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State of the Union 2005

I watched the State of the Union speech. And now I'm finally writing some comments about it.

I will send you a budget that holds the growth of discretionary spending below inflation, makes tax relief permanent, and stays on track to cut the deficit in half by 2009. My budget substantially reduces or eliminates more than 150 government programs that are not getting results, or duplicate current efforts, or do not fulfill essential priorities. The principle here is clear: taxpayer dollars must be spent wisely, or not at all.

Slice away!

I'm tickled that he's cutting more than 150 programs. Wish it was more. But I'm skeptical on this cutting the deficit in half thing; he must be excluding Social Security reform from this figure and only looking at the general fund. If he gets the reform he wants, it will reduce the SS surplus now to reduce the SS liability later — but it will increase current borrowing.

He talked about a "comprehensive health care agenda" most of which I would certainly oppose if I learned the details, but he also mentioned "expanded health savings accounts" which I'd love to hear more about.

Bush wants "more [energy] production here at home, including safe, clean nuclear energy." Wow! I did not expect to hear a politician endorse nuclear energy. I've never understood why, but it's political poison. I'm glad to hear him talk it up.

Americans are burdened by an archaic, incoherent federal tax code. I have appointed a bipartisan panel to examine the tax code from top to bottom. And when their recommendations are delivered, you and I will work together to give this Nation a tax code that is pro-growth, easy to understand, and fair to all.

Yes, please. I don't understand the tax code. I don't want to understand the tax code. Every year I pay a nice man to do my taxes so I can avoid studying the tax code. If it were simpler, I might not detest the chore quite so much. And I and millions of others would save hundreds of millions of dollars in the process of figuring out our taxes. Those resources would be better spent on something, you know, productive.

For younger workers, the Social Security system has serious problems that will grow worse with time.

And how! I'm surprised that Bush has made Social Security reform the leading issue in his second term. I'm glad he's forced the issue to be discussed, but I'm afraid the ultimate reforms won't be very good. I'll have much more to say about it when I spend some quality time with the details of the proposal(s) put forward.

It was politically brilliant to precede the options (like raising the retirement age) with the names of the people who advocated them. That's a very effective way to deflect criticism.

I intend to hold Bush to his statement that "I will listen to anyone who has a good idea to offer." I'm going to keep pushing for an individual opt-out. I don't know where I'll find my megaphone, but I'll keep trying. I've had exactly zero success asking other bloggers to trumpet the idea.

I wish he meant "We must not jeopardize our economic strength by increasing payroll taxes" to also rule out increasing the cap on income subject to Social Security taxes, but I rather suspect he only meant to not increase the marginal rate.

I think the cap should be lowered. The more money not subject to payroll taxes, the better! That's the closest thing to an opt-out that's available to people today. It's a shame you have to have such a huge income (>$90,000/yr) to be able to benefit from it.

Personal retirement accounts should be familiar to federal employees, because you already have something similar, called the Thrift Savings Plan, which lets workers deposit a portion of their paychecks into any of five different broadly based investment funds. It is time to extend the same security, and choice, and ownership to young Americans.

Bravo! This undercuts the ridiculous argument that personal accounts are like gambling. If personal accounts are too risky, why isn't the Thrift Savings Plan? You can't have it both ways — you can have both, or neither — but you cannot condemn personal accounts while simultaneously approving of the TSP.

I'd like to flip the "risk" argument on its head. I would argue that personal accounts are much safer than Social Security. I can manage the financial risk of losing money… but I can do little about the political risk certainty that I won't qualify for benefits by the time I retire, because the system will be means-tested by then.

Because marriage is a sacred institution and the foundation of society, it should not be re-defined by activist judges. For the good of families, children, and society, I support a constitutional amendment to protect the institution of marriage.


Because a society is measured by how it treats the weak and vulnerable, we must strive to build a culture of life. … To build a culture of life, we must also ensure that scientific advances always serve human dignity, not take advantage of some lives for the benefit of others. We should all be able to agree on some clear standards. I will work with Congress to ensure that human embryos are not created for experimentation or grown for body parts, and that human life is never bought or sold as a commodity. America will continue to lead the world in medical research that is ambitious, aggressive, and always ethical.

