State of the Union Recap, part 1

Posted: February 6, 2007 by April Watkins in Issues, Our Government, Politics
Tags: ,

For many Americans, listening to the State of the Union address seems boring.  For news nuts like me, it is fascinating to analyze the message.  Sometimes you gain very significant insight through the nuance of what is not said, rather than through the actual script.  For example, The President admonished both sides of the aisle by addressing the sacred cow issue of “earmarks” – funding for special interest projects slipped into bills or committee reporting at the last minute; never debated, never voted on…simply assumed and treated as part of enacted legislation – which cost millions of unnecessary tax dollars.  

Otherwise, much of The President’s speech was as expected.  As every past President has done, he laid out his goals for new initiatives and policies that his administration will present to Congress for action.     The main concentration of Bush’s International Agenda dealt with the immediate plans concerning the War on Terror.  The President proposed new plans for the war in Iraq, as well as for rebuilding our military.  Because this is such an important topic, it deserves our full attention in subsequent articles.   

For now let’s look at the highlights from the Domestic Agenda which include several new ideas.  Below is an excerpt from a White House Press Release that describes the basic points of The President’s Domestic Agenda items for this year.  Whether you find it boring or interesting, it is important to take note of the issues that are being discussed.  It will ultimately affect you and you family…and that is why it matters.    

From The White House / Office the Press Secretary, January 23, 2007

Excerpts from:  “2007 State of the Union Policy Initiatives”

President Bush’s Domestic Agenda

ENERGY
President Bush asked Congress and America’s scientists, farmers, industry leaders, and entrepreneurs to join him in pursuing the goal of reducing U.S. gasoline usage by 20 percent (20%) in the next ten yearsTwenty In Ten.   Keys to reaching The President’s Twenty In Ten goal are:

  • Increasing the supply of renewable and alternative fuels by setting a mandatory fuels standard to require 35 billion gallons of renewable and alternative fuels in 2017 – nearly five times the 2012 target now in law. In 2017, this will displace 15 percent of projected annual gasoline use.
  • Reforming and modernizing Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) Standards for cars and extending the current light truck rule. In 2017, this will reduce projected annual gasoline use by up to 8.5 billion gallons, a further 5 percent reduction that, in combination with increasing the supply of renewable and alternative fuels, will bring the total reduction in projected annual gasoline use to 20 percent.
  • Congress must reform CAFE for passenger cars. The Administration has twice increased CAFE standards for light trucks using an attribute-based method. An attribute-based system (for example, a size-based system) reduces the risk that vehicle safety is compromised, helps preserve consumer choice, and helps spread the burden of compliance across all product lines and manufacturers. Congress should authorize the Secretary of Transportation to apply the same kind of attribute-based method to passenger cars.
  • The President’s plan will help confront climate change by stopping the projected growth of carbon dioxide emissions from cars, light trucks, and SUVs within 10 years.   The President’s plan to strengthen America’s energy security also includes:
    • Stepping up domestic oil production in environmentally sensitive ways.
    • Doubling the current capacity of the strategic petroleum reserve (SPR) to 1.5 billion barrels by 2027. Doubling the SPR alone will provide approximately 97 days of net oil import protection, enhancing America’s ability to respond to potential oil disruptions.  

HEALTH CARE
President Bush announced his proposals to make basic, private health insurance available and affordable for more Americans. Americans are fortunate to have the most advanced and innovative health care system in the world. The President’s plan aims to make private health insurance more affordable and increase the number of Americans with health insurance. The plan will also help our Nation move away from reliance on government-run health care and toward a system in which Americans have better access to basic, affordable private insurance, and increased ownership of their medical decisions. The President’s plan includes two parts: 1.) Reforming the tax code with a standard deduction for health insurance so all Americans get the same tax breaks for health insurance; and 2.) Helping states make affordable private health insurance available to their citizens through the Affordable Choices Initiative.   

