Alan K. Henderson's Weblog


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Wednesday, January 24, 2007

State Of The Union

Ladies and gentlemen, the President of the United States:

And tonight, I have a high privilege and distinct honor of my own -- as the first President to begin the State of the Union message with these words: Madam Speaker.

It's a privilege only if she's not a statist or an appeasenik.

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. This economy is on the move, and our job is to keep it that way, not with more government, but with more enterprise.

Suck on that, Democrats.

First, we must balance the federal budget. (Applause.) We can do so without raising taxes. (Applause.)

Yes, it's possible. Newt Gingrich balanced the budget without raising taxes. Ronald Reagan got Congress to go along with policies that significantly lowered the deficits without raising taxes.

What we need to do is impose spending discipline in Washington, D.C.

Hearing Bush say that is like hearing Britney Spears complain about immodesty. Where have you been for the last six years, Mr. President?

Next, there is the matter of earmarks. These special interest items are often slipped into bills at the last hour -- when not even C-SPAN is watching. (Laughter.) In 2005 alone, the number of earmarks grew to over 13,000 and totaled nearly $18 billion. Even worse, over 90 percent of earmarks never make it to the floor of the House and Senate -- they are dropped into committee reports that are not even part of the bill that arrives on my desk. You didn't vote them into law. I didn't sign them into law. Yet, they're treated as if they have the force of law. The time has come to end this practice. So let us work together to reform the budget process, expose every earmark to the light of day and to a vote in Congress, and cut the number and cost of earmarks at least in half by the end of this session.

Best part of the domestic policy portion of the speech.

Blah blah blah fix Medicare and Medicaid -- and save Social Security.

All talk, no plans for how to fix these programs.

The real problem is that it distracts from what really needs fixing - the medicine and retirement planning. On the first issue...where third-party payers exist, medical costs soar - but where they don't (LASIK comes to mind), efficiencies of scale are achieved. The problem is exacerbated by heavy government regulation and predatory slip-and-fall trial lawyers. Reform must start by addressing these issues.

Social Security is a ripoff because the money is immediately spent instead of invested; one's benefits comes totally from the current generation that is paying into the system. In the best of worlds, the government would simply stay out of people's retirement decisions. The next best solution would be for government to replace Social Security with a requirement that people put a certain part of their paychecks into some sort of investment, just as auto owners are required to carry insurance. Current recipients would get a lump sum from the government, those proceeds taken from the sale of the vast tracts of land that the government owns.

Now the task is to build on the success, without watering down standards, without taking control from local communities, and without backsliding and calling it reform. We can lift student achievement even higher by giving local leaders flexibility to turn around failing schools...

Hey, if all this authority is being delegated away from Washington, why have a federal Department of Education? It's a jobs program for bureaucrats that adds nothing to the value of schooling. Kill it. Now. You want to balance the budget? There's a place to start.

We need to expand Health Savings Accounts.

I don't want a Health Savings Account, ever. I want a general savings account. I don't know if I'll need that money next year for my prostate or my Ford Ranger. I don't want my liquid assets to be put in a bunch of Rube Goldberg machinery. I want things simple. And I want to keep more of my money on April 15.

Blah blah secure our border blah blah

Ignore the symptoms and get to the root of the illness. We have a border problem because Mexico is a corrupt hellhole where markets can't thrive. We've got to use every diplomatic means to get Mexico to change its political culture, to embrace the economic freedom that thrives in the Anglosphere and places like Hong Kong and Estonia.

We must continue changing the way America generates electric power, by even greater use of clean coal technology, solar and wind energy, and clean, safe nuclear power.

Solar and wind are tertiary power sources at best - they can't generate as much power as coal, oil, and nuclear. I suggest you push the nuclear. We need a standardized plant design to bring construction costs down. Having a few MOX plants that run on recycled waste will vastly reduce our waste stockpiles and will thus benefit the environment. Pebble bed reactors show great promise as plants that are both safer and less costly. We have ageing coal plants that will eventually need to be replaced with something. Wind farms won't cut it.

Let us build on the work we've done and reduce gasoline usage in the United States by 20 percent in the next 10 years.

Hey, replacing coal plants with nuclear reactors will do more to curb atmospheric pollution than driving hybrids.

