead of “benefits” to attack government and its employees, implying free riding or handouts of some sort. If government employ-ees receive “subsidies,” however, then so do private sector employees. It’s just that in the private sector, the subsidies are “consumer funded” rather than “taxpayer funded.” No difference.

It’s unlikely that Congress intended to eliminate the health-insurance benefit when it restricted members and staffers to the same insurance products available on the health exchanges. And perhaps Congress should clarify the matter directly, but in the meantime, conservatives should stop misusing the language by replacing “benefits” with “subsidies.” It only lowers them to the level of people like Wise Boy (a/k/a Ezra Klein) or Matthew Yglesias.

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