State of the Union 2008

So tonight marked President Bush's final state of the union address. Over all, I was pleased with what I heard. It seems he's finally making one last stab at securing some guarantees that We the People get to choose how our own money is spent rather than some nanny state system. Watching the speech live as I did gives you a rather unique and interesting look into just how divided the nation remains, with the Democrats clearly showing their disgust for Bush on several occasions.

The stimulus plan. I'm mixed on this one. I can see how in the short term it will help, but in the long term I can't help but feel we're heading down the road to disaster with this. I mean, sure, tax rebates are nice. Except you're planning to also give them to people who didn't pay any last year. Not to mention, what happens to the economy later when the cash is spent and the effect wears off? It'll be like crashing from a sugar high. The tax breaks for businesses make far more sense and is where the real focus should be directed. On the people who supply jobs.

Hear hear on making the tax cuts permanent! I don't care what anyone else says, it's been proven beyond a shadow of a doubt that getting those cuts passed was directly responsible for cutting short the Clinton recession that began in October of 2000 and leading to the strongest economic growth in the last 40 years. The mass infusion of jobs, capital, and consumer cash was just what we needed to avoid tailspinning into a massive depression once 9/11 hit. The Democrats still don't get it though since they're still railing on about "tax cuts for the rich". Even if that were so, who employs people? Joe Bloe homeless dude on the street with no money, or Richey Rich who owns 5 corporations? Do the math. Make the tax cuts permanent, and then push for even more. And if people seriously think they need to pay more, I agree with Bush: I welcome their enthusiasm, and I am pleased to report that the IRS accepts both checks and money orders.

As we roll on toward the next election, I am reminded that Bush pledged to slash the deficit in a big way. Well, any objective look at the data published by the GAO will support the fact that he's managed to accomplish reducing the deficit by quite a bit. Easily more than half of what he was hoping for. So when he said "Next week, I will send you a budget that terminates or substantially reduces 151 wasteful or bloated programs totaling more than $18 billion." I am relatively certain he meant to follow through on that. The effort is much appreciated, but I really wish he'd started of this way instead of waiting until now. If he had cut bloat when he first took office we'd have our surplus now. Not 4 years from now. Still, it's hard to argue with "American families have to balance their budgets, and so should their Government."

When he got to the part on earmarks, it left me with the feeling that he was scolding a bunch of unruly children who had refused to listen to their daddy on spending so much money. Perhaps if he had cracked the whip a bit more about this with his fellow Republicans in office it wouldn't have rung quite so hollow. But even so, hearing him FINALLY threatening to veto pork filled bills was a refreshing change. The Democrats were none too happy to hear that. They were even less happy to hear Bush scold them on not debating earmark amendments in an open and public forum. Strange, I seem to recall the Democrats claiming they wanted a more open, honest, Congress? Why would Bush need to blast them on that? Why.... because they've been making a habit in the last year of secretly stuffing bills with pork in committee, and not allowing floor debate to justify it. "And tomorrow, I will issue an Executive Order that directs Federal agencies to ignore any future earmark that is not voted on by the Congress." should never have needed to be said if they were working in an open and honest manner. That's some serious talk. Having to literally issue an Executive Order to get the point across. Now how about some Executive Orders to enforce immigraton law? Hmm?

On reforming Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, and all that crap about HUD and issuing bonds to refinance mortgages, I think it's all a bunch of crap. Th government should not be in the business of bailing stupid people out of bad loans they agreed to enter into to begin with. The whole sub-prime lending scandal is a mess to be sure, and is not something we should be proud of, but those who applied for and received those loans knew exactly what they were getting themselves into. I find it grossly unfair to honest hard working people who applied for and got more stable fixed rate loans that we're now even considering a bailout for the idiots. Way to go. Undermine any notion of personal responsibility and being accountable for your agreements. I guess I should have jumped in when I had the chance then. Bah.

Then we get to health care, and once again, he begins making sense. No crazy spend ourselves silly programs to expand Medicare. Quite the opposite. He wishes to end a tax bias in place that makes it difficult for people who don't have benefits at work to obtain them in some other manner. Apparently just fixing this one small portion of the tax code will bring insurance down enough to be within reach to millions of people who otherwise can't get it now. This is the kind of thing Bush should have been fighting for all along, not waiting until his last year in office to propose. The Democrats were noticeably unhappy with this, so you pretty much know it's the right move.

Oi vey. If I have to hear another word about the No Child Left Behind Act, I think I'll puke. It's nothing but a pathetic waste of money and time. The federal government shouldn't be getting involved in education at all, and I in fact stand behind Reagan's original desire to abolish the Dept. of Education entirely. But since that's not going to happen, maybe we could just, you know, stop passing junk like this and spend our money elsewhere? Like on border security? Something the feds SHOULD be doing?

