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'Free' Our Political Language from Falsehood

Apparently a cell phone is now a right, and therefore must be guaranteed with an entitlement. As the TV commercials say: you probably qualify for a free cell phone and free minutes every month if you are on Medicaid or food stamps.


The problem is it isn’t free.


I would like to argue for a new kind of truth in advertising. In the world in which I live, advertising for business, there are strictly enforced truth-in-advertising laws. I’d like to see some mandated truth in the advertising and promotion of all government giveaway programs.


To start with, the word “free” should be banned and replaced with the following phrase: “paid for with money stolen from your neighbors, who have worked to earn the money but are not permitted to keep what they’ve earned so that you can have a fill-in-the-blank.”


This new phrase should be mandatory in every ad, every political pronouncement, every politician’s promise and every pundit’s comment on every entitlement – and, in case you hadn’t noticed, such things are proliferating faster than rabbits on Viagra®, and we can apply some form of my phrase to every new one:


    “Cash for Clunkers may give you up to $4,500 stolen from your neighbors, who have worked to earn the money but are not permitted to keep what they’ve earned so that you can have a new car. “Cash for appliances will use money stolen from your neighbors, who have worked to earn the money but are not permitted to keep what they’ve earned so that you can have a new microwave. “Free universal health care is not free at all; it is to be paid for with money stolen from others who are not permitted to keep what they’ve earned so that you can have health care without paying for it.” “Free college, not free; paid for, for your children, who are supposed to be your responsibility, with money stolen from your neighbors.”

Words are very powerful when institutionalized and repeated often by many. This is why the people opposed to a massive, entirely experimental take-over of 1/6th of the U.S. economy have been framed as enemies of health care reform. Being against ‘reform’ is like being against puppy dogs or flowers. If, instead of “reform” every journalist, pundit, and Obamacare promoter were required to name it the “Health Care System Destruction and Replacement by Government Scheme,” people would be even more strongly opposed to it in greater majority than they are now. 


Incidentally, the dictionary tells us that “reform” means making changes to improve something; a “scheme” is a large-scale, systematic, secret, under-handed plot. You tell me, which word better applies here?


Those of us in advertising, marketing and sales know the word “free” to be the most powerful word in influencing consumers. We also know it is a lie 99.9 percent of the time. Everything given must be paid for by somebody. Nothing materializes from thin air.


The business that gives seniors a 10 percent discount, for example, is essentially over-charging its other customers by 10 percent. If you buy 2 and get 1 free, you didn’t; you just got the price presented differently. Instead spreading it evenly over the items – each sweater $19.95 – the store prices each sweater at $29.95, but you get one free when you buy two. (You actually pay a nickel more.) Many people do not understand this. But many do, and just go along with the harmless and pleasant deception because they like the feeling of finding a bargain or getting a free gift. The President has sufficient disdain for the American public to believe we are all money morons who will believe in free everything.


So here’s a call to action for everyone opposed to the monstrous expansion of the federal government and centralization of unchecked power in the White House, the manipulation of one favored industry or company against one in disfavor, the theft of private capital and property and the outright socialist transformation of America: Begin replacing the word “free” with my accurately descriptive phrase every time you speak or write of any and every give-away Obama and the Democrats create and wave at the public like a treat to a dog. That’s one way we can have impact.


Dan Kennedy is a serial entrepreneur, adviser to business owners, sought-after speaker and author of 13 books. More information about Dan can be found at www.NoBSBooks.com, and a free collection of his business resources including newsletters and webinars at www.DanKennedy.com.