State of the Union preview

Posted 9:24 p.m. Jan. 27

by Marcus Mrowka
U-WIRE Washington Bureau

As Democratic opposition grows and new polls come out showing a drop in the president’s approval ratings, President Bush is preparing to deliver his second State of the Union Address to Congress and the American people Tuesday evening.

He is expected to try to convince Americans that his tax cuts would help the economy and that the escalating conflict with Iraq is necessary, political analysts told U-WIRE.

A Washington Post-ABC News poll released last week showed President Bush’s approval ratings at 59 percent, the lowest since the terrorist attacks of 2001 in New York and Washington, D.C.

According to the poll, 53 percent of Americans disapprove of the way the president is handling the economy with 61 percent saying that his economic policies favor the wealthy.

Bush is expected to make his $674 billion tax cut a centerpiece in his speech Tuesday. Bush argued in his weekly radio address last week that the most criticized element of his economic plan, the elimination of taxes on stock dividends, would “lay the foundation for future prosperity by encouraging investment and helping Americans to prepare for the new jobs a growing economy will bring.”

The elimination of taxes on stock dividends has been widely assailed by Democrats and even some Republicans who say it favors the wealthy. Opponents say paying off the deficit is much more important in reviving the economy than tax cuts.

Peter R. Orszag, a senior fellow of economic studies for the Brookings Institution, recently spoke to members of Congress on the President’s proposed economic plans.

“Even according to the Administration’s own analysis, the proposals would have a negligible effect on economic activity during 2003 and would reduce job growth after 2004,” he told Congress. “In the short term, the plan would have only a modest impact because it is not targeted to boosting demand for goods and services; in the long term, any positive effects would be offset by the expansion in the budget deficit and associated reduction in national saving.”

Darleen Fiorillo, a Connecticut resident who voted for Bush in 2000, said the president has a tough road ahead of him.

“The recent poll results and the increasing opposition in Congress prove that the President has his work cut out for him,” she said.

The president is also expected to talk about other domestic issues including his plan to overhaul Medicare, his plans to involve religious groups more in government programs, and the need to restrain federal spending to boost the economy.

Besides the economy, another major point in Bush’s speech is expected to center around the growing concerns with the continued conflict in Iraq.

While 71 percent of Americans approve of the Bush’s job in handling his campaign against terrorism, a slimmer half of all Americans approve of the president’s handling of the situation in Iraq.

In fact, 58 percent of Americans do not believe Bush has presented enough evidence to show the need for military force in Iraq and almost as many are worried the United States will act too quickly.

A growing number of Democrats are speaking out against Bush. Senate Democratic leader Tom Daschle, D-S.D., addressed these concerns on Sunday morning talk shows and Democratic presidential candidate Senator John Kerry, D-Mass., voiced his opposition against going to war too quickly and attacked the president’s policies in a speech at Georgetown University last week.

“The Bush administration is on a ‘rush to war’ in Iraq that will endanger U.S. alliances and fan anti-Americanism around the world,” Kerry told the gathering.

Polls also suggest that the president might be out of step with the American people in areas such as abortion rights, health care, and affirmative action.

All six Democratic presidential candidates have voiced their opinions on these issues in the past weeks to try to show they are more in line with the American public. It is unclear yet on whether the president will address these issues in his speech Tuesday night.

The State of the Union Address will be broadcast live on the major television networks Tuesday night at 9 p.m. EST.

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