Saturday, January 28, 2006
If you are busy next Tuesday night
And won't be able to watch the STate of the Realm address from Our Dear Embattled Leader, Robert Kuttner from American Progress has put forth a series of points that ODEL will proably touch on along with a thumbnail explanation. If you are watching, it will help you follow along with our favorite stumblebum.
Mission Accomplished? On Iraq, look for rhetoric of steady resolve, coupled with promises to limit American exposure. Bush could offer a partial reduction of US combat troops during 2006 (in time for the mid-term election) -- but without any realistic prospect of a stable Iraqi government to fill the vacuum. One idea: a ''garrison strategy" of keeping most US forces safely inside bases. This might cut American combat losses, but cede the countryside to guerrilla fighters and anarchy.And don't forget, each stupid little grin after he manages to get a sentence out is an indicator of a lie. Count them up but remember, no shots when he does if you have to drive afterwards.
The Boy Who Cried Nukes. On Iran, watch for stern saber-rattling without a realistic plan to contain Iran's alarming nuclear ambitions. As former senior national security official Flynt Leverett wrote in a brilliant New York Times piece last week, it's clear that Bush targeted the wrong member of the ''axis of evil" (Iraq) and the wrong strategy to contain it. In 2002-03, the Iranians, then under more moderate leadership, wanted to constructively engage with the United States to resolve differences. Bush blew them off and focused obsessively on Iraq, which turned out not to have nuclear capabilities. The Iranians, who really do have the ability to build nukes, then elected a truly dangerous radical who is expanding his nation's nuclear program. Having bogged down in Iraq, Bush has neither the forces nor the strategy to deal with a real menace partly of his own making in Iran.
Last Refuge of a Scoundrel. Bush will demand that Congress extend the so-called USA Patriot Act, even though he insists that he doesn't need it in order to spy on Americans and conduct searches without warrants. Which is it, Mr. President? Bad law, or bad lawlessness?
Kinder, Gentler, More Deceptive. Expect purely symbolic election-year feints reverting to the rhetoric of the uniter-Bush of 2000, coupled with coded boasting to the Republican base, say, on abortion and the Supreme Court.
Hazardous to Your Health. Very likely: more bad policy ideas that are mainly subsidies to special interests. One really awful proposal likely to be touted is Medical Savings Accounts. With more people losing decent employer-provided insurance, Bush would cut people loose and offer tax incentives to put money into special savings accounts to pay for ''high-deductible" individual policies. These are highly lucrative for the insurance industry, onerous for moderate-income families and people with expensive medical conditions, and the least cost-effective way to provide insurance. If you like the Bush drug plan, you'll love this.
Bragging Rights on Jobs? Bush will emphasize the number of jobs that have been created -- about 2 million in five years (compared with 2 million a year in the 1990s.) He will not emphasize the fact that the median worker has had no net income growth. Real median income fell 1.3 percent last year,
Aliens at our Gates. Having had five years to deal with rising levels of illegal immigration, Bush will flag this as a newly discovered menace. However, he is whipsawed between heartland Republicans who want much tougher policies including a border wall, better ID, and penalties for employers of illegals -- and a corporate community that just loves low-wage, low-benefit, low-rights ''guest-workers."
Lots More Red Ink. Many of Bush's tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans expire in 2010. The latest Congressional Budget Office report projects that if Bush's tax cuts are permitted to expire, the budget will return to surplus but if they are extended the deficit will stay in excess of $340 billion a year. Bush wants to make the tax cuts permanent and add new ones. One high priority for the right: complete elimination of the estate tax, which already has been cut to the point where less than 1 percent of estates pay any tax. Cost to the Treasury of total elimination: $745 billion over a decade. This is enough money to restore all cuts in federal aid to education and to extend Head-Start to all families who qualify.
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