The state of the union was an especially noteworty event this year.
First, George Bush became the sixth president in this century to stand before the Congress as commander-in-chief of a nation at war.
Second, the demonstration of unity and support for American forces in the Persian Gulf was overwhelming. It was also a welcome change from the carping and finger pointing preceding the congressional vote on January 12. That’s when nearly three out of four Democrats voted against giving the president authority to oppose Saddam Hussein and to use force to enforce the U.N. resolutions.
Good or bad, President Bush has a vision of the post-Cold War world and a “new world order.” It is a more fragmented world where power is diffused, more dangerous than the superpower standoff that defined the Cold War era.
Third, the president outlined a domestic vision. Not much was new, to be sure. At the core of the president’s vision is an opportunity society driven by economic growth.
Growth would be achieved by stimulating enterprise formation and job creation through the tax code – including a capital gains tax exemption and tax credits to encourage investments in research and development. There would be increased investments in highways and other infrastructure.
The president also called for lower interest rates to be achieved by controlling federal spending through a pay-as-you-go approach.
But this is a tough nut to crack, especially in view of the fraud of the so-called budget summit, which increased spending more than $100 billion and called it “deficit reduction,” a “solution” that increased taxes 12% and increased spending 14%.
Also, there is free trade: first and foremost, the establishment of a North American free trade area including the United States, Mexico and Canada.
Fourth, the president called attention to the need for structural changes. One is to transfer money and programs from the federal government to the state and local governments.
This is known among state and local officials as the”shift and shaft” approach, where the federal government shifts responsibilities to state and local governments but shafts them out of the money to accomplish them. It has a long and inglorious history, going back to the New Federalism proposals of the late 1960s. A new initiative will face tough sledding.
Another initiative would address the problems of congressional profligacy by increasing competitiveness in federal elections. The president would achieve this by limiting congressional terms and by eliminating the corrupting influence of big money dispensed largely to incumbents by political action committees, know as PACs.
These reforms have broad support among the American people, but not in Congress.
While many don’t agree with the president’s vision, it is worthy of debate. The president’s approach sure beats another round of new federal programs and new federal taxes to create another set of monopoly services to be dispensed by federal bureaucrats.