  1. The President’s plan will help more Americans afford health insurance by reforming the tax code with a standard deduction for health insurance – like the standard deduction for dependents. The President’s primary goal is to make health insurance more affordable, allowing more Americans to purchase coverage. The President’s proposal levels the playing field for Americans who purchase health insurance on their own rather than through their employers, providing a substantial tax benefit for all those who now have health insurance purchased on the individual market. It also lowers taxes for all currently uninsured Americans who decide to purchase health insurance – making insurance more affordable and providing a significant incentive to all working Americans to purchase coverage, thereby reducing the number of uninsured Americans. 
    •  Under The President’s proposal, families with health insurance will not pay income or payroll taxes on the first $15,000 in compensation and singles will not pay income or payroll taxes on the first $7,500. 
    •  At the same time, health insurance would be considered taxable income. This is a change for those who now have health insurance through their jobs. 
    •  The President’s proposal will result in lower taxes for about 80 percent of employer-provided policies. Those with more generous policies (20 percent) will have the option to adjust their compensation to have lower premiums and higher wages to offset the tax change.  
  2. The President’s Affordable Choices Initiative will help states make basic private health insurance available and will provide additional help to Americans who cannot afford insurance or who have persistently high medical expenses. For States that provide their citizens with access to basic, affordable private health insurance, The President’s Affordable Choices Initiative will direct Federal funding to assist States in helping their poor and hard-to-insure citizens afford private insurance. By allocating current Federal health care funding more effectively, The President’s plan accomplishes this goal without creating a new Federal entitlement or new Federal spending.

SPENDING REFORM 
President Bush discussed three major reforms to spend tax dollars wisely and keep America’s economy strong. Next week, The President will deliver a full report on the state of our economy, which has added more than 7.2 million jobs since August 2003. Americans are finding jobs and taking home more pay.  To spend tax dollars wisely, we must:

  • Balance the budget through pro-growth policies and spending restraint.
  • Enact common-sense reforms to help prevent billions of taxpayer dollars from being spent on unnecessary earmarks.
  • Reform entitlement programs to address the longer-term fiscal challenge facing our country.

EDUCATION 
President Bush discussed his priorities for the reauthorization of the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB). In 2001, President Bush worked with Republicans and Democrats to pass NCLB with overwhelming support, and he was proud to sign it into law in 2002. President Bush is committed to reauthorizing NCLB this year and building on the good progress that has been made. Strengthening and reauthorizing NCLB is critical – if we were to lower standards and roll back accountability now, we would be leaving children to the former status quo that failed them for decades.  

  • NCLB is raising student achievement for millions of children in schools nationwide. Because of NCLB, every State and the
    District of Columbia now hold schools accountable for results by testing every child and evaluating students by student group. Minority students are closing the achievement gap, and student achievement is rising – more reading progress was made by 9-year-olds in five years than in the previous 28 years combined, and reading and math scores for 9-year-olds and fourth-graders have reached all-time highs.

 

  • Reauthorization offers an opportunity to make some common sense changes to strengthen NCLB and increase flexibility, but we must preserve NCLB’s core principles:
    • All students must be able to read and do math at their grade level or above by 2014.
    • We must have higher expectations and demand greater accountability in order to improve the academic achievement of every student and to close the achievement gap using annual assessments and disaggregated data.
    • We must have effective teachers in core academic subjects in every classroom.
    • We must provide timely information and real options – including intensive tutoring and choice for children in consistently underperforming schools – for all parents with children in failing schools so they can make the best decisions for their children.

 

  • The President’s proposals to strengthen NCLB further the goals of his American competitiveness initiative. Math and science skills are critical for success in college and the workplace. Our students must be equipped with the knowledge and skills to compete in the global economy.

IMMIGRATION 
President Bush called on Congress to pass comprehensive immigration reform. The President believes that
America can simultaneously be a lawful, economically dynamic, and welcoming society. We must address the problem of illegal immigration and deliver a system that is secure, productive, orderly, and fair. The President has called on Congress to pass comprehensive immigration reform that will secure our borders, enhance interior and worksite enforcement, create a temporary worker program, resolve – without animosity and without amnesty – the status of illegal immigrants already here, and promote assimilation into our society. All elements of this problem must be addressed together – or none of them will be solved. 
 

JUDGES
President Bush has called on the Senate to give his judicial nominees a fair hearing and a prompt up-or-down vote. President Bush and Congress have a shared obligation to ensure that vacancies in the federal courts are filled. 

You may find the full script of The President’s State of the Union address online at:  www.whitehouse.gov.

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