“Students and families are struggling in President Obama’s economy. Nearly half of college graduates are unemployed or underemployed, and laws like ObamaCare have only made it harder for small businesses to hire them. That’s why House Republicans voted to extend current student loan rates and to pay for it by eliminating an ObamaCare slush fund President Obama himself proposed cutting from his budget. It’s time for the president and Democrats in Congress to stop exploiting the challenges facing young Americans for political gain, and start working with Republicans to create a better environment for private-sector job growth.”
Apr 27, 2012, Press Release from the Office of the Speaker of the House, John Boehner
There’s seems to be an emerging consensus that the first presidential election after the Citizen’s United ruling, which unleashed a flood of corporate money, is going to be the ugliest in history. Apparently, if you have an endless flow of cash you won’t use it to educate and inform. I think, then, that we should start keeping track of the key terms of the vitriol. Maybe a little knowledge can diffuse the toxins. Boehner sounded angry and out of control but his terms are clearly carefully chosen to create a particular effect.
First on my list is the term “slush fund,” particularly as associated with the word “ObamaCare,” which has long been a term of art in Republican rhetoric. The two are closely related. “ObamaCare,” suggests that the Healthcare Reform Act is nothing but the product of a single (Black) man’s power and ambition and not the democratic process; it echos Medicare, too, which “everyone knows” is on the verge of collapse. This is designed to give these limited market reforms the air of wasteful and dangerous despotism.
It all hints of high taxes and imminent threats to liberty, paranoid mainstays of the Tea Party. The term “slush fund” makes sense, then, because it suggests another truism: absolute power corrupts absolutely. It’s an ugly, slithering word that’s reptilian if not evil. It’s a deeply Orwellian trope, too, because Boehner is talking about money designated for preventative care programs, the very programs that will cut medical costs and so help businesses, large and small, while preventing suffering and disease.
The main goal seems to be to give any attempt at reform– the Healthcare Reform Act is by no means a revolutionary act–an ugly, even dangerous feeling. Ironically, this sort of rhetoric is itself a kind of political preventive care, an attempt to inoculate public discussion against the possibility of substantive change. It’s both tactical and strategic. It’s a tactic to defeat a minor change in tax policy but, more importantly, it’s a long-term strategy for forestalling a feared redistribution of wealth.