What they don't tell you

Opinion: Columns

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By Tom Holmes

Contributing Reporter / Religion Blogger

Three months ago, I walked out of a local big box store with a bathroom scale, feeling like I was a pretty smart consumer. I had picked one out that I thought was a bargain.

Then last week I read "lo" on the scale's digital screen, so I opened up the battery compartment, extracted the little round battery and walked into Accents by Fred to get a replacement. I was feeling good that he had one in stock until he told me the price — $7. That meant within two years of the purchase, replacement batteries would cost more than the scale themselves.

"That's how they get you," said Fred Bryant, shaking his head. "Another example is a lithium battery manufacturer who gives flashlights away for free, and then those folks who thought they had gotten something for nothing learned a hard lesson when they pay for replacement batteries."

What they don't tell you matters.

When I watched Perry Mason on TV years ago, I would see the clerk of the court approach the witness and ask not only, "Do you swear to tell the truth?" but also do you swear to tell the whole truth.

President Trump marketed his tax cut (Tax Cuts and Jobs Act) by touting the fact that everyone would be $1,000 richer on April 15, jobs would increase, the economy would improve, etc. He told the truth … but not the whole truth.

The truth is that the unemployment rate has dropped from 4.1% to 3.8% and that employers have added more than 1 million jobs. The whole truth includes the fact that the economy was improving during the Obama administration, long before the tax cuts passed and that many corporate CEOs have used the tax savings to do stock buybacks to reward stockholders instead of investing in the creation of new jobs.

What they don't tell you matters.

Republicans argue that Bernie Sanders' health care plan would increase taxes and thereby lower net income. That's the truth. The non-partisan Tax Foundation stated that his plan would lead to 10.56 percent lower after-tax income for all taxpayers, and a 17.91 percent lower after-tax income for the wealthiest Americans.

The whole truth, however, paints a very different picture. What Republicans fail to acknowledge is that in exchange for higher taxes, Americans would save thousands of dollars they spend every year on premiums, deductibles and other out-of-pocket health care costs.

Do the math. According to the non-partisan Milliman Medical Index, the typical American family of four covered by an employer-sponsored health care plan paid $24,671 last year on health care costs alone, causing its director Warren Gunnels to conclude, "The savings that Americans would gain by the elimination of private insurance premiums and deductibles are much greater than the public insurance premiums they would pay under Bernie's plan. The typical family of four making $50,000 a year would pay less than $46 a month under Bernie's plan for three months of paid family and medical leave and universal health care."

What they don't tell us makes an enormous difference regarding the conclusions we draw and therefore how we vote.

The pharmaceutical companies told us about how opioids reduce pain. That was and is the truth. Now we know the whole truth.

Vaping manufacturers told us that their products would help people quit smoking. Now we know the whole truth.

What they don't tell us makes a difference.

Several years ago, I attended a town hall here in Forest Park regarding the possibility of the county raising the minimum wage which was $8.25. Some advocates for doing so argued that $8.25/hour is not enough to live on and held Ferrara Candy Company up as an example of a business which pays their workers that low wage, with the implication that the company is exploiting its workers.

When I asked the plant manager if the charge was true, he explained that the company did start many unskilled line workers at a low hourly wage but then added that there is more to it than that. Many of what they call flex workers, he said, are new hires and a large percentage of them don't stay on the job for even a month, so they start them out at a low hourly wage and raise their salaries after staying on the job for just a month.

The numbers in October 2019 are a little different than a few years ago, but the following is what he sent me last week.

 Minimum wage in Illinois is $8.25. We start flex workers at $10/hour and full-time workers at $13.

 Any flex worker who stays with us for 30 days will get a 50-cent raise, taking them to $10.50. If they stay 60 days they will get another 50 cents, taking them to $11. If a flex worker works a weekend day, they will get $12.

 Many of our recent new hires were flex workers that we converted to full time.

 All workers receive overtime pay after working 40 hours in a week.

 All workers, full time or flex, get a company-provided hot meal, Monday thru Friday on every shift.

 All hourly, full-time workers who have children in college can have their children apply for a $5,000 scholarship sponsored by the company. We give away 10 scholarships per year.

What constitutes a living wage depends, of course, on your perspective. My point in the case of Ferrara's wages and all of the other examples above is that when people are trying to win — an election for president or an argument with their spouse — they will always be tempted to not lie technically but to tell partial truths which favor their positions.

In the next 12 months leading up to the election, keep asking yourself, "What are those who are trying to win not telling us?" Meanwhile, let's commit ourselves to trying to tell the whole truth in our relatively small-potatoes arguments and disagreements.

What's at stake, of course, is trust.

Tom Holmes, regular contributor to Wednesday Journal, writes a column for our sister publication, the Forest Park Review.

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