#840 – Dick Bernard: Misinformation, The Tyranny of Language: a Suggestion.

The February 6, 2013, Minneapolis Tribune carried an interesting column in the Opinion section: “What we can learn from abortion decline”, by William Saletan.
The subhead said that “with the [abortion] rate down 13 percent, both sides are right about some of the factors”, and in the second paragraph: “Pro-lifers are right that the decline is a good thing. And pro-choicers are right that what’s causing the decline – and will keep it going, if we’re smart – is women making these decisions on their own.”
You can read the column, here, on your own.
I was less interested in Saletan’s analysis, than the other set of screaming headlines and assertions on the same day about what a little statement in a Congressional Budget Office (CBO) report meant about the Affordable Care Act (ACA, aka “Obamcare”) impact on future jobs.
Succinctly, all of the hype seems to focus on one small section on page 124 of a 175 page report (which you can read in its entirety here), “Effects of the ACA on Demand for Labor”, and which you can see summarized in another way here.
In short form, as I saw the gist of the report, many people who presently stay on their job only because they have health care through the company, may now leave that job early, since they don’t need or want to work full-time, and can get lower cost insurance through the Affordable Care Act. The employment reduction, thus, is largely voluntary.
In addition, and I have not seen this mentioned in the screaming headlines, these voluntary quits will leave job openings for people entering or wanting to return to the workforce – lack of job openings is another huge crying need in this country of ours.
In short, the screaming job-killer headlines and soundbites about Obamacare are essentially false; and as suggested in the “abortion” commentary cited at the front of this post, issue groups of all shapes, sizes and ideologies, data mine for the single phrase that supports their case in a report or even an utterance at a hearing somewhere, and ignore the rest of the information that people won’t take the time to read.
We are a society dominated by “headlines”. And opinion-makers know that. People just plainly and simply don’t read in depth, nor consider opposing points of view.
So we are lied to, daily, by misinformation and disinformation and inaccurate summaries of information.
And this is a dangerous trait for the short and long term health of us as a society.
We can defeat this, but it takes a bit of effort on our part, to not take the bait of the whoever is pitching whatever.

Life – take our own as our own example – is complex, day to day, hour to hour, sometimes minute to minute.
In the last day my future schedule changed dramatically for next week. I’ll be gone two or possibly three days attending to a relative near death and her brother who’s lived with her his entire long life. I knew it was coming sometime. All I didn’t know was when. Life is not frozen in time by a headline or an assertion….
An easy exercise, worth taking, is to assess your own life and some occurrence that – because you’re an ordinary person – didn’t translate into headlines.
For one example: I retired 14 years ago from a good job, at 59 1/2. I could do this. My employment carried a very good retirement plan; I could continue excellent medical and dental insurance; and I could explore other options without a lot of fear of starving to death till Social Security and Medicare kicked in.
It was a benefit to me.
It also held benefits for others: I had 27 years of relevant experience, but I was at burnout stage in my job, and I knew I was no longer as engaged or as efficient as I had been.
When I left, somebody new had an opening for the position, perhaps indirectly, as people transferred and otherwise took the position I had left.
Overall, everyone won when I left, including myself.
I think that’s the essence of that short paragraph in that CBO report….
For your own sake, what are your examples?
It takes work to see “the forest” rather than taking somebodies word about “the trees” that make up that forest.
It takes work, but it’s work worth doing.

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