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Wednesday, January 29, 2003

The State Of The Union Is Good (If You’re a Rich, White Republican)

So, Bubya (that’s a typo I know, but somehow it seems to fit) gave his annual State O' The Union address last night, and while there were a few notable surprises (like an offer of $16 b in foreign aid to African nations collapsing under the weight of the AIDS pandemic, and more money for drug treatment), much of the rhetoric was as predictable as it was on its face ludicrous.

One example: Bush declared that under his proposed tax plan the average family of four with an annual income of $40,000 would SAVE around $1100 on their tax returns, and pay only around $47! This of course doesn’t take into account the fact that this same family probably doesn’t even pay $1100 in taxes, if they file jointly, take additional deductions for such things as home mortgage interest, child care, tuition & fee credits, or contribute to an IRA or 401(k) plan. Hell, I make nearly that much myself, and as a single person I’m already getting a refund of almost $800, so where’s this so-called savings going to come from?

And of course we all already know how the elimination of the Corporate Dividend tax is playing around the beltway, where even many free-market Republicans are backing away from support for what is obviously a giveaway to the wealthiest 1% of Americans. Nobody buys the line for a minute that Aunt Petunia with her 1,000 shares of Amalgamated Widgets is going to see any significant income from this, since the majority of publicly-traded companies don’t even distribute dividends, and unless you own a gazillion shares of a stock that does (like, oh for example upper management types), what you’d get back would simply amount to chump-change.

And then there’s the issue of how he plans to pay for all the new initiatives he proposed, when he’s also spending untold billions on a war with Iraq (along with the inevitable costs of reconstruction), while at the same time gutting federal income, raiding the Social Security Trust Fund,and running the deficit up to new levels in the process.

Then there’s the shady Medicare situation. Sure, Bush proposes allowing seniors improved access to affordable prescription drugs, and that couldn't be a bad thing, right? But, what he doesn’t say is that in order to take advantage of this, many seniors are going to have to leave the Medicare rolls to qualify. Great choice: give up your Medicare benefits in exchange for cheaper high blood pressure medication. Might be a good time to invest in any charter bus company within a day's drive of the Canadian border.

As he moved from domestic issues to foreign affairs, the tone grew increasingly somber, and even his staunch supporters seemed reluctant to engage in the inevitable knee-jerk standing ovations that have become as ubiquitous at these events as a typical Seattle theatre opening. When he finally got around to the meat-and-potatoes of regurgitating the broken-record litany of Iraq’s crimes against the world (conveniently ignoring the fact that Pappy rubber-stamped the shipments of biological agents that his tow-headed spawn now cites as an example of Hussein’s megalomania), it was interesting to note that the entire Joint Chiefs, arrayed front-row center below the House podium, remained stone-faced throughout. They KNOW that any military action isn’t going to be a John Wayne style romp through the sands, that we will probably suffer hundreds if not thousands of casualties on our side, that most likely tens of thousands of innocent Iraqi civilians are going to die as a result of our action, and that in the end, it isn’t going to do one damn thing to prevent some fanatical ultra-fundamentalist Muslim nutcase from packing a U-haul truck full of fertilizer explosives and detonating it outside a public building somewhere. It will, however do wonders for U.S. oil interests (who even as we speak are buying millions of barrels of Iraqi oil on the spot market to make up for shortages due to the Venezuelan tap being shut down), no matter how much the administration denies it.

And for what it’s worth, I thought Governor Gary Locke made a very good showing in what is essentially a thankless job – delivering the Democratic response. His tone was measured and assured, and he contextualized his remarks in a way that made him appear to be a “man of the people”, something Bush has only managed with limited success.

Posted byCOMTE on 11:24 AM

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