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SotU ’06: Now Partisanship-free!

Well, I was able to catch the last half of tonight’s State of the Union address live and read the rest online. Pretty much what I expected, particularly as the “addiction to oil” meme had been leaked to the press early. But there were a couple of things that stood out to me:

Keeping America competitive requires us to be good stewards of tax dollars. Every year of my presidency, we have reduced the growth of non-security discretionary spending — and last year you passed bills that cut this spending. This year my budget will cut it again, and reduce or eliminate more than 140 programs that are performing poorly or not fulfilling essential priorities. By passing these reforms, we will save the American taxpayer another 14 billion dollars next year – and stay on track to cut the deficit in half by 2009. I am pleased that Members of Congress are working on earmark reform – because the Federal budget has too many special interest projects. And we can tackle this problem together, if you pass the line-item veto.

“Non-security discretionary spending” is code for “a tiny fraction of the budget.” As Heritage’s Brian Reidl points out over at The Corner, this accomplishment is utterly meritless considering “that discretionary outlays are up 48% since 2001. Even excluding defense, homeland security, and Katrina, they are up 33%.” Bush is a big-spender, ’nuff said. Oh, and that line-item veto thing? That was declared unconstitutional by the SCOTUS back in Slick Willy’s days.

To change how we power our homes and offices, we will invest more in zero-emission coal-fired plants; revolutionary solar and wind technologies; and clean, safe nuclear energy.

As I pointed out in the last OC issue, no breakthroughs or research is required for safe, clean nuclear power plants. The technology is there and ready to be used. What is needed is a bold push to speed up regulatory hurdles and educate the public about nuclear energy. Wind technology? “Zero-emission” coal plants? Give me a break.

We need to encourage children to take more math and science, and make sure those courses are rigorous enough to compete with other nations. We have made a good start in the early grades with the No Child Left Behind Act, which is raising standards and lifting test scores across our country.

Test scores are up because teachers now teach for a test rather than for a subject, not because there are suddenly better teachers and administrators in schools. What America needs is more competent and well-paid educators, not inflexible, arbitrary tests and incompetence-protecting teachers unions.

In recent years, America has become a more hopeful Nation. Violent crime rates have fallen to their lowest levels since the 1970s. Welfare cases have dropped by more than half over the past decade. Drug use among youth is down 19 percent since 2001. There are fewer abortions in America than at any point in the last three decades, and the number of children born to teenage mothers has been falling for a dozen years in a row.

If you didn’t find this part a bit ironic, then you haven’t read Freakonomics.

Fellow citizens, we have been called to leadership in a period of consequence. We have entered a great ideological conflict we did nothing to invite. We see great changes in science and commerce that will influence all our lives. And sometimes it can seem that history is turning in a wide arc, toward an unknown shore.

Yet the destination of history is determined by human action, and every great movement of history comes to a point of choosing. Lincoln could have accepted peace at the cost of disunity and continued slavery. Martin Luther King could have stopped at Birmingham or at Selma, and achieved only half a victory over segregation. The United States could have accepted the permanent division of Europe, and been complicit in the oppression of others. Today, having come far in our own historical journey, we must decide: Will we turn back, or finish well?

Did anyone else find it strange that the two individuals Bush used as examples were both assasinated? Break out the tin foil caps!

Of course, while the SotU was filled with meaningless hopeful platitudes and vague promises (as they all are,) the Democratic response was even weaker than I imagined it would be. Tim Kaine had little emotion in his voice, smiled even when talking about things he didn’t like, and offered no new ideas, solutions, or policy proposals despite repeating the horrible catchphrase, “there’s a better way.” Sure there is, Timmy, the Dems are just too stupid to offer it. One thing that particularly stood out was this:

The failure of the federal government to implement and enforce a rational immigration policy has resulted in a confusing patchwork of state and local efforts.

This is a reasonable point that Kaine, if his party were competent, should have driven home. Practically noone is happy with the immigrant situation right now, particularly border-state Republicans. If the Democrats were smart, they’d be preaching to the Lou Dobbs-took errr jobs-majority and doing the same thing to the Republicans as the GOP is doing to them on the Iraq and eavesdropping issues. It wouldn’t play well with a lot of the base, but I think said base has learned its lesson during the past six years and would likely stick with the DNC come election day. I too wouldn’t like the results (just as I didn’t like the results of Bush’s centrist welfare conservativism, sigh) but I think the Dems would fare far better in the upcoming elections.

  1. Andy says:

    I think you should look at the salaries of the babysitters, oops – teachers, at portland public schools, and then also realize those wages are paid for about 8 months work. Yea, it’s easy for public schools to underperform because it doesn’t matter if they do or not. There is no consequences for incompetence, let alone lack of service. They have a budget which none of them earned, and laws which make their existance mandatory. Most important job? Let’s put aside even the need for formal education and ask the question who even decides what should be taught? “professionals” who suck at the teet of government and unions? teachers whom most have never worked in the private market? Why should condoms on cucumbers be given time over the histroy of the American revolution or any other subject? The problem is without the profit motive, and the consequences and rewards that come with it, there is no possible way we even know if teachers are doing a good job.

    As to the democracy subject, look at all the good things in your life vs the “social problems” we face. What good did democracy do for you? Did some voter in bum fuck ohio somehow help you get into UO or did you do that on your own? Are you the man you are today because of democracy or despite it?

  2. ian says:

    Meanwhile, coal continues to kill and OPEC continues to threaten.

    Thank you, Greenpeace!

  3. Ian says:

    Andy: There is competition in education. Just look at all of the private schools in the US that compete with public schools for kids. Is the government shutting them down? Nope. But they are competing against these private institutions with a different set of rules and funding sources, and the very nature of the beast means that it’s easy for public school teachers and administrators to underperform. Competition between and inside public schools is almost certainly a good thing. But can we really expect public school teachers to perform well when they’re paid chump change for one of the most important jobs around? (Also, this really doesn’t seem like a federal issue to me.)

    As far as the rest of your post, I think you and I have fundamentally different and irreconcilable views on the value of democracy.

  4. Timothy says:

    Andy: You hoping for a Hobbsean strong-man, then?

  5. Timothy says:

    Nuclear comment spam, RUN!

  6. Andy says:

    I’d have to disagree with you Ian on the teacher bit. What we need is competition in education. Teaching is a service, in which consumers need to be able to discriminate between choices to gain the best value from. When the government swoops in to eliminate competitors to their public schools, it’s no different if intel was to set a military siege on AMD and tell them to yield to the “best interests of society,” of course decided by intel. Unfortunately most are of the belief that telling other people what to do (voting) is a perfectly legitimate practice, and until democracy is throughly demonized, we will continue to suffer it’s hypocrisies and tyranny.

  7. James Aach says:

    Not sure if I’ve mentioned this before here: Regarding nuclear energy, there’s a real need for better public understanding of this issue. For an entertaining inside look at how today’s US reactors are run, see Here you’ll find a thriller novel on the topic by a longtime nuclear engineer (me). There’s no cost to readers – and they seem to like it, judging from the comments on the website’s homepage. (If you find it useful, please pass the word.)

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