Bush’s State of the Union

President Bush’s speech tonight left me pretty underwhelmed, although few State of the Union Address’s are anything more than a laundry list of proposals that won’t see the light of day.

One thing that jumped out at me was that Bush didn’t take a particularly hard line on Iran, which is the most pressing national security threat. He said:

The Iranian government is defying the world with its nuclear ambitions, and the nations of the world must not permit the Iranian regime to gain nuclear weapons. America will continue to rally the world to confront these threats.

Sure, Iranians “must” not have nukes, but what is he doing to ensure that they won’t? What will be the consequences for Iran when it defies the rest of the world?

As for Hamas, Bush said:

The Palestinian people have voted in elections. And now the leaders of Hamas must recognize Israel, disarm, reject terrorism, and work for lasting peace.

Again, Bush can say they “must” do all of those things, but it’s clear that they won’t. So what then?

Moving on to domestic matters, I found it laughable that Bush would try to portray himself as a budget hawk given that he has expanded the size of the federal government more than any president since LBJ.

He said:

Every year of my presidency, we’ve reduced the growth of non-security discretionary spending, and last year you passed bills that cut this spending. 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.

Great. Cutting $14 billion, when the 2006 deficit is projected to be $390 billion. Not to mention that in the speech he also proposed to increase funding for alternative fuels, science research and training teachers, among other initiatives.

I found myself bristling when Democrats applauded Bush’s statement that, “Congress did not act last year on my proposal to save Social Security…” Yeah, ignoring a looming fiscal crisis and denying Americans the opportunity to have more control over their retirement is really something to be proud of.

Unlike some conservatives, I’m not going to blame Bush for the defeat of Social Security. Even though he could have done a better job selling it, he did go to bat on the issue last year, and it was really wobbly moderate Republicans that pulled the rug out from under him without putting up a fight.

Tonight he mentioned that, “By 2030, spending for Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid alone will be almost 60 percent of the entire federal budget.” To solve the problem, he said he wanted to create a commission to study the matter, which as we all know, means nothing. Late last year the commission he appointed to study tax reform came back with several proposals to simplify the tax code. Tax reform was supposed to be one of the main pillars of his second term agenda, but there wasn’t a reference to it tonight. So, I’m not holding my breath for entitlement reform.

Of course, we shouldn’t expect the same president who pushed the multi-trillion dollar prescription drug plan to be a successful champion of entitlement reform.

One thought on “Bush’s State of the Union”

  1. Right on.

    One quibble though: “Yeah, ignoring a looming fiscal crisis and denying Americans the opportunity to have more control over their retirement is really something to be proud of.”

    I agree that Democrats have nothing to be proud of on this issue, but you know full well that Social Security privatization does nothing by itself to address the looming mismatch between retirees and working taxpayers. I think it’s a fine idea as a way to avoid this problem in the long-term future and to give taxpayers more choice and control, but the Republicans were just using it as a way to obscure the short-term problem. Clearly, we can’t count on either the Republicans or Democrats to stand up to AARP and actually fix the problem.

    I agree Bush’s healthcare proposal was laughable. He can’t even put together a basic tax reform/simplification proposal and we’re supposed to expect him to figure out healthcare, the most vexing policy issue out there?

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