Tuesday, January 31, 2006

State of the Union speech

President Bush opened his speech with a brief tribute to Coretta Scott King, who died earlier in the day.

The tribute was appropriate, but it was notable in that it was all that the President had to say about race relations; relations that certainly were on display during Katrina, a lowpoint of the past year that the President would like to forget. What happened to, 'we will rebuild the Great City of New Orleans?'

Well, here, near the end of the speech:

So far the federal government has committed $85 billion to the people of the Gulf Coast and New Orleans. We are removing debris, repairing highways, and building stronger levees. We are providing business loans and housing assistance.

Yet as we meet these immediate needs, we must also address deeper challenges that existed before the storm arrived. In New Orleans and in other places, many of our fellow citizens have felt excluded from the promise of our country.

Pretty much as little as he could get away with saying.

The President said as little as he could about Katrina, and nothing at all about race relations in general.

He began with the war on terror, which he again linked to the war in Iraq. This went on for half his speech.

One line went like this: In 1945, there were about two dozen lonely democracies on Earth. Today, there are 122.

And American invasion and occupation created how many of those? Even if Bush claims that both Iraq and Afghanistan are successes, look at how many democracies were created without the use of American troops.

do not forget the other half — in places like Syria, Burma, Zimbabwe, North Korea, and Iran — because the demands of justice, and the peace of this world, require their freedom as well.

Burma is the old colonial-era name for Myanmar, but considering how Bush was brought up to view the world, I guess that slip can be excused. Of course the biggest repressive nation in the world-- China, is our 'buddy' right now, so they don't make the list.

[Terrorists] seek to impose a heartless system of totalitarian control throughout the Middle East, and arm themselves with weapons of mass murder. Their aim is to seize power in Iraq, and use it as a safe haven to launch attacks against America and the world.

1. If we hadn't gone into Iraq, the terrorists would not be pouring in there to kill Americans.

2. Their attacks in London, Bali and Madrid (all of which occurred since after the Iraq war started) seems to suggest that the attacks are happening anyway, and they don't originate in Iraq.

In a time of testing, we cannot find security by abandoning our commitments and retreating within our borders.

Tell that to the Minuteman project.

If we were to leave these vicious attackers alone, they would not leave us alone. They would simply move the battlefield to our own shores. There is no peace in retreat. And there is no honor in retreat.

First, they have singled out the U.S. for attack because we are the primary source of support for the corrupt and ruthless monarchies that hold sway in most of the countries they are from. If we quit supporting all those sheiks and emirs, I suspect they would be overthrown from the inside, removing the main source of anger and resentment among people in those countries who like bin Laden turn to terrorism as an answer. True, they would still be angry at us for supporting Israel, which we will continue to do, but at the same time, the way to address this is by working towards a comprehensive settlement to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, something that Bush's predecessors at least tried to do, with varying degrees of success, but which he has never really tried to do.

Second, When is this a war about honor? Democracy, yes. WMD's, yes it was pitched that way. terrorists, that was used. But war is a terrible bloody thing, and those who think that it is about covering oneself with glory are probably still living in a past that in reality never was, to those who actually fought and died in the wars of human history.

Now, there is no question that we should never even consider making peace with someone like bin Laden, but that in no way justifies Iraq.

Third, we are striking terrorist targets while we train Iraqi forces that are increasingly capable of defeating the enemy. Iraqis are showing their courage every day, and we are proud to be their allies in the cause of freedom.

And I'm sure that the Badr brigade, Iranian backed militia that have infiltrated the Iraqi army appreciate the training.

Marine Staff Sergeant Dan Clay was killed last month fighting the enemy in Falluja.

I thought we ended the resistance in Fallujah last November; guess not. Guerilla warfare is nasty-- you can control a place, but as soon as you leave the land reverts back to local control. That's why we have trouble controlling any place for very long in Anbar Province.

And tonight, let me speak directly to the citizens of Iran: America respects you, and we respect your country. We respect your right to choose your own future and win your own freedom. And our nation hopes one day to be the closest of friends with a free and democratic Iran.

Ouch. How do you think that Iran will respond to this? I don't know, but think how it would feel if a foreign power said to us that they were speaking to the American people and that they hope that someday we will be a theocracy like them.

Previous presidents have used the same constitutional authority I have -- and federal courts have approved the use of that authority.

