Thursday, February 03, 2005
"Honey, It's the State of the Union Address Tonight... Have You Seen My Longsleeve Tesla Shirt?"
song of the day:
I've decided to put the song of the day within each day's post. That way I can choose an ambience that will remain with that particar post for all of eternity. Plus, when people are skipping from post to post they can play the song of that particular day while reading that day's post. (And by "people" I mean me and my dad.)
I think I am going to take the state of the union address and put it to music. Stay tuned. Did the Wall Street Journal link work? Anyone? The only response I got was "Inhofe got mad skills!" which is hysterical, and exactly the kind of dialogue I'm looking to spark here, but it didn't answer my question about the Journal link.
Also, you don't really notice how pointy a blazer makes your shoulders look until you have to Photoshop one to look like a Tesla t-shirt.
Wall Street Journal Article of the Day:
Promises in State of the Union
Sometimes Fly, Sometimes Flop
Success, Failure Depend in Large Part
On Congress, Elections, Priority Shifts
By TIM ANNETT
THE WALL STREET JOURNAL ONLINE
January 31, 2005 8:41 p.m.
Presidents are constitutionally required to deliver to Congress their appraisal of the nation's health and well-being once a year. But the State of the Union address is rarely a mere survey of current conditions. It has become a president's primary device for laying out his agenda to the American people.
President Bush, like his predecessors, stuffed each address of his first term with a sprawling array of programs, initiatives, spending packages, tax cuts and other policy baubles. Some captured the imagination of citizens, others were soon forgotten by electorate and administration alike (remember that vow last year to explore Mars?). Mr. Bush has given three State of the Union addresses; in 2001, shortly after his first inauguration, he addressed Congress in a budget speech that served much the same purpose.
As Mr. Bush prepares to make the first State of the Union speech of his second term, The Wall Street Journal Online took a look back at some of the vows -- both memorable and obscure -- that the president made in each of his first four speeches, and whether they made it from the rostrum to reality.
* * *
2001: Education, taxes and faith
On education: "Children should be tested on basic reading and math skills every year between grades three and eight. Measuring is the only way to know whether all our children are learning. And I want to know, because I refuse to leave any child behind in America."
The president's No Child Left Behind plan, which relies heavily on standardized testing to measure the performance of both students and schools, became law in 2002. The legislation mandated that annual report cards be issued for schools, and that those that don't measure up provide supplemental services like tutoring programs. Parents of children at underperforming schools also have the right to transfer their children to a better school in their district. States and school districts have greater flexibility in how they spend education funds. Mr. Bush recently announced a $1.5 billion "intervention fund" to improve high-school learning and graduation rates, and to extend No Child Left Behind standardized testing to high-school students. The president hasn't said whether he'd ask for new money for the proposal or seek to divert money from other education spending.
On estate taxes: "It's not fair to tax the same earnings twice -- once when you earn them, and again when you die -- so we must repeal the death tax."
The "death tax" -- or federal estate tax -- has been a perennial target of Republican ire. The president has been successful in reducing the estate tax, but it seems that even with Republicans in control of both houses of Congress, total repeal is unlikely. The White House can't count on lobbying muscle from the super-rich: Many of the very wealthiest Americans whose families would benefit greatly from the vanquishing of the estate tax don't support repeal, including investment guru Warren Buffett, who says untaxed inheritances would create an "aristocracy of wealth." But some form of compromise with Democrats may have a better chance of getting passed in Mr. Bush's second term. One proposal that might pass bipartisan muster would eliminate the tax for all but the very largest estates.
On faith-based initiatives: "My budget adopts a hopeful new approach to help the poor and the disadvantaged. We must encourage and support the work of charities and faith-based and community groups that offer help and love one person at a time."
Mr. Bush's emphasis on "faith-based initiatives" was one of the major flashpoints of his first 100 days in office. Many civil libertarians and even some religious leaders called his plans a breach of the church-state divide, while conservatives embraced the idea of farming out expensive social programs to churches. John DiIulio Jr., an early leader of the president's faith program, argued in an op-ed in The Wall Street Journal that failure to support faith-based initiatives in the war on poverty was tantamount to ignoring the 14th Amendment's equal-protection clause. Congress scuttled Mr. Bush's most ambitious faith-based plans, but the president did open a "compassion capital fund" to bankroll some initiatives. The issue has receded from the spotlight recently, but the emphasis on "values" cited by many voters in the 2004 election could give faith-based programs new prominence.
