Critical thinkers are open minded because they seek to draw conclusions after asking many questions both about the information they receive and that which they locate through research. This can be challenging when all the headlines seem to proclaim the same thing.
On March 2, 2010 the major news of the day was that Senator Jim Bunning (R-KY) was responsible for blocking legislation to extend unemployment and healthcare benefits and transportation funding. Most people reacted quite strongly upon reading this news. First responses might have included: “That’s outrageous!” or “What was he thinking?”
Critical thinking requires us to think further and consider both our position and try to see the other side. Bunning refused to grant unanimous consent to extend the 30-day benefits because the measure wasn’t paid for. He offered to grant unanimous consent if his Democrat colleagues could fund it.
On March 3, 2010 Bunning wrote an editorial for USA Today, “Why I took a stand” to explain his action. He wrote, “For far too long, both Republicans and Democrats have treated the taxpayers’ money as a slush fund that does not ever end.” He admitted to feeling regret over some of his own previous votes.
In June 2009 President Obama urged passage of “pay-as-you-go” legislation that would require any new tax cut or automatic spending program to be paid for within the budget. This seemed to indicate that he was serious about fiscal responsibility. “The ‘pay as you go’ principle is very simple. Congress can only spend a dollar if it saves a dollar elsewhere,” Obama said in a speech at the White House on June 9, 2009.
In February 2010, Congress passed and President Obama signed pay-as-you-go (PAYGO) legislation back into law. This restored a 1990s law and reflects a commonsense principle that helped turn a $600 billion deficit into a $237 billion surplus by forcing legislators to spend money only by saving money elsewhere.
In his USA Today editorial, Bunning said, “Unfortunately, Pay-Go is a paper tiger. It has no teeth. I did not vote for the Democrats’ Pay-Go legislation because I knew it was a dog-and-pony show to get some good press after some political setbacks.”
It’s true that even since the Pay-Go rule was passed, the national debt has gone up to $244,992,297,448.11.
So why did Bunning decide to take a stand this week when Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) asked to pass a 30-day extensions bill for unemployment insurance and other federal programs? Bunning answered, “Why not now? Why can’t a non-controversial measure in the Senate that would help those in need be paid for?”
Bunning had hoped to offer an amendment to pay for the extension offering three options for doing so: 1) use unused stimulus money, 2) take the money from other programs, or 3) with a new tax.
In his editorial, Bunning said, “I reached a supposed deal with Majority Leader Reid to have an up-or-down vote on a pay-for the amendment that would fully find the legislation and not add to the debt.” Except at the last minute Democrats used a parliamentary procedure to set aside his amendment. Bunning explains, “The Democrats did not want to vote on my amendment because they knew they were in the wrong and ignored their own rules.”
While we may argue with Bunning’s timing and even his actions, it’s clear that the national debt is major issue of concern. We must be critical thinkers and hold our elected officials responsible for their actions. It’s also important to question what they do.