The process of critical thinking is far too easily overlooked among the people of the United States. It is especially crucial to use critical thinking in times like this when the freedom for which our country stands for is being jeopardized. It is our responsibility as citizens to be concerned with the decisions which are being made by our politicians and to use cognitive skills to assess the actions. Lack of critical thinking among our leaders and the people of America is becoming increasingly prominent and must be addressed.
To make things simple, I am going to focus on the recently passed $757 billion “economic stimulus package.” The name of the bill sounds very promising, but it does not exactly portray what it really is. The term for describing this is called ‘Euphemism,’ which takes place when the substitution of a desirable term is made for a less desirable or offensive one, a very common habit among politicians (Thought and Knowledge, pg. 112). Although the bill is two parts spending, it is not called the “spending package,” because of course, that does not sound very appealing; “economic stimulus package” gives the illusion that the package will save the economy (key word being “illusion”). The process of thinking about even the name of the package and how there may be some deception in it is a part of critical thinking.
Critical thinking is going beyond the surface in order to solve problems, such as those having to do with our failing economy. By using skills and strategies, critical thinking helps us to make desirable outcomes more likely. The intentions of the economic recovery package are, according to President Obama, “particularly aimed towards provid[ing] jobs to reduce unemployment in order stimulate the economy to help us get out of the current ‘crisis.’” Unfortunately, I find it hard to believe that it was possible for critical thinking to really take place while making decisions on this nearly trillion dollar bill.
The stimulus package was constructed in just over four weeks, which is an extraordinary pace for Congress considering major bills can sometimes take years to become law. In addition, the bill itself is over 1,000 pages, which the House of Representatives was given less than 24 hours to read and comprehend before being rushed into placing a vote. Considering the situation, I can confidently say that I do not believe one Congressman or Congresswoman really read nor understood every provision in the bill. The lack of time put into creating the bill and the extreme haste of passing the bill shows a dire lack of reasoning in order to obtain well-thought-out conclusions. Reasoning and critical thinking are important in every aspect of life, but critical thinking among our leaders carries the utmost importance because their actions have the power to affect each and every American life.
One of the most defining aspects of critical thinking is the willingness to change conclusions when sound evidence warrants a change. I am disappointed in President Obama’s ability to do this. When a final passage of the stimulus bill was still awaiting approval by the Senate, Obama stated clearly in a speech that he did not want to hear the reasons as to why some people felt that the best option was to actually do nothing at all. This lack of consideration shows that Obama is closed-minded to alternate options, a hazardous trait for a leader to possess.
While working to receive approval for the stimulus package, Obama came off more as a dictator or preacher than a President. He was exposing obvious partisanship, and had little to no sympathy for any concern relating to the problems in the plan. Mr. Obama made it clear that his plan was to convince the members of the Congress and the American people that the stimulus package is absolutely needed in order to survive from the “crisis” (a term terribly overused as a tactic for creating fear). Instead of listening to Obama’s convincing words and believing them right off the bat, the American people can learn to detect deliberate pressure by understanding how to recognize propaganda through clear thinking. It is absolutely essential that the American people do not fall prey to information that is blown out of proportion by realizing deliberate deception, analyzing unstated assumptions in arguments, and considering the credibility of an information source (Thought and Knowledge, pg. 8). By doing this, people can equip themselves with the tools needed to think a problem or decision through in the best way possible in order to have the best chance in reaching the most desirable outcome.
While many politicians are outraged by the lack of thought put into such a huge bill and the consequences that may come out of it, others believe it is absolutely essential to the survival of our economy. For instance, in an article from Wall Street Journal, Martin O’Malley, the governor of Maryland, made it clear that the Democrats are committed “to pulling our national economy out of the ditch that George Bush ran it into.” He went on to state that “If some of the fringe governors don’t want to help us do that, they need to step aside and not stand in the way.” I found this statement to be concerning because the whole point of a democracy is to make sure one side does not have too much power over the other. The “fringe governors” are actually very important in evening the waters and providing a different perspective and should therefore absolutely not be pushed aside.
No one can say for sure what will be best for the well-being of the United States in the future. This is because there can never be guarantees about the future, even for the best of thinkers. The greatest power we do have is substantially increasing the likelihood of a desirable outcome through critical thinking; this is the best hope for the future anyone can offer (Thought and Knowledge, pg. 7). We think critically about different situations each and every day, and in order to improve the state our country and salvage our true freedom, politicians and citizens alike should begin to asses different issues that arise and think critically about the best way to solve the problems that are placed before us, particularly during this time of turmoil.
Thought & Knowledge, an Introduction to Critical Thinking; Diane F. Halpern