* * *
2002: Defense, energy and trade
On defense: "We will work closely with our coalition to deny terrorists and their state sponsors the materials, technology, and expertise to make and deliver weapons of mass destruction. We will develop and deploy effective missile defenses to protect America and our allies from sudden attack."
The Bush administration decided to invade Iraq because of perceived threat represented by Saddam Hussein's stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction. But those weapons haven't materialized and the U.S. has officially called off the search. Libya voluntarily disarmed and a black-market ring for nuclear materials headed up by a former top Pakistani scientist was broken up, but other successes have proved harder to come by. Iran's nuclear capabilities -- and what the Bush administration might do about them -- have been the subject of feverish speculation, and the U.S. is wary of North Korea's nuclear intentions. Missile defense remains a touchy subject. Many critics don't see the need for it, calling the program a vestige of the Cold War that should be mothballed to beef up spending on other more pressing defense and homeland-security needs.
On energy sources: "Good jobs also depend on reliable and affordable energy. This Congress must act to encourage conservation, promote technology, build infrastructure, and it must act to increase energy production at home so America is less dependent on foreign oil."
America has done little to decrease its reliance on foreign oil: According to the Commerce Department's most recent report on international trade flows, the volume of crude-oil imports increased to 326.48 million barrels in November from 315.81 million the previous month, contributing to the massive U.S. trade deficit. Energy prices soared during Mr. Bush's first term, and though oil futures prices have ebbed somewhat, soaring energy costs have eroded corporate profits and consumers' purchasing power. In the meantime, conservation efforts have foundered. The president's push for fuel-cell research has stalled even as hybrid cars become more popular.
On trade: "Good jobs depend on expanded trade. Selling into new markets creates new jobs, so I ask Congress to finally approve trade-promotion authority."
Though Mr. Bush won back trade-promotion authority, which gives the president greater power in negotiating agreements, his record on trade has been mixed. A package of steel tariffs designed to protect U.S. producers from foreign competitors drew criticism both inside and outside the administration and was eventually rolled back. The generous subsidies the U.S. gives its farmers have proved to be a big sticking point in international trade talks. Meanwhile, the president has sent mixed signals on the question of offshoring. During the presidential campaign, he proclaimed his eagerness to protect American jobs and muzzled a top economic adviser who suggested that the outsourcing of jobs overseas was a long-term net positive for the U.S. But he also has repeatedly called for open markets.
* * *
2003: Health care, AIDS and the environment
On AIDS in Africa: "I ask the Congress to commit $15 billion over the next five years, including nearly $10 billion in new money, to turn the tide against AIDS in the most afflicted nations of Africa and the Caribbean."
Mr. Bush won Congress's rhetorical support for his AIDS initiative but squabbling about specifics quickly ensued, which means that funding has so far fallen short of the president's initial proposal. U.S. AIDS funding increased a total of $2 billion over fiscal years 2004-05, and Mr. Bush is proposing an additional $1.6 billion increase for 2006. That still would leave him to find another $6.4 billion to meet his pledge. But spending levels will be a hot topic as the U.S. is trying to reduce its massive deficits. What's more, despite the World Health Organization's endorsement of cheaper generic AIDS drugs manufactured in India, the Bush administration won't buy them on grounds that they violate U.S. patents. That drives up the program's costs -- the U.S. is paying twice as much for many of the drugs as other international aid groups are, according to the Government Accountability Office -- and means whatever AIDS funds are ultimately approved by Congress won't stretch as far as many would wish.
On health care: "Health-care reform must begin with Medicare; Medicare is the binding commitment of a caring society. We must renew that commitment by giving seniors access to preventive medicine and new drugs that are transforming health care in America. My budget will commit an additional $400 billion over the next decade to reform and strengthen Medicare."
