Where to begin …The President’s State of The Union Speech created so many areas for discussion. As with most such speeches this one was not so notable in terms of the actual state of the union but was, rather, defined by justifications of past policies and promotion new ones. The evening’s most impressive and very real emotion was directed at Iraqi and Afghani voters and the military in the audience. On the other hand, the robotic applause, mostly from Republicans, was reminiscent of those films one used to see of delegates to Russian and German assemblies in earlier times. How we used to ridicule those demonstrations of partisan support.
In the long list of presidential observations were included some of the ever-changing rationale regarding our presence in Iraq which he described as “free and sovereign”, hardly the case at this moment. He reiterated, what he and so many of his supporters keep saying, that we are prosecuting the war in Iraq so we don’t have to face attacks on our own soil. Once again such remarks reinforce the impression so many Americans have that Iraq was complicit in the attacks on 9/11. And, too, the president touted a coalition of some 28 nations although most countries have left or plan to leave very soon and have, in any case, few actual boots on the ground. One day, perhaps, Iraq will rise to prominence again; in the meantime we have created what many have called “a magnet for terrorists in the region,” devastated Iraq’s infrastructure and failed to bring about an orderly social transition.
And when the president says “taxpayer dollars must be spent wisely or not at all” one cannot help but recall reports that billions of dollars are missing in Iraq and that, in general, accounting procedures there have been notoriously sloppy. Then too, what of all those bases we are said to be building and the planned $1.5 billion U.S. embassy? What constitutes wise spending in the coming year? Does it seem wise to many of us along the northeast corridor that the president’s budget proposes funding cuts for Amtrak? Are we in the forefront of stem-cell research or is funding for such things dependent upon support from the president’s religious-right supporters? And what is really being done to protect our ports and borders or to rehabilitate our environment? Repeating the dubious claim that the Bush “clear skies initiative” has been a success provides a disheartening glimpse of just how little this administration concerns itself with real progress in terms of the environment.
With respect to job creation, numbers always sound good if one leaves out all background information. For example, the president said many new jobs had been created during his first term; however reports show that despite the addition of over two million jobs in 2004, that number was “barely enough to replace the jobs lost during President Bush’s first term…” (Article here)
And JobWatch.org reported that, despite original claims, the Bush tax cuts fell far short of the president’s Council of Economic Advisors projection that 5.5 million jobs would be created by the end of 2004. Recently, provisions in the “The American Jobs Creation Act”, which give more tax cuts to corporate and other businesses, are supposed to create new job opportunities. In fact, the bill seeks to remedy the loss of the exclusion some businesses enjoyed for their “extraterritorial income”. The World Trade Organization declared this “an illegal trade subsidy” and to offset having to discontinue the practice Congress created a new deduction that, in fact, comes with a price tag of $76 billion to replace the original $50 billion exclusion. (Document here) Whether this turns out to create jobs or is just another gift to administration supporters remains to be seen.
But the president’s most vigorous agenda goal (except of course for a-definition-of marriage amendment) is his plan to overhaul Social Security. Using words like “bankrupt” and scary scenarios the president laid out the bare bones of a partial privatization plan and the reasons for pursuing it. The president’s characterizations, however, fall somewhat short of the facts. Much has been written about where Social Security actually stands now and for the foreseeable future, and bankruptcy is not an issue. And the assumptions underlying the administration’s Social Security scramble to privatize suggest a higher rate of growth than most Social Security actuaries predict. Thus, economist and NY Times columnist, Paul Krugman, states “…in that case we don’t need to worry about Social Security’s future: if the economy grows fast enough to generate a rate of return that makes privatization work, it will also yield a bonanza of payroll tax revenue that will keep the current system sound for generations to come. (NY Times, 2/1/05) One would also have to assume that if the economy grows at a slower rate, the return on investments would also diminish. Obviously this is an enormously contentious issue that will play out for some time to come.
What is most important, however, is that we make sure we are being provided with facts, all of them, in terms of Social Security, jobs, health care, war expenditures, the environment and all the uses to which are tax dollars are put. Sound-good sound bytes should not carry the day.

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