Vance Packard was right


Bruce Montplaisir
Altura, Minn.

“The Hidden Persuaders” by Vance Packard was published in 1957. Packard explored motivational research and other psychological techniques, including depth psychology and subliminal tactics by advertisers to manipulate expectations and induce desire for products. Based on the idea that we have a thinking part of the brain and an emotional part of the brain, one technique was to just keep talking until the thinking part of the brain was bored to sleep then hit the prospect with an emotional pitch that closes the deal on whatever product is being sold.

We have a lot of current evidence that repeating the message until the thinking brain is asleep still works. Even though whenever Congress has reduced revenues and increased expenditures in the past, the United States ended up with enormous debt, which meant that more of our national budget had to go to pay interest to foreign investors, we are being told that this time around it will result in a deficit reduction.

Congress has used this message so effectively that it convinced itself reducing revenues and increasing expenditures would be good for everyday Americans.

The Wall Street Journal reported that investment banker Gary Cohn met with corporate leaders and gave them the leading question that went something like: By a show of hands how many of you will use these big tax breaks to increase job opportunities and wages? A few hands went up but most, about 95 percent, didn’t. Corporate leaders were not shy at all about saying they would use the tax wind fall to buy up stock options and pay out dividends to their stockholders.

So with this information in hand our Congressional leaders went back out on the road and told the American people that reducing corporate taxes would allow corporations to expand job opportunities and raise wages for the American people.

It would be unusual for Congress to address the deficit created by its action if members didn’t look to cut programs for those Americans who don’t have millions or billions of dollars to put into political campaigns. Congress and the president will be looking to what they call “entitlements” for people without access to our nation’s wealth to fund the Income Recover for the Wealthy Act of 2017.

Then there is the argument that a high tide raises all boats. The reality is that those boats anchored to the bottom of the bay on a short rope sink when the tide rises.

We live in a country with just over four percent of the world’s population. We also live in a country where more than 25 percent of the people in the world, imprisoned by their governments, live. We have people who think the children of these prisoners have the same opportunities as those children living in stable homes with stable incomes and secure educational programs from pre-school through technical school or college.

To narrow that down a little there are people who think the daughter of a young mother sentenced to life in prison with no chance of parole for a single nonviolent drug offence has the same opportunities as the daughter of a pharmaceutical company CEO who sells millions of doses of prescription opioids each year in a community of fewer than a thousand people. (I know about the young mother sentenced to life in prison with no chance of parole; I assume at least one of the pharmaceutical company CEOs has a daughter.) There are people who believe these two young girls have the same opportunities as the children of those people who died from opioid overdoes because there are no limits on how many doses of prescription opioids can be sold to a single provider in a small community and a good CEO uses that lack of regulation/consumer protection to his advantage. (About 100 people die from opioid overdoses every day.)

We have people like Speaker of the House Paul Ryan saying things like they don’t want to put money into welfare programs because welfare programs make people dependent and he wants result-oriented programs, not money-oriented programs. I think he really believes that, except when it comes to the wealthy people funding his campaigns. With the wealthy, Paul Ryan thinks it is important to get them more money, and doesn’t care that they don’t really need more money and don’t really trickle any of that money down to anybody but their stockholders and their children.

I think Vance Packard got it right 60 years ago. Repeating stuff often enough, even if it has no basis in fact, will cause people to believe it. Often, the person speaking ends up believing the stuff they say even if they started out knowing what they say has no basis in fact.


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