This month’s New Year’s resolutions may be nearly forgotten, but Alan Jenkins, executive director of The Opportunity Agenda, is hoping you’ll add a few more items to the list of things you’re giving up in 2013.
In a recent blog post, Jenkins offers fellow progressives a list of terms he’d like to retire, including “gay marriage,” “felon” and “entitlements.”
In recent policy debates over the fiscal cliff and the federal health law, the term “entitlement” has been a frequent stand-in for Medicare or Medicaid.
“To call them entitlements really kind of takes the soul out of why they are important, why they are actually crucial to the American dream,” Jenkins said.
“It also obscures the tremendous subsidies and other benefits that corporations and the wealthy receive through other channels,” he wrote in his blog post.
Instead of “entitlements,” Jenkins favors the term “economic security protections.” Or even better, he said, just refer to Medicare and Medicaid by name.
Policymakers often talk about “leveling the playing field” when they’re working to provide wide access to health care across different communities, he notes.
“We are not competing, we are all trying to move forward together,” Jenkins said. “And so that term ‘level the playing field’ suggests somehow that health care for everyone or public health is a competition when really it’s not.”
Jenkins says the language we use influences the way we think.
When experts talk about crime as disease, the solutions they find are often linked to prevention and treatment, he said.
“If I talk to you about a war on crime, you will tend to think about putting people in jail, armed combat and the like,” Jenkins said. “Facts matter, of course, but the language we use matters, too.”