Thursday, February 03, 2005

Nutshell State of the Union Review

I'm not so big on Federal issues as some. Obviously, they greatly affect our lives and matter enormously. Yet, the state and local issues are the ones dearest to me.

That said, it was impossible to avoid watching the SOTU speech, and the opposition response, following an election. The campaigning is over, and the question for me is, 'Lame duck or hard-charging policy maker/legacy builder'? Clearly, Bush is going for the latter.

Here's my idealism showing: I expect a SOTU speech to say, 'this is where we were, this is where we are, and this is where we are going'. I found the speech to be long on emotion and rhetoric, and short on the boardroom report. New Indiana governor Mitch Daniels gave me more of what I expect of these kinds of missives.

Alas, the State of the Union Address is a President's hour on the bully pulpit. He is free to talk about whatever he wishes, and for as long as I can remember, these speeches have sounded more like ongoing campaigning than the boardroom report.

I was amused by Nancy Pelosi's part of the Democratic response. I was quickly interested as she also noted the emphasis of rhetoric in her complaint, but then my enthusiasm vanished as she offered her own rhetoric as the Democratic solution.

The honoring of the parents of the slain Marine was the touching high point. The embrace of the mother with the Iraqi woman fresh off her first vote was a most effective use of props. I'm a pretty tough critic, but I was very moved by the scene, especially as the mother held her son's dog tag, and the chain tangled in the Iraqi's dress. That's the kind of symbolism the speechwriting team wishes it could have staged.

Since Iraq and foreign policy is where the President will eternally hang his hat, the bulk of the speech revolved around these issues. Again, this is a disappointment to me, due to my deeper interest in domestic policy. When will we get out of Iraq? The President was as vague as possible. Will this War on Terrorism become an eternal campaign? The door is certainly open for it, but no obvious plan was set forth.

On the domestic side, Social Security was discussed in more detail than anything was, and made for me the clear distinction between Republicans, Libertarians, and Democrats on the issue.

Democrats have been posturing towards leaving the system alone to run as is, despite the obvious train wreck awaiting this Ponzi scheme, as more people enter the receiving side then enter the contributing side. Libertarians prefer anything from a complete elimination of the program (it's your money, take it all home and spend or invest it as you see fit) to a complete privatization. Bush is proposing middle ground to these, with a very gradual shift in the allocation of a small fraction of the contributions into private accounts. Bush and the Republicans clearly continue to agree with Democrats that government is correct to mandate that a percentage of one's income must be set aside into retirement accounts.

Notable: The budget will continue to have a structural deficit that builds upon the existing deficit. It's amazing that this Administration can make Democrats look fiscally responsible. Freezes in spending in some areas is nice, but cuts across the board would have been more than refreshing- it is the right thing to do.

No comments: