Our view: the static State of the Union

Each word is scaled proportionally to the number of times President Bush used it in his State of the Union addresses over the past seven years. (Multiple forms of certain words (America/American, Iraq/Iraqi, etc.) are represented by the root word.) For ot

Credit: DKS Editors

Monday night, President George W. Bush addressed the nation in his final State of the Union address. There was a strong focus on the economy and the war on terror, while issues such as health care and the environment received little more than passing mentions and promises.

The real question remains: How much can Bush actually accomplish before leaving office in a year from now?

The economy

On the topic of the economy, Bush was relatively quiet and generic in his comments compared with the past couple of addresses.

Bush did acknowledge the uncertainty that faces the economy but didn’t offer much in terms of a possible solution.

He reiterated the importance of the tax cuts, again calling on Congress to extend the cuts and promising to veto any bill that would increase taxes. Somewhat surprisingly, his mention of the economic stimulus plan was brief and stopped short of explaining its components, declaring only that it would be unacceptable for the bill to be delayed.

It seemed odd that the State of the Union given when the economy is facing its most uncertain future of the past few years was also the least specific on ways to address it.

Defense and war

When the president first mentioned Iraq in his 2002 address, he briefly emphasized its support of terrorism and danger to the United States. The next year, two months before invasion, he spoke at length about Iraq’s arsenal of mass destruction – proof of which has never been found.

During the past five years, the controversial war has peppered every State of the Union address, most recently emerging when Bush proposed a troop surge last year.

But the tone changed in this year’s speech, perhaps because the president knows he will soon have no control over the future of our presence in Iraq. Instead of announcing new plans, he merely reiterated his belief in sustained involvement in Iraq, passing the torch to the next administration, so to speak.

He also bitterly reflected on Congress’ inaction on immigration and border control, which he has previously included in his homeland security sections but reduced to one sentence this time.

Health care

Seeing as he talked about health insurance about 14 times last year (counted by the New York Times), Bush probably thought he didn’t need to mention it as much this year. Maybe that’s why he mentioned health insurance only once. That’s a gigantic drop. In fact, no other topic counted had that large of a drop from last year’s speech. From what we’ve read and seen, the issue of health care is far from finished. So, why didn’t he talk about it more?

According to 2006 statistics from the Centers for Disease Control, 43.3 million people younger than 65 did not have health insurance. While only 16.8 percent of the people were interviewed, that’s still more than one out of every 10 people. Granted, the information is a few years old, but we seriously doubt our country’s health coverage problems have been fixed already.

To be fair, this isn’t all because of the president. He is not entirely responsible. The problem with health care is so large, however, that it deserved more than a few words that sound remarkably like what he said last year, only shorter.


Bush stayed predictable on the subject of education, choosing to focus on primary and secondary education, rather than expanding his vision to higher education and beyond. He touted No Child Left Behind, citing rising test scores but encouraging states to continue improving their individual programs. He ignored concerns that the act forces teachers to adapt their curriculums and teach to the tests, and offered no advice on how failing schools can improve.

He did, however, come up with a plan to give students an out when their schools fail. Bush wants to create a $300 million Pell Grant program to help young students attend non-public schools in their cities. This sounds like a way of running from the problem, rather than investing the time and money it would take to strengthen our nation’s public school system. How would recipients be determined? What happens to the students left behind?

This proposal only stands to deepen the hole our failing schools have been sinking into.

The environment

The President has had a firm position on the environment since he’s entered office, and that position is one of inaction. During the last few years, Bush has rehashed the idea of pushing for clean energy technology, as well as asked that the world’s major economies enter an international agreement to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Since coming into office, Bush has made it a staple of his presidency to be on the forefront when it comes to promoting democracy in the world, but not so much for the environment. Just because other major economies wouldn’t enter this international agreement doesn’t mean the United States should do the same. We must be aggressive – not passive – on the issue.

The United States is arguably the most powerful nation in the world,and therefore must be a leader on the issue. We must lead by example.

The above editorial is the consensus opinion of the Daily Kent Stater editorial board.