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This is What Democracy Looks Like

State of the Union Madman

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

 

State of the Union

PRESIDENT BUSH: I congratulate the Democrat majority. Each of us (the Congress) is guided by our own convictions -- and to these we must stay faithful. Yet we're all held to the same standards, and called to serve the same good purposes: To extend this nation's prosperity; to spend the people's money wisely; to solve problems, not leave them to future generations; to guard America against all evil; and to keep faith with those we have sent forth to defend us.
MADMAN: I almost couldn't hear the beginning of this remark by President Bush. When he said, "I congratulate the Democrat majority," all I could hear was two pair of teeth grinding (Bush's and, behind him, Dick Cheney) and a little bit of snickering from Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi.
But, seriously, to hear Bush tell us all that it is the responsibility of the new congress to "extend prosperity" while "spending our (mine and yours) money wisely and not to leave problems for our future generations" made a little bit of regurgitation spew up in my mouth. Let's face it, this president, the former GOP congressional majority and a series of NeoCons who have occupied various posts in this administration have done all in their power to ignore the problems of today, and have left it for our children, and our children's children, to solve these problems that will persist long after most of us are gone.
The President ignores the fact that he inherited a hefty budget surplus from his predecessor Bill Clinton (one Clinton built up from a deficit left by GW's father, President George H.W. Bush); It ignores the fact that Bush and his "base" of "haves and have more" war profiteering and oil greedy buddies have created a situation in Iraq that has left a civil war where there was none before and a mess that, if given his (GW's) way, will be a generational conflict "over there".
The only "guard against evil" we now need is to "guard ourselves against the future policies of Bush's administration.

BUSH: Like many before us, we can work through our differences, and achieve big things for the American people.
MADMAN: Do you all remember all of the meetings with the Republican majority at the White House? Do you all remember how the Democratic minority was ignored and blamed all at the same time while the GOP enjoyed the spoils which came with complete control of the House, Senate and Executive branch? I sure do and so do the people of America. True bipartisanship would have really meant something credible during the past six years. Maybe if Bush was to actually ask for the Democrats' advice, rather than tell simply them what they should cow-tow to, there would really be a way forward, especially over the next two years.

BUSH: A future of hope and opportunity begins with a growing economy -- and that is what we have. We're now in the 41st month of uninterrupted job growth, in a recovery that has created 7.2 million new jobs -- so far. Unemployment is low, inflation is low, and wages are rising.
MADMAN: Like each and every State of the Union address Bush has given (and this is number six) the message was spin, spin and more spin, and it started with this statement. Basing the conversation of the economy in fact, we see that the middle and lower classes (economically speaking, of course) have fared poorly, and in many cases, drastically so, under the leadership of the Bush administration. When Bush took over in 2001, he inherited an economy where 66.8 percent of the whole Civilian non-institutional population (those 16 years of age an older who could hold a job) were employed. Today that number holds fast at only 64.4 percent. While the total population of possible workers has grown from a little over 215 million Americans at the end of 2001 to just under 238 million Americans today, the total employed number of Americans have grown from just under 144 million working Americans to only 152.3 million working Americans. (These numbers courtesy of the Department of Labor's Bureau of Labor Statistics.)

BUSH: This economy is on the move, and our job is to keep it that way, not with more government, but with more enterprise.
MADMAN: The economy is on the move IF you happen to be in the top one percent of all wage earners. For the rest of us, the economy is stagnant, at best and catastrophic, at its worst.
Government has grown by some twenty percent since Bush took over. That's twenty percent more payroll; twenty percent more benefits; and twenty percent more Americans being paid by the US taxpayer. Due to the high costs of health care (discussed more later) and other small business costs, "more enterprise" doesn't include small business in the Bush vernacular. In truth, you had better be a large, global corporation with ties to the GOP and the Bush administration if you want to make money in the Bush economy.

BUSH: First, we must balance the federal budget. We can do so without raising taxes.
MADMAN: Welcome to Bush's very own, very special Fantasy Island, where all of your dreams come true, if you wish them. The only way we can get to a balanced budget - similar to the burgeoning one he inherited from Bill Clinton - is to take the step of taking back the grand and grandiose tax cuts from the very rich in this nation. Both Ronald Reagan and Bush(41) knew that and realized that they had to raise taxes to help keep America's head above water. This Bush administration isn't even willing to institute a pay-as-you-go method of paying for government, mush less passing a balanced budget amendment. Let's face it, in the past six years of the Bush-GOP majority, a balanced budget has been one of the furthest things from the mind of Bush. Or as Vice President Dick Cheney told then-Secretary of the Treasury Paul O'Neill "Reagan proved that deficits don't matter."
They do.

BUSH: In 2005 alone, the number of earmarks grew to over 13,000 and totaled nearly $18 billion.
MADMAN: Bush seems to forget that those 13,000-plus earmarks and their $18 billion price tag were passed by the REPUBLICANS. In fact, during the new DEMOCRATIC majority's first 1,000 hour agenda, they wouldn't allow the GOP to place earmarks in any of these important bills. No bridges to nowhere for you, Senator Stevens (REPUBLICAN-AK).

