I just read an excellent article in the New York Magazine by Jonathan Chait. It’s called Beltway Brain Fever: People Who Agree With Obama But Have To Pretend Otherwise. It’s a pretty scathing review of an editorial that appeared in the Washington Post. This editorial appeared to be impartial by applying pseudo-reasoning (as Jonathan calls it).
The basic premise of the article speaks to a wider problem in our politics in my opinion, that we are mired in the game, and can’t elevate ourselves or our dialogue for the greater good. We’re too wedded to the concept of winning for our team.
The Post wishes to portray a reasoned fair and balanced approach, and in so doing only serves to preserve and propagate the problem. In this instance the issue is sequestration and how we can resolve what threatens to have a devastating effect on our economy. By not clarifying the facts of its own position, and then highlighting the opposition in some kind of balanced approach the Post becomes a bit disingenuous and as such harmful. However, it is but a symptom.
Let’s take a radical jump straight to the heart of the matter. The truth is that far too many of our leaders do not embrace critical thinking, and as they don’t aspire to critical cognition those of us that engage in the dialogue at our own levels choose to no do so either.
We waste time talking about how sequestration (said another way austerity) was the President’s idea. We talk about how he is all about taxing and spending. We talk about how liberals simply want to destroy our nation by kicking the debt down the road to rest soundly on our children’s heads. Even if behind closed doors our leaders do behave better then we out in the commons, the vitriol they display to the public is poisoned leadership that only expands the ideological divide across all socioeconomic levels.
And just to be clear, it is the GOP that holds all the cards on vitriolic discourse these days. I make no excuses for bad behavior by the Democrats, but it is a blatant lie to say they have not bent over backwards to meet, accommodate, and compromise, most especially the President.
The illogical debate we are having around sequestration is a direct symptom of the illness that plagues our polity. We are awash in purposeful ignorance and an irrational desire to see the opponent defeated. This serves no good purpose and only marginalizes us in the aggregate. We are without question all Americans and we need to not relearn but learn at a higher level of understanding the power of positive conflict and compromise.
Critical Thinking is the tool that empowers us to survive the crucible of our political discourse. Acting with purpose in the utilization of that tool walks us down the path towards enlightenment and understanding, and most certainly the formation of effective policy.
The sequestration came out of bitter debate. The solution is a balanced approach of cuts, revenue, and targeted spending, which is better termed as national investment. We continue to carp over the same nonsense and debate the same positions without the benefit of the critical thinking eye. Far too many of our leaders don’t ask why their opponents support the opposing position. When I say they don’t ask why I mean they don’t ask why with the intent of truly understanding the opposing perspective and the critical factors that led them to support their position. In most instances they cannot do this because they cannot divorce themselves from ideology. And it is our love of ideology that stumps our rational thought, time and time again. It must stop.
Sequestration is a hatchet against the debt, and does help solve the problem. However, in so doing it creates others. We don’t need a hatchet. We don’t need a scalpel. We need a good knife, and the skill to use it. It’s not hard. We simply make it hard through our politics. We see the difficulty in trying to sell it and miss the fact that the majority of Americans actually would support it.
There are four, and only four areas that we need to address in order to gain national fiscal solvency. We must address defense spending. The GOP not only refuses to address defense spending, including the clear waste and inefficiency that SecDef Gates, a Republican, started removing and SecDef Panetta continued. Not only do they not acknowledge the need for cuts, they want to increase spending across the board. This is illogical. We must address the costs of Medicare, which is on a trajectory for unsustainability. We must address our fiscal policy, and make large scale changes that support closing the deficit, and paying down the debt. This need not include a balanced budget Amendment, which the GOP would try to repeal as soon as they came to power. We must address Social Security. Despite Democrats constantly claim (true for the moment) that it is solvent, their perspective only kicks the can down the road, and it does this based on estimates. Don’t wait until tomorrow to fix would you can and should fix today.
Both sides of the ideological divide have proposed solutions to sequestration. They both are actually talking to each other. They are both implacable. They will wait until the last minute to do something. As the President said, this is no way to run a nation.
They must embrace critical thinking. They must listen and understand not only each other, but the nation they represent. They must compromise. Then, they must move forward and address the four vital areas I mentioned in the previous paragraph. It’s time for the children to act like adults. And just so we’re crystal clear, the GOP needs to stop with the tantrums, and come to the table. They should take a queue from their fellow Republicans who are speaking reason more and more every day. The time for extremism was never here, even though that behaved as though it was. They must acknowledge this and instead be logical realist, fully solution oriented, and ready to compromise.
The Aspiring Critical Thinker,