Steven G. Percifield--author

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Steven G. Percifield  Author and consultant
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Eschew Obfuscation


            To paraphrase: God made men; Gates & Steve Jobs made them equal.

            Computers are the tools that provide free men with free access to free information: what could be more crucial to the idealized operation of a free market or a free society (neither of which could exist without the other)?

            But like all tools, computers can be weaponized. The same binary efficiency that makes access to information so readily available also makes the process of creating and distributing mis-information equally efficient.

            Witness the Jonathan Gruber revelations regarding the selling of Obama-care to the public and the Congress. From the get-go, the opponents and the architects of this grand scheme of something-for-nothing healthcare-for-all recognized that there was no way for it to be implemented without substantial costs and without substantial changes in the way health care was distributed and paid for.

            The proponents of Obama-care, self-justified by their God-given desire to help out those less fortunate (and equally by their Satan-given desire to exert more control over other, less-intelligent people) had to mask the facts that Obama-care would, by its nature, force millions of people who already had private insurance to give it up, and force many of them to sever the relationships they had developed with their chosen physicians. Additionally, features of the ACH would reduce the operating margins of health insurance providers requiring them to raise prices, seek government subsidies (your tax dollars) to bail them out or close their doors. Further, it would require union members—some of Obama’s most ardent supporters—to reduce the benefits of the “Cadillac” healthcare plans they already enjoyed.

            How to get those 100s of millions of people to support a plan that cost them money, reduced their benefits or cut them off from their personal physicians: that was the conundrum facing the “smartest guys in the room.” Looking down from on high, they concluded that if they were to lead the unwashed masses to the promised land of healthcare for everyone, for the good of the people beneath them they would be forced (for those peoples’ own good) to deceive them: If you like your current health plan, it will not be changed. If you like your present doctor, you may keep him or her. Your health care plan costs will not increase: ad infinitum, ad nauseum.

            Before the advent of the information age’s technology, such a deception would have been a more than a daunting task. The essence of writing (not utilized herein) is to say what you want to say with as few words as possible. Concise and appropriate wording makes what is to be read more clearly understandable. Conversely, if one has a reason to write something they don’t want to be understood, the goal is to Magilla-size it: make it so large and ponderous that no one can figure it out. It is estimated that there are approximately 11,588,500 words in the Affordable Care Act—some 33,000 pages. If you’ve read this far in this article, you’ve read about 1/21,000th of the act. Turn on the light on the nightstand, get comfortable (but not too comfortable) and start reading.

            For purposes of illustration, let’s say that a creative writer is good for (perhaps) 400 words per hour on average, including minimal research and re-write time—a page per hour, more or less. The ACA, therefore would have required some 33,000 hours of writing time (even if the bulk of the research was pre-existing), not including editing.

            This would require a single individual (doing nothing else but writing for 40 hours a week with no breaks) some 825 work weeks—nearly 16 years. But, mind you, this wasn’t just writing about “what you did last summer” or something stuck in your head from past experience or some fantasy you created as you went along (actually, maybe it was). This was writing with a purpose; the intended purpose of this literary behemoth was to hide the flaws in the legislation in a compost heap so deep that they could not be found and therefore couldn’t be debated. 

            This type of deliberate obfuscation, all but impossible before the advent of personal computers linked together by internet communications, still required that high-quality consultants be brought in not only to produce the vast verbiage, but to assemble it into the needed, gargantuan,  “factual”-but-incomprehensible format; not an easy task for those without the ability to cut and paste preexisting volumes and all but impossible for personslacking the academic credentials that would make it appear reasonable.

            Ergo: Jonathan Gruber, PHD Harvard and professor of economics at M.I.T. According to whomever you wish to believe (Nancy Pelosi or hundreds of other sources) Gruber either had nothing to do with the creation of Obamacare or was one of the architects of it, having a great deal to do with the deliberate obfuscation which was central to its passage. In either case, he certainly has the credentials to have been one of the architects and, supposedly (speaking from behind the Obama curtain of deception), lays claim to having been a part of an effort to deceive Americans and their Congress regarding the ramifications of the ACH, in order to get the bill passed.


            In other obfuscation news, I received today my telephone/cell phone/cable/internet bill. I spent nearly one hour with it but was totally unable to compare any aspect of it with offerings from any other company. In exasperation, I called the provider’s “customer service” number to learn what costs what. The young lady with whom I spoke, whose accent was vexatious and nearly enigmatic to my Midwestern ear, explained to me (I think) that it was impossible to break out the individual cost of a single item because all the plans were “bundled.”

            I explained to her that I had received an offer for cell service that appeared to be far less expensive than the plan I had through her company, so I wanted to cancel the cell phone portion. She explained that I could do that if I wanted; however, I would lose the bundled discounts on my other services which probably result in no savings and possibly an increase in my total payments.

            Does this use of deliberate obfuscation by the administration of the President of the United States as well as by one of the largest corporations in the world signal a paradigm shift in our culture? Rather than truth, justice and the American way would Superman now be driven by deceit, contrivance and whatever works? If so, I suspect that this shift bodes poorly for most of what has made our country great.


            Somewhere near a major communications company’s headquarters (which shall go unnamed) there are two co-workers—a VP finance and a VP marketing having lunch together. They are old college buddies having shared several classes. In fact, they both took the same undergraduate degree: B.S. Obfuscation.

            “So how’s it going Joe?” the VP Finance asks.

            “Fantastic! We just focused the new billing format. 85% of the group said they understood it and none of them complained about it.”

            “Great. And how did they score on the actuals?”

            “That’s the best part: 85 percent claimed they understood but, based on our testing, zero percent actually did.”

            “Joe, a toast to the best marketing guy in the communications industry.” Raising his glass: “To Harvard.”


            “To Harvard.”