January 30, 2007

Addressing the State of the Bush Administration

A Response and Critique of the 2007 State of the Union Address

By Courtney Shannon

“Mr. President, a prayer for your success,” mentioned someone from the crowd. I’m sure the gentleman who said this was not the only one who was praying for President George W. Bush’s speech to go well.

At approximately 9:10 pm EST President George Bush began his opening remarks of his State of the Union Address by welcoming Nancy Pelosi as the first “Madame Speaker,” and congratulating the Democratic Congress on their success.” He mentions, “Congress has changed, but not our responsibilities. Each of us is guided by our own convictions -- and to these we must stay faithful. Yet we're all held to the same standards, and called to serve the same good purposes: To extend this nation's prosperity; to spend the people's money wisely; to solve problems, not leave them to future generations; to guard America against all evil; and to keep faith with those we have sent forth to defend us.”

Following his outlining statement, Mr. Bush spent just two minutes per topic, discussing the economy, health care and social security, education, immigration, and energy. He then devoted twenty minutes, ten times the amount of time he spoke on domestic issues, to topics on terrorism, war, and our foreign policy. After reassuring the American people that the death of our soldiers has not been in vain, and the war in Iraq has purpose, he called for support on global peace issues. How perfectly juxtaposed.

He began his address by stating, “We're now in the 41st month of uninterrupted job growth, in a recovery that has created 7.2 million new jobs -- so far. Unemployment is low, inflation is low, and wages are rising.” He called for continuation of this momentum “not with more government, but with more enterprise.”

In regards to our economy, he called for three economic reforms “that deserve to be priorities for this Congress.” The first was to balance the federal budget, without raising taxes. He suggested that Congress “impose spending discipline in Washington, D.C.” He mentions that we have already cut the budget in half three years ahead of the projected schedule. The President is now calling for a plan that “eliminates the federal deficit within the next five years.”

My question is, how can we realistically accomplish this when our country is at war, and there is talk of another? How can this country fully and adequately finance a war, protect our soldiers, and still retain diplomatic relations without a tax increase if we are to eliminate the deficit?
The second economic reform he proposed was to reduce the growing number of earmarks. He gives the following statistics:
“In 2005 alone, the number of earmarks grew to over 13,000 and totaled nearly $18 billion. Even worse, over 90 percent of earmarks never make it to the floor of the House and Senate.” Yes, in 2005, the Republican Congress allowed $18 billion of wasteful spending, and it is now up to the Democratic Congress to cut this number in half, as Bush proposed.

The third item on his economic agenda was the subject of entitlements, Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. In his comments he outlined a new tax plan that would allow many more Americans to purchase private healthcare. He also suggested giving federal funds to the states to fund their own health insurance programs. Mr. Bush also called for the expansion of Health Savings Accounts, and increase in small business aid through Association Health Plans. To further cut down on medical cost, the president urged for an increase in medical technology and protection of good doctors form lawsuits.

In regards to education, he simply requested for the re-authorization of the No Child Left Behind Act. He made no mention of the Democrats’ agenda to increase the funding and availability of student loans.

Immigration is a huge issue in our nation. The president spoke briefly and called for more secure borders and the implementation of a temporary worker program. This legal program would “leave Border Agents free to chase down drug smugglers and criminals and terrorists.” The president acknowledged that we are a nation divided on this issue and asked that both sides work together to produce a solution.

Energy is perhaps the most pressing issue our country faces. Our dependence on foreign oil has brought us to war. The U.S. is one of two industrialized nations who refused to sign the Kyoto Protocol. Our country and our government, as a whole, refuses to accept global warming as fact. In the State of the Union Address, President Bush acknowledged that climate change is a serious issue. He called for technological advancements and for the nation to be a better steward of the environment. But what about the implementation of technology that already exists? There are a number of advancements that have already been made. Why not simply strive for the acceptance and use of them? Instead of truly clean energy the president called for biodiesel, solar and wind power, and “clean coal,” “clean diesel vehicles,” and “clean, safe nuclear power. He requested that there be a 20% gasoline usage reduction within the next 20 years. His solution was domestic oil production and increased supply of alternative fuels. Can America realistically achieve this goal without implementing all of the technologies discovered so far? Is increased domestic oil production really the best solution?

After addressing these domestic issues President Bush reminded the nation the importance of supporting bills and laws that prevent terrorist attacks. After a twenty minute speech on which included the themes of stopping the terrorists, war, 9/11, Al Qaeda, Islamic radicalism and extremism, the Taliban, freedom, and democracy, the president called for an increase of 20,000 troops to Iraq; even though this idea has not been supported by Democratic majority, or even the top commanders in Iraq. About 20 Generals have written letters to Mr. Bush to not increase troop size. He listens to no one.

Further, he admits that this war is not going to be resolved within his term, but rather that, “. . .the war on terror we fight today is a generational struggle that will continue long after you and I have turned our duties over to others.” He calls for Congress to work together so that ideas can be developed and shared and so that we can “show our enemies abroad that we are united in the goal of victory.”

After this bold statement about our “enemies” the president immediately spoke about the peaceful side of our foreign policy, to show that “. . . American foreign policy is more than a matter of war and diplomacy. Our work in the world is also based on a timeless truth: To whom much is given, much is required. We hear the call to take on the challenges of hunger and poverty and disease.”

President Bush gave praise to Congress for providing the funding to increase the availability of life-saving drugs from 50,000 to over 800,000 in only three years. To continue to fight disease he also asks that $1.2 billion be given to fight malaria. And to further improve the impact of American aid, he requested the funding of the Millennium Challenge Account, and called for Congress “to support the expanded trade and debt relief that are the best hope.”
He closed his speech by praising a few noble model American citizens, tactfully including Dikembe Mutombo, an NBA star born in Congo, female entrepreneur Julie Aigner-Clark, New York City subway hero Wesley Autrey, and a young soldier from Kentucky, Tommy Rieman.

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