inartful phrasing or hidden meaning?

As the idea of government health care becomes ever more unpopular with the taxpayers, the federal government's top health care bureaucrat has issued a statement which is at least insensitive, and (in light of the word used) quite possibly inflammatory:

As a widely-watched survey shows support for the new health care reform law slipping, the leader in the reform effort says the administration has "a lot of reeducation to do" to reverse the trend.

The poll, from the Kaiser Family Foundation, shows more Americans now oppose the reform law than favor it, 45 percent to 43 percent, reflecting a seven-point drop in support from the organization's last survey, released in late July.

Since the law's passage in late March, the monthly Kaiser survey has been highlighted by backers of health care reform as evidence of increasing support for the measures, as it suggested a slight upward tick in the number of Americans embracing the reforms -- rising as high as 50 percent in last month's poll. Now, much of the gains have been erased.

The current survey shows only 39 percent of Americans believe the country will be "better off" under the health care reforms, a new low in this poll. Slightly more than half of those questioned say they're disappointed in the new law.

In an ABC News/Washington Post poll taken in July, 50 percent of Americans disapproved of the president's handling of health care, with 45 percent saying they approved. Those who disapproved did so more strongly than those who favored the Obama administration's actions.

In an interview before the latest Kaiser results were released, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius told ABC News that the sustained opposition to the Democrats' health care reform efforts has mainly been a function of "misinformation."

"Unfortunately there still is a great deal of confusion about what is in [the reform law] and what isn't," Sebelius told ABC News Radio on Monday.

With several vulnerable House Democrats now touting their votes against the bill, and Republicans running on repeal of the law, Sebelius said "misinformation given on a 24/7 basis" has led to the enduring opposition nearly six months after the lengthy debate ended in Congress.

"We have a lot of reeducation to do," Sebelius said.

I cannot think of a more inappropriate choice of words than to characterize government health care opponents as in need of "reeducation."

The word has several definitions:

* A euphemism for Brainwashing, efforts aimed at instilling certain beliefs in people against their will
* Reeducation through labor, also called laojiao, a form of penal detention in China; or the Soviet gulags for "re-education of class enemies" and reintegrating them through labor into the Soviet society
* Rehabilitation, therapy to remove or restore a habit or condition, usually medical or penal
* Adult education, education for adults
* Re-Education (Through Labor) a single by punk rock band Rise Against from their 2008 album Appeal to Reason
I think we can rule out the last three meanings, which leaves the first two. "Reeducation" is a Marxist phrase, and for someone to use such a phrase in the context of opponents of socialism is, well, sinister.

Couldn't she have said they are in need of "education"? While that would have been condescending (as it implies that people who dissent are ignorant), at least it doesn't have the unmistakable totalitarian ring that "reeducation" does.

Of course, this may be a job pitch of some sort. We already have a Department of Education (headed by a man called the Education Czar); perhaps the next step is the creation of a Department of Reeducation, with a Reeducation Czar commanding an army of reeducrats.

But I guess that's not in the Constitution, so we don't have to worry that they'd ever do such a thing.

posted by Eric on 08.31.10 at 05:23 PM










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