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Will we ever hear the message instead of ‘shooting the messenger?’

Posted Oct 07 2009 10:01pm


In ancient times, if the messenger brought the King bad news, the King might kill him. But at least the King always read the message first! Today, we don’t bother. If the messenger has a foul appearance, that unfortunate is killed without even a glance at the message. We judge the message – unread – by the messenger.

We do the converse as well. We simply accept something said by someone we like or whom we respect without weighing it carefully, without considering the possibility they might be wrong or (heaven forbid) mendacious.

We all pigeon-hole ourselves in numerous ways: political (liberal or conservative); religious (Christian; Muslim; non-believer; etc); location (American; southerner; or best of all, New Yorker); fiscal (conservative or liberal, whatever they mean); etc. We then ‘hear’ those with similar labels and ignore those with opposite labels.

To make things easy for ourselves, we see black or white, good or bad, no grey tones, no colors and certainly no change over time. “Birds of a feather tend to flock together.” We associate with like people both physically and mentally. Read Surowiecki’s book “The Wisdom of Crowds” or any textbook in psychology or organizational behavior. They all describe how bad groupthink is.

Many years ago, I had a colleague who was a real jerk (“jerk” is used here in place of a more appropriate but foul-mouthed adjective starting with “a.”) Everything he said put my teeth on edge. If he said it, I did not hear it because he was so…self-important. The problem was that he was smart and sometimes he was right. I learned a valuable lesson.

Listen to and evaluate the message rather than the messenger.

Congressman Phil Roe (R-Tenn.) just circulated a memo on the Healthcare Reform Bill presently under discussion. I have reproduced it below in italics.
When the President pledges that reform “will not add to the deficit, not even a little,” he neglects to mention that the House Leadership plan would increase the deficit by $239 billion over 10 years, according to the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office.

What’s worse is that the President is insisting that middle-class families won’t see a tax increase – as he did repeatedly during his recent appearance on ABC’s This Week. From my perspective, it does not seem as if he has thoroughly evaluated the legislation.

On page 167 of H.R. 3200, the title of section 401 reads: “TAX ON INDIVIDUALS WITHOUT ACCEPTABLE HEALTH CARE COVERAGE.” Associated Press didn’t mince words when it began a fact check piece, “Memo to President Obama: it’s a tax.”

I believe that if the President reads these bills closely, he’d also find that his pledge to protect seniors’ Medicare benefits rings hollow. According to the nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation, House Democrats’ plan cuts Medicare Advantage programs by more than $172 billion.

As a result, six million seniors could be denied access to an affordable Medicare Advantage (MA) plan, including three million who could lose the plan they currently have, according to an analysis completed by Republicans on the House Ways & Means Committee. Furthermore, the House Democrats’ bill includes a total of more than $500 billion in Medicare cuts, which could mean reduced benefits and fewer choices for seniors.

Clearly there is a partisan (Republican) tone to this memo. Nonetheless, our important concern should be the message not the messenger. Whatever Rep. Roe’s motives, did he write truly? If so, we should heed the message (regardless of messenger). If not, we can ignore it.

We owe it to ourselves to consider the message above without reference to our party affiliation, biases, or current position on the proposed Healthcare Reform Bill

What do you think?

System MD

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