Our success in this war is often measured by the things that did not happen. We cannot know the full extent of the attacks that we and our allies have prevented, but here is some of what we do know: We stopped an al Qaeda plot to fly a hijacked airplane into the tallest building on the West Coast. We broke up a Southeast Asian terror cell grooming operatives for attacks inside the United States. We uncovered an al Qaeda cell developing anthrax to be used in attacks against America. And just last August, British authorities uncovered a plot to blow up passenger planes bound for America over the Atlantic Ocean. For each life saved, we owe a debt of gratitude to the brave public servants who devote their lives to finding the terrorists and stopping them.

Yes, always take into account the body count that didn't happen.

Our enemies are quite explicit about their intentions. They want to overthrow moderate governments, and establish safe havens from which to plan and carry out new attacks on our country.

Like Iraq.

What every terrorist fears most is human freedom...

Yes, they're control freaks, but that's only half of it. They resent that the West is powerful and that most of the Islamic world isn't. The only Islamic nations that can lay claim to greatness - as megalomaniacs define greatness - are Turkey (currently the world's 17th largest economy), Indonesia (4th most populous nation, 15th largest economy), and Pakistan (has nukes). They want Islam to be not only powerful and prosperous, but the most powerful and prosperous. We insult them by outranking them in those arenas, so we must be taken down. And they want former Islamic territory in Europe (and especially in the Middle East) to return to Muslim hands.

In order to make progress toward this goal, the Iraqi government must stop the sectarian violence in its capital. But the Iraqis are not yet ready to do this on their own. So we're deploying reinforcements of more than 20,000 additional soldiers and Marines to Iraq. The vast majority will go to Baghdad, where they will help Iraqi forces to clear and secure neighborhoods, and serve as advisers embedded in Iraqi Army units. With Iraqis in the lead, our forces will help secure the city by chasing down the terrorists, insurgents, and the roaming death squads. And in Anbar Province, where al Qaeda terrorists have gathered and local forces have begun showing a willingness to fight them, we're sending an additional 4,000 United States Marines, with orders to find the terrorists and clear them out. (Applause.) We didn't drive al Qaeda out of their safe haven in Afghanistan only to let them set up a new safe haven in a free Iraq [emphasis added]

The second-best part of the speech.

Dikembe Mutombo grew up in Africa, amid great poverty and disease. He came to Georgetown University on a scholarship to study medicine -- but Coach John Thompson got a look at Dikembe and had a different idea. (Laughter.) Dikembe became a star in the NBA, and a citizen of the United States. But he never forgot the land of his birth, or the duty to share his blessings with others. He built a brand new hospital in his old hometown. A friend has said of this good-hearted man: "Mutombo believes that God has given him this opportunity to do great things." And we are proud to call this son of the Congo a citizen of the United States of America.

And it probably involved a lot less red tape than building a hospital in the United States.

Paul Mirengoff at Powerline noticed something:

There were two important lines about Iraq that Speaker Pelosi (along with many her Democratic colleagues) declined to applaud at all. One was the president's call for us to "find our resolve, and turn events toward victory." The other was his statement that "nothing is more important at this moment in our history than for America to succeed in the Middle East [and] to succeed in Iraq."

Hot Ait has video of snoozing senators (via the Malkinator).

Here's the Klingon response to Bush's health care meanderings - that's Arnold Kling, not those other guys.

Update: Regarding my comment about "great" nations - yes, I know that Turkey and Pakistan have lousy per capita GNP figures - on that score they rank 75th and 125th, respectively. But remember my qualifier - as megalomaniacs define greatness. Such people care about their own prosperity first; the government ranks second, and citizens are in all ways expendable. Free markets produce the wealthiest individuals and the wealthiest governments, but not the wealthiest heads of state.

Update: At the Instant Bark chatroom, Azygos pointed out that the "x number of jobs created" claim is "a scam perpetrated by both parties." It's a figure that includes both full and part time work, and isn't all that useful as an economic indicator. As implied in the previous update, the starting point for measuring individual prosperity is per capita income. So how has that statistic fared since 9/11? Going straight to Department of Commerce data, here are the figures from 1999 forward (adjusted for 2005 dollars):

(1999) 24,879
(2000) 25,331
(2001) 25,200
(2002) 24,744
(2003) 24,701
(2004) 24,655
(2005) 25,036

Over that time frame, the US population rose by 17 million. Over half that number would be working age - 2006 estimate has the 15–64 year bracket at 67.2% of total population.

The data says this: 9/11 (and the dot-com crash) did little to disrupt per-capita income, which means it did little to disrupt job creation. In fact, as of 2005 US citizens are better off than they were under Clinton, or any other previous administration.

Suck on that, Democrats.


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