Deliberately Misleading Language

By Paul Yeager, author of Literally, the Best Language Book Ever

This is as much a political opinion piece as it is a language piece, but when has that stopped me before? If hearing political views that may not match yours (even though they should) is offensive to you, then please go to my completely non-political post about dates being printed on eggs–Jobs I’d Hate to Have.

Teleconference Town Hall?

I had never heard of a telephone town hall with a U.S. Congressman, but some automatic calling system invited me to participate in one with my (I use the term “my” loosely since he doesn’t represent my point of view very well) representative, Glenn Thompson.

I immediately jumped on the opportunity to listen and ask a question (details on that below), but I was struck by the deliberately misleading language he used during one of the poll questions during the meeting.

Yes Means No, and No Means Yes

The lack of support (and downright anger from many) for Paul Ryan’s budget plan to turn Medicare into a privatized voucher system that would basically destroy the program that has worked for the past 40-plus years has resulted in nearly all politicians backing away from supporting the plan.

People like Medicare the way it is; they don’t want their elderly family members having to shop for insurance on the open market with a government voucher that is only going to cover a portion of the cost that the plan used to. It’s simple: When people know the details of the plan, they don’t like it.

The political response, of course, is to muddy the waters so that people are confused about what’s really going on, which is what Thompson did with his poll question. (The following is not a direct quote; it’s a paraphrase since I wasn’t thinking that I’d be writing about it today.)

  • A recently issued report (I don’t remember the name) states that Medicare will be insolvent by 2020.  Do  you support reforming Medicare so that we can meet our commitments? (If so, press 1). Or, do you believe that the program should not be reformed? (If so, press 2).

First of all, we could argue about what state Medicare is going to be in by 2020; it (and Social Security) is not nearly the deficit-causing problem that Republicans like to make it out to be. The financial burden placed on Americans is NOTHING compared to the burden of the Bush tax cuts. That’s right. The Bush tax cuts have been a tremendous burden on all of us–all of us except the rich. Re-instate the taxes to Clinton-era levels, and the Medicare/Social Security “problem” would be solved.

Regardless, national polls indicate that a high percentage (70-80%) of Americans support no cuts in benefits to Medicare. Therefore, the question was framed in such a way that a vote to reform Medicare (which is a Republican code word for cut) seemed like it was a vote for keeping benefits the same as they currently are (meeting our commitment) while a vote for not reforming Medicare seemed to indicate that we couldn’t meet our commitment.

In other words, Thompson deliberately worded the question so that he could say he has support for cutting reforming Medicare when he doesn’t.

No means yes, and yes means no. We all used to call that a lie, and I still do.

Tax Question

Unfortunately (for me, not Mr. Thompson), time ran out before I could ask my question. I was, however, given the opportunity to leave a voice mail question (monologue/question).

Approximately 80% of the population agrees that we should raise taxes on millionaires and large corporations in order to help reduce the deficit, but all I ever hear is “Washington has a spending problem.” Washington also has a very serious revenue problem. The rich and large corporations pay less tax now than they did in 1980!! Do you support having the rich pay their fair share, or do you only support cuts–cuts to education, cuts to Social Security, cuts Medicare, etc.?

Oh, and please don’t insult me by telling me about trickle down economics. We’ve done that for nearly 30 years, and it doesn’t work.

Congressman Glenn “the rich pay too many taxes” Thompson or one of his staff promised to get back to all questioners. When he does, I’ll post his response on the blog.

Geez, I hope it’s not about trickle down economics. The blog might lose its status as a family blog.

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