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Miles J. Zaremski

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'Jelloesque': Word du Jour for Cutting Health Benefits in Debt Ceiling Talks

Posted: 07/21/11 02:57 PM ET

In ticking down down to the fail-safe date of Aug. 2, House Majority Leader John Boehner described in recent days the negotiations surrounding raising the debt ceiling, notably including changes to Medicare and Medicaid, as Jell-O. Actually, Speaker Boehner, you got it wrong. The word "Jell-O" is a noun; Webster's defines it as "a trademark for a flavored gelatin eaten as a dessert or used in molded salads." You were improperly using the word; you were really describing what your colleagues were doing or saying. You should have been using an adjective; they are a class of words used to limit or qualify a noun or other substantive persons, places or things. You should have used a new word not yet found in Webster's: "jelloesque."

Other than yours truly having used this new word in the past in various private communications, this may be the first time it finds itself in a published post, and certainly published as a potentially new English word. It certainly cannot be found in any recognized English dictionary, though listen up, all you editors, here is a new word for your tomes. But first, let's first give it a definition: "1. In the manner or style of gelatin. 2. Having the quality of, or like, wiggling or moving a lot but remaining in the same position; having motion but remaining in place; stationary; not producing action or results."

The pages of The Huffington Post are filled with posts and stories on the machinations surrounding what will be done with the nation's debt ceiling before Aug. 2 is reached, with the latest being the House passage of the now-termed "Cut, Cap and Balance" bill, and the Senate's Gang of Six crafting a spending cut and revenue package. This post thus need not add to this endless debate that has probably become nauseating by now to most voters, other than to say that all members of Congress continue to spew forth opinions about what should be done, including having a sword of Damocles slice through the health care lifelines for those who can least afford and access them. What we see our officials on the Hill doing with their ceaseless advocacy and chest pounding is jelloesque -- a whole lot of wiggling -- posturing, politicing and hearing themselves speak on media outlets, with no movement to solving the debt-ceiling crisis, with emphasis on excluding social entitlement programs like Medicare, and doing what a majority of Americans sent them to Washington to do. If I did not know better, I would say that every member of Congress only cared about protecting his or her job, and not about doing the nation's business in a very timely fashion. Jelloesque.

Key among the jelloesque conduct of our elected officials is continued bantering on whether or not to slice and dice health care for our nation's seniors and the economically disadvantaged (i.e., the poor). I would be the first to admit that no doubt the sine qua non for any governmental program already in existence is tweaking, refining and modifying it in order to eliminate any waste and inefficiency that may be occurring due to the passage of time since the program was first enacted. But never has an industrialized nation, certainly none with the power and resources of the U.S., ever denied its citizenry the ability to be, and remain, healthy. In previous posts, I have said that health care must be a right for all Americans. Any further talk of cutting or modifying benefits within the debt ceiling debate (e.g., making program participants pay more than they are doing now, or not providing increases in benefits as needed in the future), is contrary to the U.S. providing health care to its 50 million seniors and this notion of health care being a right.

But "jelloesque" is an adjective that should have broad usage outside the health for our citizens. Look at what Congressional representatives are saying in other areas of the debate: not raising the debt ceiling at all, under any circumstances, à la Michele Bachmann; how much to cut from the budget; claiming that not raising revenues generates jobs (when there is not one iota of objective data to support this); and even that cuts should be made to social entitlements without taking an ax to what is spent on defense. We have less than two weeks to go, yet those we sent to D.C. to do the peoples' business have had months to solve the crisis now upon the nation. We certainly did not send folks to Congress to be jelloesque, regardless of the subject matter; we "hired" them with our vote to get work done for us. Most of them, at least presently, have a failing grade. And we know what happens to workers, certainly in the private sector, who do not perform in their positions.

In the end, imagine, if you will, Jell-O on your favorite tableware and gently moving that dish or plate back and forth with your fingertips. Then think of every elected federal official wanting to do away with health care for those segments of our population who are least able to afford and access it, as part of debt ceiling negotiations for the reasons we hear them assert. Then think about the many months Democrats and Republicans have had to resolve the issues that now place us all in harm's way. "Jelloesque," you say once more? But if "jelloesque" is a word that does not catch your fancy, or if it's not a word that Webster's wants to include in its next edition, thinking of one's derrière moving back and forth while standing still might be a satisfactory pictorial synonym for what is being observed in Washington nowadays by those of us outside the beltway.

Mr. Boehner, now you understand that when you spoke of Jell-O, you really meant describing the dialogue and actions among your colleagues as "jelloesque." And being saddled with this adjective is in no manner a flattering way to describe the work of a Congressional representative.