Since when is society measured by how it treats the weak and vulnerable? What a ridiculous notion. I thought achievements had something to do with it — silly me.

I totally oppose all restrictions on fetal/embryonic research and also oppose restrictions on human cloning. I would very much like to clone myself in order to grow replacement organs as insurance against accident or disease.

I am frustrated that the arguments of those who would prohibit these advances are seldom more articulate than "we shouldn't play God." I think it's okay to play God. I think we ought to play God. It sounds fun. We don't even have to have a reason.

Every judicial nominee deserves an up-or-down vote.

Yes. I have never understood why it's so easy for Senators to prevent a vote. I work in validation, so I have an adverse reaction to systems that don't make progress. A system that doesn't make progress is a broken system. There should be limits to delays. If a minority in the Senate was intended to have de facto veto power, it would have been written into the Constitution.

And I am proud that the leader of this nationwide effort will be our First Lady, Laura Bush.

No! She was not elected — you were. And you can't frame it as a political appointment, the conflict of interest is too blatant. It was absolutely wrong for Hillary Clinton to be tasked with overhauling the medical system, and it's absolutely wrong for Laura Bush to be tasked with … eh, something about … compassion.

In the long term, the peace we seek will only be achieved by eliminating the conditions that feed radicalism and ideologies of murder. If whole regions of the world remain in despair and grow in hatred, they will be the recruiting grounds for terror, and that terror will stalk America and other free nations for decades. The only force powerful enough to stop the rise of tyranny and terror, and replace hatred with hope, is the force of human freedom. Our enemies know this, and that is why the terrorist Zarqawi recently declared war on what he called the "evil principle" of democracy. And we have declared our own intention: America will stand with the allies of freedom to support democratic movements in the Middle East and beyond, with the ultimate goal of ending tyranny in our world.

Go back. Read that again. Bush means it. That statement essentializes Bush's entire foreign policy. And I'm glad for it.

To promote this democracy, I will ask Congress for 350 million dollars to support Palestinian political, economic, and security reforms. The goal of two democratic states, Israel and Palestine, living side by side in peace is within reach — and America will help them achieve that goal.

Groan. How about digging up all the money Arafat stole, instead of shaking down the American taxpayers?

He's right that peace between Israel and Palestine is possible, now. With Arafat's death, the major obstacle has been removed. There are already very encouraging signs.

And to the Iranian people, I say tonight: As you stand for your own liberty, America stands with you.

Bravo! These simple words of encouragement are profoundly valuable to the Iranians yearning to be free.

And the victory of freedom in Iraq will strengthen a new ally in the war on terror, inspire democratic reformers from Damascus to Tehran, bring more hope and progress to a troubled region, and thereby lift a terrible threat from the lives of our children and grandchildren.

Wow. Diplo-speak is lots of fun. This was a clear warning shot to Syria and Iran, delivered in an almost omittable phrase! Without that phrase, the sentence would have said basically the same thing. But with it, it strikes fear into the hearts of tyrants.

Recently an Iraqi interpreter said to a reporter, "Tell America not to abandon us." He and all Iraqis can be certain: While our military strategy is adapting to circumstances, our commitment remains firm and unchanging. We are standing for the freedom of our Iraqi friends, and freedom in Iraq will make America safer for generations to come. We will not set an artificial timetable for leaving Iraq, because that would embolden the terrorists and make them believe they can wait us out. We are in Iraq to achieve a result: A country that is democratic, representative of all its people, at peace with its neighbors, and able to defend itself. And when that result is achieved, our men and women serving in Iraq will return home with the honor they have earned.

Excellently done. We will leave when and as our goals are accomplished, not by setting some arbitrary date. I believe we'll have a significant presence in Iraq for decades, because Iraq is an excellent location for a military base. In the same way the United States is still "occupying" Western Europe, Japan, and South Korea, we'll remain in Iraq for the forseeable future.

P.S., thank you for not talking about Mars.

Tiny Island