• Perceptions often define issues
    March 04,2014
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    Discerning reader Joe Sessock (“We’re all millionaires,” Feb. 22) provides an excellent example of how important a critical intelligence is for civic engagement.

    More often than do facts, perceptions define issues. Presidential candidate John Kerry lost when the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth successfully created a perception of him as a coward in Vietnam. Having failed in their 2008 and 2012 attempts to make the public perceive Barack Obama as an Islamofascist Communist crypto-Kenyan, the Republican Party is now trying to make the public perceive it as the party of minorities, women, the LGBT community and the working class for the 2016 elections. And in Vermont, opponents of universal health care are trying to do something similar.

    They try to create fear (“Four-hundred thousand dollars!”) by leaving out context (“That’s three thousandths of a percent of our state budget!”). They create uncertainty by excluding critical information (“Friggin’ Andorra has better health care than we do!”) and posing portentous-sounding diversions (“Do you want America to be the second-best?”). They create doubt (“We’re going too fast on this.”) to distract people from the nature of the problem and the solution (“One hundred percent of the population can receive health care for less than the price that forty percent is paying right now!”).

    So imagine my surprise when I looked at state tax data and found that Vermonters earned $16.4 trillion. To make sure, I even double-counted all the commas. Unfortunately, my math skills are so bad that, in high school, the nun thought only an exorcism would get me through algebra. I rushed my discovery into print, happy to know that here were facts that would forever lay to rest the fear, uncertainty and doubt of the mud-flingers. Fortunately, Mr. Sessock discovered my egregious error and has pointed it out for the advancement of argument on the most important Vermont issue of the 21st century.

    I did enjoy being a millionaire while it lasted.


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