We've looked at that before. Abuses of the past led to the creation of the FISA, and turning back the clock to the days of those abuses hardly represents progress.

In the last two-and-a-half years, America has created 4.6 million new jobs.

That was after losing nearly three million before that. And the jobs lost have been mostly manufacturing jobs, with benefits, and replaced by low paying jobs with no benefits. So, over five years, Bush's record is a net of less than 2 million jobs. And in any case, Clinton created 20 million jobs in eight years.

This year my budget will cut it again, and reduce or eliminate more than 140 programs that are performing poorly or not fulfilling essential priorities. By passing these reforms, we will save the American taxpayer another $14 billion next year -- and stay on track to cut the deficit in half by 2009.

Why do I get the feeling that these programs help the poor and the elderly? And Bush has squandered way more than $14 billion on his Medicare drug plan alone, not to mention Iraq and the effects of the tax cuts on the deficit.

The retirement of the baby-boom generation will put unprecedented strains on the federal government. By 2030, spending for Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid alone will be almost 60 percent of the entire federal budget. And that will present future Congresses with impossible choices -- staggering tax increases, immense deficits, or deep cuts in every category of spending.

Note, that the Medicare drug bill, projected to grow much faster than Social Security, is a big part of that. It is a sop to the pharmaceutical industry, and even an awful lot of seniors don't see much worthwhile in it. So the quickest way to address that is to undo the mistake of two years ago and get rid on the bill.

Also, if we had a national health care plan like other industrialized countries, we could keep costs down by negotiating with health care providers (as I have blogged on before, they are a higher proportion of the GDP in the U.S. than in other countries), and then we would be able to get rid of Medicare and Medicaid (which would be folded into the overall system.) What people don't think about is that they are already paying taxes to provide healthcare to the elderly and poor-- two high risk groups, and STILL have to, between their employers and themselves plus the profit to the insurance company, pay for their own health care.

As to Social Security, I agree that there is a problem ahead if we do nothing. However, what the President proposed to do last year (borrowing billions to privatize part of the system) would have done zip towards making it solvent. Come up with something that works, then we can look at implementing it. Also, one thing that no one factored in last year (couldn't, because you can't assume a law will change) is that with the millions of illegals, almost all young, who are now working 'off the books' (and therefore whose employers don't send in any Social Security taxes). If in fact we do create either some kind of anmesty or guest worker program so that the employers can report them as legal hires (and send in Social Security tax on them) that in itself would go a long way towards restoring a better balance of active to retired workers. Getting rid of the cap on wages subject to the tax would also go a long way towards solving the problem. If a company can afford to pay their CEO $40 million per year, then they can afford to pay 6.2% in Social Security taxes, the same as they pay for their lower level salaried employees.

Congress did not act last year on my proposal to save Social Security.

Thank God for that. His proposal would not have saved Social Security, just as a similar privatization scheme passed in Britain in 1984 damaged, rather than saved, the British retirement system.

Keeping America competitive requires us to open more markets for all that Americans make and grow. One out of every five factory jobs in America is related to global trade, and we want people everywhere to buy American. With open markets and a level playing field, no one can out-produce or out-compete the American worker.

Then, let's make the playing field level: tie free trade agreements to upholding standards similar to ours in environmental protection laws, working conditions and pay, and anti-corruption measures (well, maybe even a bit higher than ours on that last one.)

Keeping America competitive requires affordable health care.

Hint: Healthcare is affordable in all other industrialized countries.

We will strengthen health savings accounts.

I will have to do a post on these insidious little schemes sometime. HSA's are a mechanism primarily designed to shift more of the responsibilities and costs for health care onto workers.

I ask the Congress to pass medical liability reform this year.

One problem with that is that the number they like to quote-- $250,000 (reduced to $166,667 if your lawyer gets a third and is willing to write off expenses), is about what some operations can cost. So what he is saying is that if they make a serious medical error (like the little girl at Duke University Medical Center who got the wrong heart a few years ago) and kill your child because of negligence, stupidity and incompetence, you get your money back. Heck, even Rick Santorum, a leading advocate of limiting lawsuits to $250,000, got more than that himself a few years ago when his wife sued a chiropracter. It's just you that they want to limit.

But as far as your medical bills that they can charge you-- the sky is still the limit.

