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February 1, 2006

SOTU Thoughts

by @ 3:09 pm. Filed under National, Environment, Social Policy

So now that the speech is over I wanted to give a more detailed impression of my thoughts on the SOTU. First, Bush is really, really an uninspiring speaker. His ability to deliver a speech is quite pathetic. But I digress, the speech is about the steak and not the sizzle. There are basically 4 areas of Bush’s speech I want to focus on: 1) energy policy, 2) foreign policy, 3) economic policy, and 4) what was not said.

Energy Policy
The big line of the night was Bush’s “America is addicted to oil.” To combat this addiction Bush has prescribed a 75% reduction in our importation of Middle Eastern oil. Bush also suggest a 22% increase in federal spending on clean coal, nuclear energy, and solar and wind power. This seems fairly impressive at first. A few things to consider though. First, we only import 20% of our oil from the Middle East. This means we are going to still be at about 85% of the oil consumption we are at now. This is hardly enough of a change; this does not even constitute a small step. If we are addicted then we need to make real steps toward nipping this addiction. If Bush called for a 30 or 40% reduction in overall oil consumption he would have had my attention and my support. Now I don’t think Bush’s suggestion should be dismissed because it is at least a call to start thinking about the future and he deserves credit for that.

As for the increased federal funds for research here too Bush deserves some credit because he has proposed an actual idea and a figure (which too often he didn’t do in his speech). My problem with funding increase is that he didn’t say how it was to be directed. Bush could decide to give 5% of that increase to solar and wind power and the rest to coal and nuclear power. If we are interested in energy independence then we need energy to come from sources that are renewable. Coal power, however clean we can make it, is not renewable and therefore really doesn’t help us gain any independence. Nuclear energy, although renewable, is incredibly dangerous and creates a biproduct, the spent nuclear waste, that leads to major troubles and inflames people’s NIMBY attitudes because no one wants the stuff in their state. Here again Bush only came half way at best. If you are going to create independence let’s make sure we are pursuing technologies that make us reliant on no one. Solar and wind are just such technologies.

All in all Bush should be credited for hopefully starting a broader dialouge on energy independence. He failed, however, to make real strides in getting us there. He offered some ideas but they were witout sound details and leave too much room to keep us virtually on the same path we are on now.

Foreign Policy
My biggest problem with Bush on foreign policy was this specter of isolationism he kept raising. I felt as though he was suggesting that Democrats are seeking an isolationist position circa 1918 and 1940 (when it was the Republicans that were the big isolationists). I do not think there is anyone with any credibility suggesting we withdraw from the world stage. Democrats believe in engaging the problems of the world we just don’t believe that engagement means bombs and brigades. We sought to block the nomination of John Bolton to the UN because we see great importance in our stance with world. If we were interested in retreating all together we wouldn’t have cared whom Bush nominated for the position.

If Bush is suggesting that because Democrats seek the withdrawal of forces from Iraq we are seeking to isolate America from the realities of the world he is wrong here, too. Staying the course as he is fond of saying is not tantamount to being a leader on the world stage. If we were serious in democracy and engaging those oppressed by tyranny we would realize that freedom isn’t delivered by guns but by a choice. People must choose to be free. If Bush wants democracy in the world to spread he needs to commit his government to educating people why democracy is the way.

Economic Policy

The big announcement in this area was the American Competitiveness Initiative. This proposal seeks to train 70,000 high school math and science teachers. This deserves credit because it includes some specifics as well as stands as good policy. In our high tech service economy it makes sense to start turning students on the education areas that dominate. This is a good start but it begs the question: why high school? If the students are not receiving quality education in elementary and middle school then they won’t be prepared for the highly trained teachers in high school. The initiative would be stronger if it sought to get boys and girls ready long before high school.

Also part of this initiative is Bush’s call for a permanent R&D credit. This, too, is a great idea but one I think is largely a corporate welfare measure. If we are giving tax write-offs for R&D it will largely benefit only those huge multi-national companies that spend billions on research. This will help feed these companies coffers. Why not target the credit to small and medium sized businesses? Remember companies like Micro$oft and Hewlett Packard started in garages. Why not target the credit to the guys tinkering in their garages as well as the mamouth companies?

What Wasn’t Mentioned
Bush failed to address two very significant issues. First, he made no real mention of what we are going to do to help out the victims of the Gulf Coast. As Ben has eloquently stated there is still a real need in the Gulf. Bush should have called on us to make further sacrafice to finish the job down there. Instead he was demanding we finish the job in the wrong gulf. Bush also failed to mention the rampant corruption and scandal that is plauging his party and this country’s Congress. By not mentioning these areas he has spectacularily failed in his duty to lead.

2 Responses to “SOTU Thoughts”

  1. Ben Says:

    Great point on foreign policy Andy … Senator Biden really called him out on this one on CBS “the Early Show” this morning … saying that Bush raised the “straw man of isolationism. Who’s talking about isolationism, Mr. President? We just want a plan.”

  2. Andy Says:

    Thanks Ben. I was pretty annoyed with the opening of when he brought up the isolationism. Glad that Biden and I are on the same wavelength. ;) I was equally annoyed with what he didn’t say either.

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