A few days ago I praised Steve Benen for making “Pass the Damn Bill” the focal point for Democrats after the Scott Brown debacle.
Now Steve is wondering what to call the Damn Bill for purposes of quick reference—and, one might add, political cadence. It’s officially the “Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act,” which is too long and doesn’t have a pronounceable acronym (unlike, say, COBRA, such a useful acronym that Republicans can defend COBRA without reminding people that it stands for a “budget reconciliation act”).
Steve likes Matt Yglesias’ proposal: “Affordable Care Act” or ACA. I like it too: it’s short, memorable, and says what the law does.
Steve’s commenters haven’t come up with a good alternative. “AHA” for Affordable Healthcare Act is not bad, but I see no reason to add an extra syllable, and people are very used to taking “Care” to mean “health care.” (Nobody thinks “Medicare” should be “MediHealthCare.”) Some would like to rescue “ObamaCare” from being a Republican insult, but I don’t think that will work. Nor does it seem wise on principle to stick a partisan label on a law whose biggest selling point should be that it that serves the whole country and represents what was once a dead-center consensus. Besides, the portmanteau method of making a new brand name out of two old words has gone out of style—I can’t think offhand of too many popular brands concocted that way since the 80s—and good riddance. Such labels always sounded a little greasy, as Orwell thought they did. The same objection applies to “AffordaCare”: yes, it sounds like Medicare, but we wouldn’t call Medicare “Medicare” if we were naming it now. (Individual mandates being a Republican idea, part of me would like to see “RomneyCare” or “Dole-ChafeeCare,” but one can only dream.)
As for the Vice President’s “Big F*cking Deal,” I dislike the distributional effects: only Bill Maher can say that out loud, and people have to pay extra to get the channel where he says it.
So I vote for ACA. Lather, rinse, and above all, repeat.