Congress passed the huge Medicare prescription-drug benefit in 2003 but the legislation represented the biggest expansion of a federal entitlement program in a generation and will be considerably more expensive than originally estimated. The voluntary benefit, which goes into effect on Jan. 1, 2006, will cover the prescription-drug expenses of some 11 million low-income elderly and disabled Americans. Many economists caution that Medicare and Medicaid present an even more serious threat to the country's long-term economic well-being than Social Security. The Government Accountability Office estimates that the U.S. Medicare bill will hit $28 trillion over the next 75 years.
On the environment: "I have sent you Clear Skies legislation that mandates a 70 percent cut in air pollution from power plants over the next 15 years. I have sent you a Healthy Forests Initiative, to help prevent the catastrophic fires that devastate communities, kill wildlife, and burn away millions of acres of treasured forest."
The Clear Skies legislation died in Congress last year. It's been reported that Mr. Bush, eager nonetheless to push through some kind of change in air-pollution rules, has been considering enacting the Clear Skies provisions by executive order. But that has energy companies wary of extended legal fights nervous -- most executives would prefer a legislative solution. Some Republicans in the business community have also tried to distance themselves from efforts to roll back clean-air rules and the Endangered Species Act. Meanwhile, liberal critics have mocked the Clear Skies plan, calling it patronage for Bush campaign fundraisers in the energy business and a loosening of pollution regulations. The Healthy Forests Act passed in 2003.
* * *
2004: Patriot Act, budget and gay marriage
On the Patriot Act: "Key provisions of the Patriot Act are set to expire next year. The terrorist threat will not expire on that schedule. Our law enforcement needs this vital legislation to protect our citizens. You need to renew the Patriot Act."
The Patriot Act was a big issue in the 2004 election season -- and as such, little legislative headway was made in renewing it. However, many moderate Democrats, including Sen. John Kerry, have been quietly supportive of most of its provisions and favor renewal with only modest changes. The nomination of Michael Chertoff, a big supporter of the Patriot Act the first time around, to lead the Department of Homeland Security may also help push renewal over the hump. Mr. Bush could see results here: The president is still perceived by many voters as a strong leader in the war on terror, and homeland security is an area where he has deep reserves of political capital. Many lawmakers could be wary of running afoul of voters loyal to the president if the war of terrorism remains a central issue going into the midterm elections in 2006.
On the budget: "In two weeks, I will send you a budget that funds the war, protects the homeland, and meets important domestic needs, while limiting the growth in discretionary spending to less than four percent."
The federal budget will be the primary chess board for Mr. Bush's second term (his spending proposals for the coming fiscal year will be submitted to Congress next week). In Mr. Bush's first two years as president, domestic spending, not including defense and entitlement programs such as Social Security and Medicare, grew roughly 10% annually. It expanded 6.4% in his third year. If the president is to cut the gaping deficit in half, as he has promised, spending will need to be curtailed. If economic growth is solid, Iraq takes a turn for the better and Congress curbs its appetite for pork, the deficit could shrink substantially. But the president's desire to head off what he says is an imminent crisis in Social Security, along with the rollout of Medicare's pricey new prescription-drug benefit, could keep the U.S. swimming in red ink for a good while.
On gay marriage: "Activist judges … have begun redefining marriage by court order, without regard for the will of the people and their elected representatives. On an issue of such great consequence, the people's voice must be heard. If judges insist on forcing their arbitrary will upon the people, the only alternative left to the people would be the constitutional process. Our nation must defend the sanctity of marriage."
Gay marriage was a cultural flashpoint of the 2004 election, and these lines were manna for Mr. Bush's socially conservative base. But the issue has received scant attention since November. Indeed, White House backing for a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage could be a dead letter. Some prominent Republicans have made it known that they don't support amending the Constitution, and many states have already passed ballot measures limiting the definition of marriage, making the need for a federal amendment less urgent in the eyes of many conservatives. Furthermore, the president will likely want to keep his powder dry for bigger looming fights on Social Security and overhauling the tax code.
Write to Tim Annett at firstname.lastname@example.org