President Bush’s State of the Union address Tuesday evening could prove to be one of his most memorable.
America remains stuck in an Iraq war that has not gone according to plan or expectations. The administration is embroiled in questions of the legality of the president’s wiretapping approvals without court authority. The federal budget again is bleeding more mega-debt. And the tax cuts of the president’s first term, helpful to economic growth along with monetary policy and other factors, will be up for debate.
In Tuesday’s address, we hope Bush puts the emphasis on getting his domestic house in order. First, he needs to nail down making those tax cuts permanent, or at least extending them well into the future. The top capital gains tax rate will jump back up to 20 percent on Jan. 1, 2009, a whopping 33 percent increase just before the president leaves office. On Jan. 1, 2011, the infamous “death tax,” or estate tax, will zoom up to 60 percent from zero percent that year, unless it is extended.
The president is right that the tax cuts, by encouraging production and risk-taking entrepreneurship, have been the foundation of the recent spurt of economic growth.
Next, the president has to attack spending excess. In his five years in office, he hasn’t vetoed a single bill of any kind. He needs to start vetoing the pork, in particular ending the infamous “earmarks” by which members of Congress funnel money to special interests, often campaign contributors.
In speeches around the country, the president has been calling for making medical savings accounts “more available, more affordable, and more portable,” as he said in his Jan. 21 radio address. “Congress also needs to pass Association Health Plans, which allow small businesses across the country to join together and pool risk so they can buy insurance at the same discounts big companies get.”
Good ideas all. But why not go further and call for giving persons, not just companies, complete deductibility of medical insurance costs? Doing so would cause a revolution of choice and competition, producing low costs, in medical care. There is probably no perfect solution to satisfying all health care needs, but there are key public policies that could help promote physician choice and availability and cost efficiencies.
On foreign policy, we hope Bush will give Americans at least some hint that 2006 is the year their sons and daughters will be brought home from Iraq. The Iraqis have been making progress toward democracy, so it’s time they took over full responsibility for their own country.
His statements on this week’s victory by Hamas in the Palestinian elections should reiterate, of course, an unyielding posture against use of terrorism and violence in the government’s dealings with other nations, with potential withdrawal of U.S. aid on the line.
The president may also give reasons, as he has in recent speeches, for his authorization of wiretaps not approved by courts. We have argued that such actions violate the Fourth Amendment right to protection against “unreasonable searches and seizures,” and that the executive branch fairly easily can get court approval for legitimate wiretaps. Although we’re not holding our breath, perhaps the president could back off somewhat on this issue.
With almost three years left in office, we hope the president voices an agenda to advance American prosperity, security within the law, and peace abroad.