And as if we don't already have enough problems with NAFTA, GAT, and those other "free trade" agreements that have been passed, he wants even more of them. With countries he claims are our friends but most likely don't care about us one way or the other. They just want to be able to get American companies to outsource our jobs to them. Someone still needs to convince me that opening ourselves up to all this free trade is actually helping us.

So he wants to promote energy independence eh? It's all well and good to promote development of coal, nuclear, and other technologies. I support this wholeheartedly. But for God sake, that's all long term plans that will take us 20-50 years to implement. We need to think in the short term. The here and now. Bust out the drilling rigs. Punch that hole in Anwar. Build some platforms in the Gulf of Mexico. Damn the ocean view in Malibu. There's oil to be had, and lots of it. Enough to drop the Saudis like bricks. That should get us through the short term while also bringing down those damned gas prices. Because I'm quite frankly sick of paying the terrorists $3.25/gal for fuel. Energy independence is an oil field away.

"In November, we witnessed a landmark achievement when scientists discovered a way to reprogram adult skin cells to act like embryonic stem cells." Well, oops. I guess that just shot down the drumbeat argument from the Democrats. Now there's no longer any need to kill babies to advance science. People should be appalled at the ethical and moral issues involved in the buying, selling, and destruction of what were once living human embryos. A life is a life, and we have no right to snuff it out when a perfectly viable option is available that doesn't require dealing in death. The anti-cloning law is also a nice gesture, though I doubt it's actually going to stop someone from doing it someday.

Once more we hear of more judicial nominees who are being unfairly held up in the Senate because Harry Reid and his cronies don't like Bush. Enough is enough. Lets give these people their floor votes and be done with it. The blatant abuse of the process by the Democrats in this is nothing short of despicable.

Bush then went into a rant about Social Security and entitlement spending. Raising the doom and gloom scenario of how it's going to collapse, how it'll require massive tax increases and cuts in benefits blah blah blah, but he doesn't address the real reason for why this is the case, because he refuses to properly address the next issue...

"America needs to secure our borders — and with your help, my Administration is taking steps to do so." This lie has been told over and over and over again. But I'm sorry, telling a lie enough times doesn't make it the truth. Bush, you've done exactly squat about border enforcement and immigration. We don't need new legislation to get this done. It's not Congress' fault that no bills got passed. Mr. Bush, the people are sick and tired of it. There are existing laws on the books which will address this problem adequately. All you need to do is sign some of those handy dandy Executive Orders and tell the Border Patrol to start arresting people. Start actually fining employers who hire illegals. Deport the ones you catch. Go hunting for the ones who try to hide. We shouldn't have to hear about how another brave state like Arizona or Oklahoma passed tough new laws of their own to get rid of their problems. But it seems that's what it'll take to get the job done. Border security? Maybe if you hadn't conspired with your new pals in Congress to gut the Secure Fence Act of 2006, we'd have our new double tiered fence built and there wouldn't be a flood of folks coming up from down south.

In stark irony to our own security, we've made massive leaps in getting the job done in Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere in the Middle East. After 4 long years of getting nowhere fast, "the surge" has done exactly what it was supposed to do. Violence is down, the people are able to go about their lives in a more or less normal fashion, infrastructure is being rebuilt, and the Iraqi government is reconciling many of their past problems. All of this turn around was accomplished over the last year or so at the command of one of the most brilliant military minds of our time - General David Petraeus. His plan has worked so well that even John Murtha had to finally admit the surge is working. Both Sunni and Shiite are banding together to finally drive Al Quaeda out of their country for good. In both Iraq and Afghanistan, freely elected government have been seated and are working to better their own lives and return control of their countries back to the people. It's been a long and hard fought 5 years, but in the end it paid off for Bush to stick to what's right and accomplish so much.

If even half of what was said tonight actually gets passed into law ( at least the good half anyway ) we should be in for a good year. It remains to be seen whether or not Congress will go along with a lot of what Bush has in mind, but if nothing but the usual anti-Bush politics gets done, at least we know who's fault that was.
.........................
"It is pointless to resist, my son." -- Darth Vader
"Resistance is futile." -- The Borg
"Mother's coming for me in the dragon ships. I don't like these itchy clothes, but I have to wear them or it frightens the fish." -- Thurindil

Well. I guess that's that then.

       
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Posted on Jan 28, 2008 10:31 pm by Samson in: | 2 comment(s) [Closed]
Comments
I caught this via the combined video/transcript on nytimes.com. Also the Democratic response here.

In the broad sense, this was easily by far and away the best speech I have heard Bush give, and I've heard him give more than a few. He got up there, he spoke eloquently and well in his fashion about real and important issues (as opposed to, say, steroids in baseball). He also spent an awful lot of time talking about bipartisanship, and for once in his career actually seemed to try to be living up to that whole "a uniter, not a divider" pledge. And, unlike what you saw, it actually seemed to me that the Democrats responded well to that, or at least Pelosi did. In either event, the Democratic response, unlike all others of its type I can think of, actually embraced that feeling. Will anything come of it? Will it even matter in light of the election year? I am skeptical, but I'll drink the Kool-aid and be hopeful one more time.

