The 2007 State of the Union Address
Bush's State of the Union -- Vague and Sketchy
On January 23, 2007, Bush gave a "State of the Union" speech. Here is The Progress Report's reaction.
by Hanno T. BeckA "state of the union" speech is very special. The speech should touch on the biggest topics of concern to Americans, and the president should outline his plans for the coming year. It ought to be well written and heavily rehearsed.
In my opinion, this was one of Bush's better speeches. He did name some policy ideas, and although he handed out a whole lot of baloney too, it was baloney that we've all heard many times before and can simply ignore. It's as if Bush has realized that he is no longer fooling the American people and has stopped trying.
Bush talked about domestic issues before foreign issues. That was unusual, but since he had made a speech about his war against Iraq just a week ago, it is no surprise that he talked about other things first tonight.
Bush claimed that he was proposing three important economic reforms:
Next, Bush proposed three measures to increase the profits of private insurance companies. I kid you not:
- The first is to balance the federal budget -- "we can do so without raising taxes," he said, and indicated that he will submit a budget that would eliminate the deficit within the next five years.
It took Bush a lot less than five years to turn this country's federal budget from a surplus to the biggest deficits in American history, so does he deserve extra time to undo that damage? If he sincerely favors a balanced budget, why has he never proposed one? Why has he always signed deficit budgets? He doesn't have to do that. Go ahead, George, make my day, put the money where your mouth is -- propose a balanced budget! I double-dare you!
- Bush's second economic idea is to reduce "earmarks" -- secretive corporate welfare handouts that are slipped into legislation. Bush says these amount to $18 billion per year, and that he wants to cut them in half by two years from now. If he were serious that these are a bad thing, why not simply say that they should be eliminated outright?
The Republican Party has been in favor of corporate welfare handouts for many decades, and Bush's statement does little to challenge that. To save $9 billion over two years will hardly touch corporate welfare, and -- if he is telling the truth about cutting the budget deficit -- it would actually be a very small spending cut compared to most of the ones he will have to make.
Indeed, his proposal is so wimpy that one could say Bush is actually trying to slow down the reform of these corporate welfare scandals.
- Bush's third economic proposal was much more vague and hazy. He declared that Social Security and Medicare/Medicaid are in trouble, but had no specific suggestion for action. In reality, those programs are not in crisis and they don't need rescuing, especially by Bush. (Thirty years from now we may or may not see problems in funding for Social Security -- and if so, we could simply cut corporate welfare handouts and put that money into Social Security.)
On the subject of immigration, Bush essentially admitted that he has no idea what to do. His way of saying that was to invite a "debate" on ths subject, and he vaguely mumbled something about it would be nice to get a law passed on this.
- Bush said he wants a federal income tax deducation for health care insurance costs. That sounds interesting at first, but people who pay federal income tax have jobs, and that is not the main category of people without health insurance coverage. Plus, a new tax deduction would increase the deficit, not decrease it, so we have a right to expect Bush to tell us how this new initiative would be funded. Oops, no word on that.
- In a further sop to private insurance companies, Bush suggested giving federal aid to states that want to help their citizens to buy private insurance. Again no hint about how this program would be funded.
- And in the biggest corporate welfare giveaway proposal of the night, Bush suggested that American patients and their families who are hurt, abused or killed due to improper treatment by doctors or hospitals, should be restricted from suing for damages. Of course he calls it "medical liability reform" but it is simply a bigger special privilege for big medical corporations (campaign contributors). This is warmed-over material from Bush's 2004 and 2005 speeches, and it should not have returned.
On the subject of energy, Bush gave rhetoric that was updated to include a quick mention of "solar and wind" but stressed such old, heavily subsidized, failed ideas as "clean coal" and "clean safe nuclear power" -- neither of which has ever existed. Bush suggested, let's reduce gasoline usage in the US by 20% in the next 10 years. This sounds specific, but unless he has a specific law in mind, it's just empty words, a mere half-hearted wish rather than a plan. The Green Party has been backing measures along those lines for decades, and if politicians had paid a little attention, we would have a huge head start and would face much easier circumstances today.
