State of the Union: What Bush had to say

Published 9:33 pm Tuesday, February 7, 2006

By By Tray Smith
On Tuesday, President Bush delivered his fifth State of the Union address. Watching it reminded one of President Clinton during his second term, as the policies introduced by Bush were smaller in scope than those the President usually promotes in his speeches.
Nevertheless, he was still able to address several issues important to the American people, strengthen his political standing, and set himself above the Democratic opposition that continues to undermine his presidency. The President wisely used the speech to offer a conciliatory tone towards the Democrats, which will allow him to blame future partisan bickering on their out of control leadership. Here is my take on what the President had to say.
On energy, the President wants to strengthen our commitment to renewable fuels in hope of producing reliable alternatives to oil. Saying that "America is addicted to oil", he set a goal of reducing our dependence on oil imports from the Middle East by 75% by the year 2025. These are good ideas, and I hope alternative energy sources will be produced. Unfortunately, the President did not go further and call for increased drilling at home. Opening additional oil reserves on our own land offers the best opportunity for reducing our dependence on foreign oil in the short term. For working families paying much over $2.00 at the pump, 2025 is not soon enough.
On immigration, the President called for reform but he did not get into specifics. That issue is likely to divide the Republican Party, as some want additional security while others want to gain popularity within the increasingly influential Hispanic voting block. I hope that they will find away to do both.
On health care, the President called for medical liability reform and outlined a proposal to expand Health Savings accounts, a tax-free savings account that allows people to set aside money in place of insurance to finance medical care. The money can then earn interest and roll over from year to year, offering people an incentive to shop for the most efficient care available. The President also promoted an expansion of health information technology (i.e. electronic health records) which will help modernize our medical industry and save cost.
Unfortunately, he did not go further and seek to apply those same market principals to government programs like Medicare and Medicaid, which continue to create a growing burden to taxpayers, especially on the state level.
On federal spending, the President requested an additional cut of $14 billion dollars, which will help keep us on track to cut the deficit in half by 2009. Unfortunately, the President did not go further, and advocate cutting much more wasteful spending.
On taxes, the President called on Congress to make the tax relief permanent. This is imperative for our continued economic growth, as we want to continue to create jobs and compete globally. Unfortunately again, the President did not go further and call for the repeal of our entire tax code in favor of a simple FairTax.
The reason that the President Bush did not go further on so many issues is that he simply does not have the political capital to push those policies through. However, if he can prove to be successful by calling for meaningful, but limited actions, such as those he outlined in his address Tuesday, he will be able to maintain the Republican majorities in each house of Congress. With a renewed majority in November, he will also be able to return to bold and meaningful initiatives next year.
Where the President was bold was on Iraq. Saying, "Hindsight alone is not wisdom, and second-guessing is not a strategy." President Bush put all of the Democrats in Congress who have been trying to micromanage the war from Washington D.C. in their place, which is on the defensive. The President also offered a worthy initiative to keep America competitive in the math and sciences, which will be increasingly important as we compete with nations such as China on a global economic playing field.
More than the State of the Union, Tuesday night highlighted the State of the Democratic Party. And the State of that Party is not good. The entire Democratic side of the House chamber rose in applause of them selves when the President conceded that they had defeated his social security reform plan. But they embarrassed themselves more than they did President Bush. However, they will have nothing to applaud about when our government faces trillions of dollars in shortfalls and the members of my generation do not get their Social Security benefits. The Democratic response, delivered by Gov. Tim Kane of Virginia, was beyond pathetic. From the state that produced such great minds as George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, I was deeply disappointed.
Because of the work of the American people, the State of the Union is strong, and because of the leadership of President Bush, it will become stronger. That is the bottom line.
Tray Smith is a political columnist for the Atmore Advance. He can be reached for contact at His column appears weekly.

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