The State of Bush: A Man Obsessed

The Bush “State of the Union” speech said more about the speaker than the issues.

Working people from coast to coast issued a collective groan as the wildly popular American Idol program ended, and the annual State of the Union program began.  Millions and millions of viewers found the remote and tuned out, in search of something a bit more entertaining and informative.  And for those hardy viewers who refreshed their snacks and decided to try to watch President Bush deliver the annual State of the Union address, it didn’t take very long to see where the 2006 speech was heading. . . .

In case you were one of those who took a pass, here’s the short report:

The first half of the speech — a full 25 minutes — was devoted to Bush’s obsession to militarily dominate or threaten practically every country on earth.  His speech circled again and again, as he espoused one justification for his Iraq war after another.  He made sure to justify his imposition of police-state tactics here at home also, as part of his rambling opposition to “evil” abroad and “defeatism” at home.

The second half of the speech was a hodgepodge of various claims and complaints.  Bush declared the U.S. economy to be “vigorous and healthy.”

Real Hourly Wage Changes, by Percentile, 2005

Share of Corporate Income Growth Accruing to Profits and to Compensation
SOURCE: Sylvia Allegretto and Jared Bernstein, “The Wage Squeeze and Higher Health Care Costs,” EPI Issue Brief #218, 27 January 2006

His claim that his administration was carefully controlling federal spending brought a hushed amazement from both Republican and Democrats in the audience, surely the most fantastic claim of the night’s proceedings.

The grand finale of the Bush speech was to exhort Americans to be more “competitive.”  This came despite the fact that Bush policies on manufacturing, trade, education, tax policy, and deficit spending have contributed to our flagging competitiveness across-the-board.

The biggest insult of the evening surely fell upon the millions of victims of the massive Katrina disaster, as Bush found it in himself to refer to this national tragedy in a total of two sentences.  Given the disgraceful lack of an appropriate federal response to the storm, it’s no wonder that Bush chose to practically ignore the entire matter.

New Orleans Neighborhoods, Showing Racial Composition and Damaged Areas

“[I]f nobody were able to return to damaged neighborhoods . . . New Orleans is at risk of losing more than 80% of its black population” (emphasis added, John R. Logan, “The Impact of Katrina: Race and Class in Storm-Damaged Neighborhoods,” January 2006).

Pre-speech leaks from the White House had indicated that Bush was likely to offer expanded Health Savings Accounts as a major initiative for 2006, but public opinion polling by Bush handler Karl Rove led to this being removed from the address.  Offering people the “opportunity” to save your own money in order to pay your own medical bills does not ignite great support among the masses of ordinary people hungry for real relief from a collapsing and overpriced health care system.

The Bush State of the Union speech thankfully concluded in less than an hour.  Never in recent history has a President drifted so far out-of-touch with the lives and aspirations of the people.  Never in modern history has a President become so fixated on military and foreign policy questions, while almost completely ignoring the growing number of crises and problems here on the home front.

But, there’s always hope.  Election Day is November 7th.  That’s the next chance that working people will have to elect members of Congress who will — hopefully — drag Bush back to reality.

Chris Townsend is the Political Action Director for the United Electrical Workers Union (UE) in Washington D.C.