On the WUNC-FM program The State of Things on Tuesday, I was asked what President Bush should say in his State of the Union Address. Not what he would say. So use your imagination.
The Constitution of the United States requires that the president, from time to time, give information to Congress on the state of the union and recommend whatever new measures he judges to be "necessary and expedient." