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Wednesday, January 29, 2003
Some Thoughts on the State of the Union
This tax relief is for everyone who pays income taxes, and it will help our economy immediately. Ninety-two million Americans will keep this year an average of almost $1,100 more of their own money. A family of four with an income of $40,000 would see their federal income taxes fall from $1,178 to $45 per year.
The 2000 census tells us that there are about 25 million people living in married-couple households with their own children under 18 years old, or 23.5 percent of the population. As Bush has touted his child tax credit proposals, it can be assumed his example pertained to families with minor children.
According to this page of census data, out of 106,418,000 households in the U.S., 15,430,000 have four people in them, married or otherwise. Of these, 4,293,000 households earn under 40,000 per year, so they will not see this benefit. Some of these families have only one child, so they will not see the same amount of tax relief.
Also, it was not stated in the SOTU whether Bush was referring to all families, those with one income, or those with two or more incomes. For the record, 35% of households have one earner and 44% have two or more earners. I’m not an expert on tax policy, but I believe the law is more generous to families with only one earner. If anyone knows the relative impact of Bush’s proposals on one-earner households vs. those with more, please let me know.
We should also strengthen the economy by treating investors equally in our tax laws. It's fair to tax a company's profits. It is not fair to again tax the shareholder on the same profits.
To boost investor confidence, and to help the nearly 10 million seniors who receive dividend income, I ask you to end the unfair double taxation of dividends.
I’d just like to point out that the special privileges enjoyed by corporations, especially the limited financial liability of shareholders, should be taken into account in discussions of “double taxation.” If a private company goes bankrupt, those who own it are liable for the company’s debts with their own assets. In the case of corporations, shareholders are free to walk away and leave creditors holding the bag. Paying a little something for the absence of risk makes sense to me.
We must work together to fund only our most important priorities. I will send you a budget that increases discretionary spending by 4 percent next year, about as much as the average family's income is expected to grow. And that is a good benchmark for us: Federal spending should not rise any faster than the paychecks of American families.
Does Bush mean that federal spending should plunge during recessions? Why all the talk of “stimulus packages,” then?
A growing economy and a focus on essential priorities will be crucial to the future of Social Security. As we continue to work together to keep Social Security sound and reliable, we must offer younger workers a chance to invest in retirement accounts that they will control and they will own.
Short of massive increases in payroll taxes, no one has presented a remotely credible scenario under which private retirement accounts can be created without large cuts in benefits. “Control” over and “ownership” of sure sounds a lot like “private” to me.
The American system of medicine is a model of skill and innovation, with a pace of discovery that is adding good years to our lives. Yet for many people, medical care costs too much, and many have no coverage at all.
These problems will not be solved with a nationalized health care system that dictates coverage and rations care.
Instead, we must work toward a system in which all Americans have a good insurance policy, choose their own doctors, and seniors and low-income Americans receive the help they need.
Instead of bureaucrats and trial lawyers and HMOs, we must put doctors and nurses and patients back in charge of American medicine.
Health care reform must begin with Medicare; Medicare is the binding commitment of a caring society.
My budget will commit an additional $400 billion over the next decade to reform and strengthen Medicare. Leaders of both political parties have talked for years about strengthening Medicare. I urge the members of this new Congress to act this year.
Bush did not mention whether this “new spending” is in excess of current projections of the costs of Medicare. In keeping with his general inclination to keep spending of all kinds to a minimum and with the principle of putting the best face on every pronouncement, I’d bet it isn’t.
If we assume the projected rate of spending growth from the president’s own website (averaging 5.4% annually through 2006) through 2012, $800 billion in new spending will be required over the next decade just to keep in compliance with current policies. That puts us $400 billion short of current levels, which have prompted 17% of doctors to refuse new Medicare patients. Is this what we can expect when doctors are put back in charge of American medicine?
Oh, and we shouldn’t assume the projected rate of increase from the president’s website, because retiring baby boomers will swell the ranks of Medicare beneficiaries dramatically.
Tonight I'm proposing $1.2 billion in research funding so that America can lead the world in developing clean, hydrogen-powered automobiles.
With a new national commitment, our scientists and engineers will overcome obstacles to taking these cars from laboratory to showroom, so that the first car driven by a child born today could be powered by hydrogen, and pollution-free.
Bush does not mention that something (natural gas and oil, most likely) will have to be burned to make the hydrogen in the first place, so, at the very least the issue of greenhouse gases is not addressed. But we can put the plants in places where the pollution they generate does the least damage, and get the smog out of our cities, which would be enormously helpful.
It’s a good idea and a good initiative. Is it enough to make a significant change in the automotive industry? Probably not, but it’s something.
Another cause of hopelessness is addiction to drugs. Addiction crowds out friendship, ambition, moral conviction, and reduces all the richness of life to a single destructive desire.
As a government, we are fighting illegal drugs by cutting off supplies and reducing demand through anti-drug education programs. Yet for those already addicted, the fight against drugs is a fight for their own lives.
Too many Americans in search of treatment cannot get it. So tonight I propose a new $600 million program to help an additional 300,000 Americans receive treatment over the next three years.
Our nation is blessed with recovery programs that do amazing work. One of them is found at the Healing Place Church in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. A man in the program said, "God does miracles in people's lives, and you never think it could be you."
Tonight, let us bring to all Americans who struggle with drug addiction this message of hope: The miracle of recovery is possible, and it could be you.
