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State of the Union Hypnosis

State of the Union Hypnosis

    Last night, CNN was getting audience reactions to President Obama’s speech, and asked a man his opinion on the idea of ending subsidies to oil companies. My fellow citizen responded that during times of government subsidies, gas prices rose, so maybe if the government removed subsidies to oil companies, gas prices would fall.


    How hard would it be to run for President and try to satisfy both the smart people in the country and the voters who don’t understand … well, anything? The classic solution is to lie to the dumb while winking to the smart. If you do it right, the dumb people are pleased with what you say and the smart people understand you’re only saying it to keep the slow learners happy.

    But apparently President Obama isn’t a fan of the obvious lie. Perhaps because of his lawyer training he prefers using a bit of hypnosis to bamboozle the dumb with lies that aren’t technically lies yet operate the same way. Want an example?

    If you did a poll today, and asked the average citizen whether or not the following statement is true, how many would say yes?

    Statement: Warren Buffett pays less in taxes than his secretary.

    The truth is that Buffett pays a lower tax rate, but he pays millions more in actual dollars. And Buffett and his secretary receive roughly the same benefits from the government.  (Everyone reading this blog knows that.) The President was careful to specify “tax rate” when he started talking about the Buffett rule, but he capped it off with a hypnosis-like summary by saying Americans know it is just “common sense” that a billionaire should pay more than a secretary. By the closing summary, the clarifying word “rate” was gone. What started as a discussion of tax rates transmogrified into a discussion of who should pay more. Then the President slapping the label “common sense” to his near-lie and imbued it with an undeserved logic. That’s a classic technique of manipulation.

    Smart observers understand the Buffett tax question to be about rates. But I’m guessing that many of the dumb viewers came away with the impression that Buffett paid less in in real dollars than his secretary. And I’m sure President Obama and his advisors intentionally chose language that furthered that misunderstanding while winking at the smart observers.

    When I’m president, I will end this deceptive practice and treat every voter the same way I treat the smartest voter. Wink, wink.

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