Posted 10:38 a.m. Jan. 30
By Patrick W. Higgins
U-WIRE (DC BUREAU)
(U-WIRE) WASHINGTON – President George W. Bush expressed plans to continue the war on terrorism, to increase domestic security, and to relieve the current economic recession in his first State of the Union Address on Tuesday night.
The president’s speech praised the American military’s progress in Afghanistan, citing the capture of thousands of global terrorists which he described as “ticking-time bombs set to go off without warning.”
“Terrorists who once occupied Afghanistan now occupy cells in Guantanamo Bay,” Bush said.
Bush explicitly identified Iran, Iraq and North Korea as regimes which support or host terrorist activities and have strove to arm themselves with weapons of war. The president gave particular attention to Iraq as a specific threat due to its history of non-compliance.
“America will not let the world’s most dangerous regimes threaten us with the world’s most dangerous weapons,” Bush stated.
The president supported his global terrorism campaign, with American troops currently in Afghanistan, the Philippines, Bosnia and Africa when he said, “Some governments will be timid to act against terrorists, but make no mistake about it, if they don’t, America will.”
The budget for the 2003 fiscal year will aim to increase defense spending by the largest increment in two decades, the president said. Objectives of the increased funding include military pay raises and innovative weapons and equipment.
The focus of Bush’s speech switched to homeland security proposals to prevent future terrorist attacks. The president called for increased citizen responsibility through volunteer work in organizations such as the Freedom Corps and Peace Corps.
American authority organizations will focus on four specific areas of domestic security including bio-terrorism, emergency response tactics, airport regulations and border patrol.
The new budget would double federal spending for homeland security measures.
Combating the recession will be a third main focus of the Bush administration, despite the president’s announcement that the government will run, “small and short-term” deficit spending this year.
Bush introduced his economic stimulus package by encouraging Congress to increase spending, a point which Democratic leaders, including Sen. Ted Kennedy strongly contest.
“We must not act as Democrats or Republicans,” Bush said, “but as Americans.”
Other points of the plan include extending unemployment benefits, welfare reform, increasing personal investment in American business and most controversially, to make his tax cut plan permanent.
“Our goal is to reduce dependency on the government,” Bush said. “We must offer every American the dignity of a job.”
The president promoted his newly ratified education law and stressed early childhood education development programs and teacher training so that “no child will be left behind.”
In response to the still unfolding Enron situation, Bush called for safeguards for 401 (K) retirement plans and reform of corporate practices.
“Corporate America must be more accountable to shareholders and employees,” the president stated.
The president’s 45-minute address was answered by House Minority Leader Dick Gephardt (D-Mo.), who echoed Bush’s warning for terrorists and praised the president for his leadership.
Gephardt challenged Bush on his tax cut policy, claiming that benefits should be equal for all income brackets.
“I refuse to accept that while we stand shoulder to shoulder on the war, we should stand toe to toe on the economy,” Gephardt said.
The Democratic leader also called for campaign finance reform, using the Enron collapse as proof of the largely Democratic fear of money in politics.
“If the nation’s largest bankruptcy coupled with a clear example of paid political influence isn’t a prime case for reform,” Gephardt contended, “I don’t know what is.”
The new budget is expected to be presented to Congress on Feb. 4.