Forum: What is the state of the Union?

From the left: Strong but heading in wrong direction
by David Kay

President George W. Bush’s State of the Union address last Tuesday was about as forthright as an Iraqi weapons declaration. It was full of omissions, errors, mischaracterization and worn-out rhetoric. While the State of the Union is strong, we are currently confronted by several serious problems that affect our economic health and national security. Unlike last year’s “Axis of Evil” speech, this year’s address was nothing more then an uneventful reiteration of the Bush administration’s current policy.

Economy: The president began by addressing the nation’s ailing economy. His solution is an “economic stimulus” plan, of which the largest and most controversial part is the elimination of all taxes on stock dividends. This plan is heavily faulted in that it relies on the long-ago discredited theory of trickle down economics. As a result of this tax cut, only the largest shareholders (those who own thousands of shares or more) would benefit from eliminating the dividend tax. Not only do these large shareholders not need a tax cut, but they also are less likely to spend this additional money in a manner that will help the economy. The tax cut would spur savings and investment (which is beneficial in the long run), but would not stimulate the economy in the immediate future. On the contrary, immediately cutting payroll taxes or issuing tax rebates would benefit average Americans and boost the economy. With this extra money, average Americans would be able to take their families to a ballgame, go grocery shopping or make a car payment, all of which would improve their standard of living and offer an immediate boost to the lagging economy.

Iraq: With regards to Iraq we heard nothing new, as Bush rehashed old arguments for a war in Iraq. Even as Bush continues to frame the pending war in Iraq as part of the war on terror, he has failed to link Iraq to September 11 in any meaningful way. In his speech the president also enumerated a litany of Iraqi human rights abuses and recited a long list of Iraqi weapons of mass destruction. Still, Iraq has been abusing its people and stockpiling weapons of mass destruction since long before the end of the Gulf War. Why do these things, that have been taking place for more than a decade, suddenly rise to the level of imminent threat? Bush also said he wants to oust Saddam and rebuild Iraq on the model of Germany and Japan after World War II. Our president should know that he is no Marshall or MacArthur, and should take a hint from the deadlock in Afghanistan before undertaking another nation-building mission.

The war on terror: September 11 mastermind Osama bin Laden was conspicuous by his absence from the president’s speech. Bush rattled off a long list of apprehended Al Qaeda criminals and characterized the war as a success, but made no mention of bin Laden, Ayman al-Zwahiri or Mullah Omar. The president claimed Al Qaeda operations had been greatly disrupted yet we continue to be menaced daily by possible attacks here at home, our troops are under fire in Kuwait and Afghanistan and innocents are murdered in Indonesia and Pakistan. Our intelligence services list Al Qaeda and Hezbollah as the greatest threats to American security, and not Iraq. Saddam Hussein has become a more convenient villain, and his misdeeds have distracted us from unfinished business in the war on terror. If the president wants to take credit for the early success in the war on terror, then he should also take responsibility for the more recent lack of success.
The union is strong, but if we continue in this direction it will cease to be so.
-The writer, a senior majoring in international affairs, is a Hatchet columnist.

From the right: Secure under firm guidance
by Brian Krause

Half the chamber roared with applause while the other half shifted in their seats, nervously paged through their programs and looked cool for the cameras. He was supposed to be the idiot, the man that stole the presidency on a constitutional technicality. The non-president president.

But when non-President George W. Bush approached the podium for the State of the Union, he did something very presidential. He chose not to shift blame for the problems facing our nation, and instead took responsibility for finding a solution to them. The president outlined his compassionate conservative agenda, an ideology that calls for helping people in need while demanding accountability and achieving results.

The highlight of his economic strategy is a comprehensive tax cut aimed at encouraging consumer spending, promoting investment and helping the unemployed. Bush recognizes the key to economic recovery is allowing people to spend their own money and not letting politicians in Washington spend it for them.

The Democrats have proposed no alternative plan of their own, offer only criticism and have resorted to class warfare to disguise their indecisiveness. The truth is that the president’s tax plan is good for all Americans, not just the rich.

Under his plan, 92 million taxpayers would receive a tax cut of an average $1,083 in 2003. Ending the unfair double taxation of dividends would benefit the 35 million American households that receive them, 9.8 million of which are seniors, many of whom rely on these checks as a source of income.

America’s health care problems will not be solved through a nationalized healthcare system that dictates which doctors patients may see, decides what drugs doctors may prescribe and ignores the individual needs of patients. The president has proposed a national plan to put healthcare back in the hands of physicians and to end frivolous lawsuits the drive up the costs of healthcare, giving Americans the freedom to choose a plan that best meets their needs at an affordable price.

Under the Freedom Fuel initiative, Bush has pledged $1.2 billion to develop technology for clean burning hydrogen-powered cars that produce water instead exhaust fumes, which will dramatically improve the environment.

The State of the Union was also a call for Americans to take initiative to better their lives, communities and world. Bush shared his vision Americans performing the work of compassion, instead of relying on ineffective and costly government programs.

Private citizens and private business can operate more effectively than the sloth of bureaucracy. Community groups, charities and non-profits work to make a difference every day, and the president has proposed an additional $1.5 billion to help them mentor children in need and fight drug addiction.

This responsibility to mankind extends beyond our borders, and Bush has proposed a groundbreaking program to fight the AIDS epidemic in Africa and the Caribbean. The package will provide $15 billion over five years and will prevent seven million new infections. No American president has ever proposed a package of this form and magnitude.

The most anticipated, eloquent and passionate portion of his speech discussed homeland security, the war on terror and Iraqi disarmament. Bush has shown he will go to any length to defend the United States, its allies and the principles they stand for. He has used every channel of diplomacy at his disposal; he has worked through the United Nations and the international community. But diplomacy has run its course.
The president has set the agenda. Now Congress must also take responsibility and follow through.
-The writer is a senior majoring in political science.

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