As to specifics:

On the whole, Bush gave me very strong Bill Clinton vibes, which alternated between nice (being as I am one of those pro-Clinton people), and very strange, especially considering that he was coming accross as much more Democratic than Republican on several things (yes oil and global warming section, I mean you), and in seeming opposition to what I remember of the current slate of Republican candidates' positions.

Running down Samson's list:

1. I am unsure about the stimulus package and the tax cuts myself, and I'll also mention the Fannie Mae/Freddie Mac reform, but then again, I'm also wise enough to know that I don't know how to run the US economy, and so my strategy is going to be to let the government work, and have confidence that it will work itself out, which as far as I can tell is the most important measure in any event.

That having been said, I'm of the school who believes that giving breaks to more people (the poor and middle class), versus the rich will benefit us all more, because the combined spending of all those more people will help us all out more. Which is as opposed to, say, business taxes, which I'll believe have a much greater effect on actual employment. That aside, I don't have much of a horse in this particular fight personally, as not only am I ok with actually paying some more taxes (believer that I am in government programs), due to my student status I haven't really paid taxes in several years in any case, and thank you for that, student loan tax break.

Too, it seems to me that a good way of dealing with the issues raised by the housing crisis is some form of government loan assistance, because my understanding of the thing is that if people decline to repay their mortgages, the financial institutions get screwed, and if the financial institutions get screwed, we'll all fucked, and that's bad. But again, I Am Not Qualified To Run The US Economy. OTOH, if we're going to do that, we need to have some strenuous reforms to make sure this sort of ridiculousness doesn't happen again.

I was entirely heartened to hear about the budget, the waste elimination, and the thwacking of Congress over its atrocious spending practices. That having been said, this is the sort of thing that should have been happening in 2000, not 2008. For that matter, this is mostly stuff that Bill Clinton tried to accomplish in his presidency, and should have kept going after he left. But whatever. At least it's getting accomplished.

On health care, while I'm entirely ok with anything that will expand coverage of people, the sense I have is that, whatever happens for 2008, given what's being talked about on the campaign trail, whatever comes about isn't going to matter by 2009 or 2010 anyway, especially if any given Democrat is elected. My sense is that this is going to be one of the early defining battles of the next presidency one way or the other, which considering it's been, what, 15 years since the Clintons last tried, is probably as it should be.

The less we talk about the education system in this country, the better. Again, I have the feeling that come the next presidency, none of this will matter anyway.

Clearly, if we're going to have free trade, it needs to actually be, you know, free, and not protectionist on one side or the other. Enough on that. Even if you dislike it, good luck getting rid of it, so we may as well make it work better.

I was pretty happy with the energy independence bit, insofar as he said things that I thought were sane and reasonable on the subject. Though, for serious here guys, can we stop talking about how we need to work on it, and actually bloody well do something? Thanks.

It's pretty hard to argue against the whole "let's bypass the whole stem cell debate by growing them differently!" thing, and hell, why would I? If we can do good research in better ways, let's go do it and not fight about it, please.

It's hard to really get behind anybody on this whole appointments issue, because on the one hand, the President has such an execrable record with such things, but on the other hand, every time Congress/Democrats pull the stunts they've been pulling, they look like assholes. And for that matter, it's getting to be petty enough that they look that way anyway. Can we please get away from this in the next presidency, please? The 16 years of petty partisan bickering I've seen going back to Clinton's first term has been nothing short of ridiculous, and it demeans the country, the institutions thereof, and the people involved enormously.

Social Security, etc reform is, again, going to be one of the huge issues of the next presidency, if not this one. I expect little substantial movement on it one way or the other until then, when, as he says, something's gotta change. Again, part of me starts giggling when I hear Republicans talk about saving Social Security.

I think I'll choose not to involve myself in the immigration reform debate, other than to say that, once again, I bet the next president inherits this.

I wholeheartedly endorse everything said by you and Bush on the subject of foreign affairs. I wish we had done this the right way four years ago, but it's getting done now, so let's not complain, by all means.

As you say, we'll see where this goes. Hopefully good places, but I'll wait and see.

       
Can't say I really find any huge fault in your take on the speech other than this:
I'm also wise enough to know that I don't know how to run the US economy, and so my strategy is going to be to let the government work, and have confidence that it will work itself out, which as far as I can tell is the most important measure in any event.


I too am wise enough to know that I have no clue how to run the US economy. But I'm also wise enough to know the government isn't equipped to make those kinds of judgments either. When it comes to matters of the economy, one should be wise enough to let the market run itself. When we do that, things have this nifty tendency to work themselves out. More government regulation of things is bad, not good.

       
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