Frank Luntz is a Republican pollster, but more importantly he uses the words that he tests to manipulate the American people. Were it not for Luntz’s words we likely would not have had a Republican controlled congress from the mid-90s and the last eight years of the Cheney-bush administration. Using words to manipulate people is of course nothing new, especially in politics and it happens across the political spectrum.
The problem is that Luntz is particularly effective at find words that hit at irrational fears of Americans and twisting them around into often outright lies. A prime example is on this week’s edition of On the Media at just over 7 minutes in.
Luntz is interviewed on the subject of health care reform and the messages he is crafting for Republicans. Luntz is having the anti-reform side (yes that is an example of using words to manipulate, because the Republicans would love to reform the health industry, but not in anyway that will be beneficial to MOST Americans) de-emphasize the phrases free-markets and competition. He replies to a question about this with
“Well it’s not a matter of changing their principles, because what they support stil maintains an individual focused system rather than a collective system.”
The fundamental problem with this statement is that it runs counter to the entire premise of insurance. Insurance at its core is about collectivism. Insurers collect premiums from customers and pool risk over a large number of customers. The concept is that people pay in such as for homeowners insurance into a pool of money. Ultimately most people will never have their house burned down, robbed or destroyed in an earthquake, while others will. Some will collect more in claims than they pay in while others will get nothing. Because you can’t predict everything that will happen in the future, this mechanism allows large numbers of people mitigate financial risk down the road.
The problem with Luntz’s emphasis on individual focus is that it eliminates the whole point of an insurance system. While in many cases individualism is a good thing, health care probably isn’t one of them. When you get really sick or seriously injured the costs can so easily become totally overwhelming. While the wealthy can often afford to take care of themselves, the vast majority of us cannot in an extreme situation like this. Many of us will never need this kind of expensive care, but if we do a collective insurance system can literally be a lifesaver.
This is not about communism as Luntz would like to imply, this is about helping people when they need it most.
Next up the falacy of rationing