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Nobody was listening anyway

Fri, Feb 1st, 2008
Posted in Commentary

Last Monday night my wife was baby sitting so I was able to watch the "State of the Union" speech in its entirety. There was no one home to hear some of my language.

Most of these speeches are used to lay out bold and broad policy objectives after boasting about all the great achievements, real or imagined, over the past year. A presidents' last State of the Union is usually more of the latter and less of the former. Bush failed on both, but according to most of the pundits it was probably all right because nobody was listening anyway.

He did his best to convince us that walking down any street and market in Iraq would be like walking around any street market in Indiana. Many of us read about the five soldiers killed that morning in Iraq by an IED and in the gun fight that ensued.

He talked about the NATO forces in Afghanistan and the fine job we are doing there. The carping that Gates had done about our Afghanistan partners and the resurgence of the Taliban is too fresh in our minds to swallow that.

He talked about the possibility of a recession as if it was a small bump in the road, affecting corporate profits only. There was no real empathy for increasing unemployment, impending loss of homes in the mortgage mess, or the transfer of jobs overseas. Instead the plan is a pandering bribe of 3 to 6 hundred dollars (that we or our children eventually will have to pay back some how) and big plans for business and industry. Reduce their taxes and give them accelerated depreciation for equipment purchases. It is not important that in 2001, when this was done, it didn't provide any stimulus at all.

What really got my knickers in a knot was his conflating the stimulus package with making his ill advised "tax cuts" permanent to stimulate the economy. These cuts do not sunset until 2010. Changing the sunset will do absolutely nothing that doing nothing won't do, except extend the time it will take to get our fiscal train back on the track and quit bloating the national debt. This guy wants to do everything on the nation's credit card.

I'm used to politicians using statistics in a way that is favorable to their point of view. The speech writers for Bush have risen to new heights. He claimed that American taxpayers will see their taxes rise by an average of 1,800 dollars if the tax cuts are not made permanent. That makes it sound as if the average taxpayer will pay 1,800 dollars more. Wrong, wrong, wrong. Pay attention now.

The tax cuts produced a reduction of 740 dollars per year for the median (middle) income recipient. Since the median income has dropped about 1000 dollars in the past 7 years, returning to the old tax schedule, that tax payer will pay something less than 740 dollars more. On the other hand the taxpayers in the top 5% income earners had a reduction of 68,000 dollars, and the top 0.3% making more than a million, averaged 118,000 dollar reductions. If the cuts are not extended, these tax payers will have to pay that increased amount. The average American need not fear the lapse of these cuts that are at least partially responsible for the dollars descent towards a banana republics currency.

I'm not going to talk about his ideas on health care. He is so incoherent on the subject it makes me incoherent.

He had one new idea to discuss. Earmarks are now a total no-no. Never mind that he will probably never have a chance to veto an appropriations bill because he is not making that retroactive, not even in a signing statement.

He made a big deal out of it, not noting he had never found a Republican earmark objectionable when they were in the majority. If Denny Hastert had slapped a pancake on his desk then Bush would have signed it. He failed to say the new Congress reduced the number and amounts of earmarks by 25%.

The President managed to give the impression that earmarks in the past were responsible for part of the national debt. The earmarks in bills sent to him this year total 15.3 billion in a 2.9 trillion dollar budget request. That figures out to be 0.53% of the total budget.

It is so obvious that President Bush is still stuck in an ideologic vacuum and that this year is going to be a reprisal of the last seven. I slept poorly Monday night.

Robert Sauer of Preston is a regular contributor. He can be reached at

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