Does this mean we’re going to stop putting addicts behind bars? Does this mean we’re going to stop adding to the misery of addicts and their families by taking away their freedom and putting through the hellish brutality of the prison system, at the end of which they’re branded a convict for the rest of their lives and have almost no hope of making a decent living? If not, I don’t want to hear it. If Bush cares about the suffering of drug addicts, if he actually cares about them as human beings, this is the least he could do.
Today, on the continent of Africa, nearly 30 million people have the AIDS virus, including 3 million children under the age of 15. There are whole countries in Africa where more than one-third of the adult population carries the infection. More than 4 million require immediate drug treatment. Yet across that continent, only 50,000 AIDS victims -- only 50,000 -- are receiving the medicine they need.
Because the AIDS diagnosis is considered a death sentence, many do not seek treatment. Almost all who do are turned away.
A doctor in rural South Africa describes his frustration. He says, "We have no medicines, many hospitals tell people, 'You've got AIDS. We can't help you. Go home and die'."
In an age of miraculous medicines, no person should have to hear those words.
AIDS can be prevented. Anti-retroviral drugs can extend life for many years. And the cost of those drugs has dropped from $12,000 a year to under $300 a year, which places a tremendous possibility within our grasp.
Ladies and gentlemen, seldom has history offered a greater opportunity to do so much for so many.
We have confronted, and will continue to confront, HIV/AIDS in our own country. And to meet a severe and urgent crisis abroad, tonight I propose the Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, a work of mercy beyond all current international efforts to help the people of Africa.
This comprehensive plan will prevent 7 million new AIDS infections, treat at least 2 million people with life-extending drugs and provide humane care for millions of people suffering from AIDS and for children orphaned by AIDS.
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.
Getting drugs to people with AIDS in poor countries is unquestionably a worthy goal. A better goal is to prevent more people from contracting the disease in the first place. Will Bush propose spending some of the $15 billion on condoms, or will all of the money go straight to the companies that manufacture the drugs? I’d put my money on the latter, as Bush doesn’t believe in condoms. If his initiatives here are any indication, the preventative aspect of the program will probably take the form of exhorting Africans to abstain from sex.
Here, the cost of retroviral drugs is about $15,000. I don’t suppose bringing prices for Americans suffering from HIV infection down “to under $300 a year” is in the cards, though. People without sufficient insurance will still be forced to sell their houses and everything else of value before they become eligible for government coverage of their medical bills.
Our war against terror is a contest of will in which perseverance is power. In the ruins of two towers, at the western wall of the Pentagon, on a field in Pennsylvania, this nation made a pledge, and we renew that pledge tonight: Whatever the duration of this struggle and whatever the difficulties, we will not permit the triumph of violence in the affairs of men; free people will set the course of history.
Did anyone else get a chill when the words “western wall” passed Bush’s lips? It’s true, but I hadn’t heard it described in that way before.
Today, the gravest danger in the war on terror, the gravest danger facing America and the world, is outlaw regimes that seek and possess nuclear, chemical and biological weapons.
These regimes could use such weapons for blackmail, terror and mass murder. They could also give or sell those weapons to terrorist allies, who would use them without the least hesitation.
This threat is new; America's duty is familiar.
This threat is not new. Chemical warfare as we know it goes back at least as far as World War I. Biological warfare dates back at least as far as the smallpox-infected blankets we ourselves gave to American Indians.
Any nation with a little know-how and a decent chemical plant can make sarin or VX. Anyone who wanted to could contaminate our water or food supplies with simple chemical or biological contaminants. This has been the case for decades.
Almost three months ago, the United Nations Security Council gave Saddam Hussein his final chance to disarm. He has shown instead utter contempt for the United Nations and for the opinion of the world.
The 108 U.N. inspectors were sent to conduct -- were not sent to conduct a scavenger hunt for hidden materials across a country the size of California. The job of the inspectors is to verify that Iraq's regime is disarming.
It is up to Iraq to show exactly where it is hiding its banned weapons, lay those weapons out for the world to see and destroy them as directed. Nothing like this has happened.
Sure, it would be easier if Hussein just took out whatever weapons he had and laid them out in the middle of a big field for the inspectors to count and verify. What would Bush have done? He’d have said “see, he was hiding weapons. We have a justification to invade.” If he didn’t have any weapons to show, we’d get “see, he’s hiding weapons. We a justification to invade.”
I and everyone else in the world were under the impression that the mission of the UN weapons inspectors was to search for weapons in Iraq. That’s what the previous team did, and it was how everyone described their mission.
If weapons inspectors were acceptable to the U.S. government and the UN, and the weapons inspectors job was to inspect Iraq for weapons, it’s screamingly dishonest to claim that what you really wanted all along was for Iraq to unilaterally display some weapons just because the inspectors came up empty.
Iraqi refugees tell us how forced confessions are obtained: by torturing children while their parents are made to watch. International human rights groups have catalogued other methods used in the torture chambers of Iraq: electric shock, burning with hot irons, dripping acid on the skin, mutilation with electric drills, cutting out tongues, and rape.
If this is not evil, then evil has no meaning.
I wonder how this compares to prison conditions in Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Egypt, Russia, and Israel. If the same practices take place there, then they’re evil. So what should we do about it? Good vs. evil. That’s a no-brainer, right?