Pushing Your Buttons

By: Frank Hyland

In the interest of full disclosure, let me say right up front that this column has absolutely nothing to do with the plight of New York Governor Elliot Spitzer. Well…………….maybe a bit…………………

Marketing and Advertising organizations have long been the best at finding out which one(s) of our psychological “buttons” to push. In fact, they are so good that what they know about you ought to frighten you. I don’t mean necessarily that they know your address or phone number or, God forbid, your age and weight, although it’s not that hard for them to uncover those as well. No, what they know is far more serious than that – They know what “turns you on.”

It is so insidious that you see it all day every day, on TV, radio, billboards, newspapers, and either you don’t give it a second thought or you agree wholeheartedly. Either way, you respond in the way that the advertisers want you to respond. It’s in commercials and advertisements for houses, cars, clothing, jewelry, toys, gadgets, vacations, EVERYthing! That means that it’s elemental; it goes to the very heart of what causes you to respond, what makes you “tick.” It comes awfully close to reducing you to the level of a vending machine: You put in a dollar; out comes a can of soda. They put in the key word; out comes your wallet. The key word is “Deserve.” You “deserve” a better, bigger house, nicer job, faster car, larger paycheck, on and on and on.

Why is it insidious? Well, back to the ole Dictionary…….

1. Working or spreading harmfully in a subtle or stealthy manner: insidious rumors; an insidious disease.
2. Intended to entrap; treacherous: insidious misinformation.
3. Beguiling but harmful; alluring: insidious pleasures

It’s insidious because it removes from our thought process the idea that we should have to work for “it.” We’ll all readily agree that we have to work for the luxuries in life, like a private jet or a yacht. When it comes to a job, a house, a raise, though, we’re fairly easy to convince that we “deserve” them. In fact, we frequently believe it so strongly that we’ll actually become angry that we don’t have “it” yet. We can become convinced without a lot of nudging that whatever it is that we deserve – a better job, an education, for example – is rightfully ours and that we are being deprived of the desired item by others. It’s at that point that they can say “Gotcha.”

If we were subjected to this only in the private sector, it would be much easier for us to manage the problems that result from 320 million of us who all “deserve” more, bigger, better. But the same advertisers ply their trade in the public sector as well. The first cousin to the bigger house that you “deserve” is the federal and/or state program called (by those who created them) an “Entitlement.”

One such entitlement recently enacted into law is Medicare Part D. On the day that it became law, this one entitled me to: 1) eat exclusively at fast-food restaurants; 2) get off my couch only to go to the bathroom; 3) consume every known legal and illegal feel-good substance known to modern medical science; and then when I make it to the magic age of 65, 4) I’m entitled to reach into your pocket to pay for my needs for prescription medicines to fix the health problems that I created. By the way, I’m also entitled to reach into your pocket for Parts A and B, so please make sure that you keep enough cash in your pocket.

If the above scenario doesn’t make your blood boil or freeze (take your pick), it’s happening now in the Presidential Campaign – one or another candidate promises you that they’ll make sure that you get the health care that you deserve. It’s very hard for a single parent in a low-income job, with children, to turn down the prospect of “free” medical insurance for the kids. Knowing that government-provided health care will free up money in the budget for other things makes it even harder to turn down. Some readers are probably upset at me even now for questioning that children have a “right” to good health care and good health. Just look into the eyes of those little, fragile, dependent beings and say they don’t “deserve” it. Once again, Advertisers at your service.

What you won’t hear on the campaign trail is what happens the day after such a program gets enacted. Politicians like to “kick the can down the road” for the next generation to deal with. By then, just like the coming train wrecks of Social Security and Medicare, it’s too late. Worst of all, we’re complicit in our own personal train wreck. We’ll vote for the candidate who promises us a single-payer health system, even when the little voice in the back of our mind questions what will happen then. We never hear anyone in the audience at a campaign stop ask the important questions: Why do we deserve healthcare? How much? For what? When? At what cost to me? At what cost to others? Search long and hard, but you’ll find little if any discussion about that. All that’s being done is that your healthcare “button” is being pushed. And we’re too busy kicking the can down the road, to answer the questions.

Frank Hyland is a Staff Writer for the New Media Alliance, Inc. (www.thenma.org).

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