ENERGY ADDICTION: See my last post.

Tonight I announce the American Competitiveness Initiative, to encourage innovation throughout our economy, and to give our nation's children a firm grounding in math and science.

First: I propose to double the federal commitment to the most critical basic research programs in the physical sciences over the next 10 years. This funding will support the work of America's most creative minds as they explore promising areas such as nanotechnology, supercomputing, and alternative energy sources.

Does that include I.D., Mr. President? And what good is it to have our kids learn science when we have cut research budgets at institutions of higher ed across the country, limited what they can research (i.e. stem cell limitations) and ignore what they find out if we don't like it(the mountains of evidence on global warming). This administration has been the most anti-science of any I can remember (not just my opinion, either, scientists feel the same way), so this is a perfect example of rhetoric that flies in the face of reality.

We have made a good start in the early grades with the No Child Left Behind Act, which is raising standards and lifting test scores across our country.

Uh, SAT scores and other standardized testing scores began going up under Clinton. If anything, credit Goals 2000. This begins a recurring theme that Bush goes into here: taking credit for successes that Bill Clinton created.

In recent years, America has become a more hopeful nation. Violent crime rates have fallen to their lowest levels since the 1970s. Welfare cases have dropped by more than half over the past decade. Drug use among youth is down 19 percent since 2001. There are fewer abortions in America than at any point in the last three decades.

Hopeful? People are now spending more than they are saving for the first time since the great depression. Hopeful if you are a bank liquidation company that stands to benefit from the new bankruptcy bill.

Crime rates? Credit the Clinton 1993 crime bill that put 100,000 new cops on the streets, built more prisons and created youth programs (remember Republicans poking fun at midnight basketball leagues? Well dang it, they worked.)

Welfare? Of course it's down, since we booted more people off welfare. Now granted, some needed to be booted, but some have ended up on the streets with no hope of finding a job. And those who were booted off and found jobs, did so among the 20 million jobs that Clinton created.

Drug use among youth: Credit Clinton again. Anti-drug education in the schools works.

Abortion and teen pregnancy: Yes, they are down. I've blogged on that as well. At least Bush gets the time frame right. And what has happened over the past dozen years? Sex ed, family planning, and birth control (yes, including condom distribution in the schools.) Keep in mind that 'abstinence only' education is a recent phenomenon that is still used in only a handful of schools. The success, in other words, of the Liberal agenda. Which conservatives opposed tooth and nail.

So Bush is right in terms of that paragraph. But he takes credit for the fruit that someone else planted.

This is a very typical State of the Union speech (by Bush or any other President): Long on topics, short on specifics. We will have to see what his specific proposals are this year, but there is little in here that gives me much hope.


Anonymous said...

Yes, I agree Eli with your comments on the speech and as usual, your criticism. I am appreciative of your writing, and have recently come across Brandon as well at Coalition, another blog to prioritize!
I chose not to focus on the speech today because I believe there are so many competent voices to speak on it, it seemed better to focus on reading versus writing. Which I tend to do anyway. I suspected you would not dissappoint!
Thank you for such an engaged reaction- I've been reading speech responses (probably for too much of my discretionary time)today and I think that you touched on many issues that seem to remain ignored, such as the implications of these 'healthcare' options for REAL people and the follow up to the welfare reform of the 90's- where we stand years later in our war upon the 'poor and undeserving'.
His friendly overtures to Iran sounded familiar huh? Where have we heard this before, the promises of democracy and liberation...

Anonymous said...

I honestly couldn't say it better... I have decided not to write about the speech... but I might re-direct everyone to you. ;)

dorsano said...

I didn't listen to the speech cause I figured the president wouldn't say anything we haven't heard before - I was wrong,

he mentioned switch grass - that was new to me.

Kudos to Jeff Sessions from Alabama for making sure that the nation heard a new idea in this State of the Union speech.

And one that actually seems to be good one!!!!

dorsano said...

Bummer ...

Administration backs off Bush's vow to reduce Mideast oil imports

WASHINGTON - One day after President Bush vowed to reduce America's dependence on Middle East oil by cutting imports from there 75 percent by 2025, his energy secretary and national economic adviser said Wednesday that the president didn't mean it literally.

This article is a bit disingenuous itself - in reality, the point it is making is that there is no demand side component to the president's plan.