Finally we moved on to foreign affairs. For Bush, that apparently means only two things: the war against Iraq, and fear of terrorism.
Bush lectured to us at some length on terrorists, describing for us all the inner workings of their minds: what they want to do, what their motivations are, etc. It is ridiculous for anyone, especially George Bush, to tell us the mental states of other people who he has never met. He does not possess telepathy, so why give us a bunch of made-up unprofessional guesswork in the middle of a State of the Union address? This was the sloppiest part of the whole speech.
Bush, the biggest spending president in history, did not miss the chance to call for more spending -- this time to fund so-called moderates and reformers in the Middle East. That takes a lot of nerve, since Bush already funded the notorious fiend Ahmed Chalabi, who took millions in taxpayer money and then laughed about having fooled the U.S. If the Bush administration is going to be so easily tricked, then please save the money and let reformers -- and double-dealing tricksters who impersonate them -- rise or fall on their merits, without taxpayer assistance.
Of course, in all his "fear and terrorism" bluster, Bush never once mentioned the Guantanamo concentration camp or the Abu Ghraib torture scandal -- it seems that charges of terrorism can go more than one way, but he did not dare to confront that openly and with candor.
Bush did mention, in passing, the notion that former Iraq ruler Jay Garner had favored -- "share oil revenues among all Iraq's citizens" -- but in the absence of some real proposal, it is again just empty words.
Some words are even worse than empty. "America must not fail in Iraq" said Bush. But Bush did that years ago. Polarizing, killing, and torturing Iraqi citizens is failure. Let's say that again: Polarizing, killing, and torturing Iraqi citizens is failure, not success.
A few more minutes go by and a surprise! -- Bush suggests spending more of your money. This time he wants an increase of active duty military forces by 92,000. But where will the funding come from? On that point, Bush is silent. (One might also ask where the enlistees will come from, since enlistments have gone way down after the Abu Ghraib torture scandal; now that the US condones torturing captives, our own potential enlistees realize that they could face retaliatory torture if captured. This is a terrible endangerment and disservice to U.S. soldiers, courtesy of Donald Rumsfeld and Alberto "Torture" Gonzales.)
Another minute elapses, and more spending is called for. This time it's to fight malaria in Africa. A fine idea! But a responsible man would say where the money will come from.
For all his big-spending wishes, let us now list Bush's money saving ideas. Oops, there were none -- or one, if you count decreasing the corporate welfare earmark scandals by $9 billion over two years. Remember this is a president who claims that cutting the deficit is a top priority! Do you believe him? If so, where are the money saving ideas?
And in closing, we give you this year's edition of our Western Hemisphere chart. Have you ever heard of the Western Hemisphere? Good. People often accuse the United States of caring little about other Western Hemisphere countries. Bush's track record makes their point for them:
Number of Times That Bush Discussed Mexico in a Speech 2003 State of the Union Address 0 2004 State of the Union Address 0 2005 State of the Union Address 0 2006 State of the Union Address 0 2007 State of the Union Address 0 Number of Times That Bush Discussed Canada in a Speech 2003 State of the Union Address 0 2004 State of the Union Address 0 2005 State of the Union Address 0 2006 State of the Union Address 0 2007 State of the Union Address 0 Number of Times That Bush Discussed Any Central or South American Country in a Speech 2003 State of the Union Address 0 2004 State of the Union Address 0 2005 State of the Union Address 0 2006 State of the Union Address 0 2007 State of the Union Address 0
Hanno T. Beck is publisher of The Progress Report.
State of the Union 2006 -- Willing to Say Anything
State of the Union 2005 -- America Deserves Candor, Not 'Spin'
Bush Versus American Values
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