BUSH: And, finally, to keep this economy strong we must take on the challenge of entitlements. Social Security and Medicare and Medicaid are commitments of conscience, and so it is our duty to keep them permanently sound.
MADMAN: Hold onto your wallets, boys and girls. He's coming for your last dollar once again.

BUSH: (1) A future of hope and opportunity requires that all our citizens have affordable and available health care... many Americans cannot afford a health insurance policy.
(2) Families with health insurance will pay no income on payroll tax -- or payroll taxes on $15,000 of their income. Single Americans with health insurance will pay no income or payroll taxes on $7,500 of their income.
(3) For Americans who now purchase health insurance on their own, this proposal would mean a substantial tax savings -- $4,500 for a family of four making $60,000 a year.
MADMAN: (1) Tax deductions and health care savings accounts will not a health care plan make. Offering poor, working Americans a tax deduction, when they pay almost no taxes as it stands at all, is akin to offering a thirsty man a glass without water and telling him that as soon as he can find some water, he'll be able to drink it.
(2) Reading between the lines here, we see that Americans whose health care plans are more than $15,000 (for a family) or $7,500 (individual) will have to pay taxes on any earned income above that magic number. So, if you have a choice of a standard health care plan from your company which requires you to see a only a doctor who accepts the plan (an HMO type plan), you might be alright. (That is unless you consider the rising costs of deductibles, co-pays and the lowered annual maximums, just in case you get really sick.) However, if you have to take a better plan which allows you to go out-of-network, not only will you have to pay all of the above, but you'll also be subject to lowered insurance company payments (A.K.A. Usual and Customary), the downright refusal of payment (they're very creative when they deny you for a covered service - and it can take you a couple of days off just trying to get them to pay) and a new tax on any money you pay towards your health care coverage above that $15,000 a year number.
Remember, the Bush health care plan's motto: Plan to Stay Healthy.
(3) I wonder how many families of four making $60,000 per year don't have health care? But that $4,500 savings in the guise of tax relief averages out to $375 a month for that family of four to purchase health care insurance. Good luck finding that fantasy policy.

BUSH: We need to expand Health Savings Accounts.
MADMAN: Sounds like another tax shelter for that "base" of "haves and have mores" to me. After all, if you have the money to purchase health care insurance after you retire, wouldn't you use that money to pay for health care insurance when you're younger?

BUSH: Extending hope and opportunity depends on a stable supply of energy that keeps America's economy running and America's environment clean. For too long our nation has been dependent on foreign oil. And this dependence leaves us more vulnerable to hostile regimes, and to terrorists -- who could cause huge disruptions of oil shipments, and raise the price of oil, and do great harm to our economy.
MADMAN: This got me to chuckle a little bit, but not a good chuckle. For the past six years, Democrats and assorted progressives have been yelling about oil dependency and alternative fuels. The main opponent, it appeared, was Vice President Dick Cheney. During this whole section on an energy policy, the author of our "secret" energy policy, Cheney, almost couldn't help but give a few smirks and a couple of muffled snickers. he even sat sideways in his seat to help contain himself.
The oil men who run the Bush administration (including Cheney, Bush and Condi Rice) have wanted no part of alternate fuel, with the exception of its use for spin and as a WMD (Weapon of Mass Distraction). Listening to them talk about energy reform makes me remember their relationships with Halliburton, Chevron and the Late Kenny-Boy Ly's Enron, and it sends a shiver up and down my spine.

BUSH: America is on the verge of technological breakthroughs that will enable us to live our lives less dependent on oil. And these technologies will help us be better stewards of the environment, and they will help us to confront the serious challenge of global climate change.
MADMAN: Acknowledging global climate change is certainly a step in the right direction. And, seriously, I look forward to see if the rhetoric makes way to any kind of a real program where we, finally, address the issue of global warning. I guess waiting six years to finally have GW even mention it is better than nothing. That is, of course, unless it stays at nothing.

BUSH: Our success in this war is often measured by the things that did not happen.
MADMAN: Then, I guess, using that logic, we have never had a president as successful as Bill Clinton. after all, the 1993 World Trade Center bombings "only" killed three and Clinton was "only" in office for a couple of weeks at that time.
Perhaps we should apply Bush's Doctrine of Nothing to other areas of government. No national health care coverage, for example, led to no extra American deaths. after all, since we never had a national health care plan, our higher than the other western world nations death toll is right where it ought to be.
Hey! This stuff works!

By now, we've spoken time and time again about the Bush failures in Iraq and Afghanistan. Bush mentioned the progress made in both places by speaking about the elections in both Iraq and Afghanistan. However, since those elections, Iraq has broken out into what most of us call a civil war fought along sectarian lines; and Afghanistan has been militarily sacrifices while the old Taliban regime reclaims more and more territory each and every day.

The rhetoric of one speech is not the answer to all of our nation's, and the world's problems. it's going to be up to the Democratic majorities on both houses to exercise their responsibility of oversight and keep the reins on a group of corrupt and dishonest brokers who occupy 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. Look at the bright side: Bush's next State of the union Address will be his last.

-Noah Greenberg


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-Noah Greenberg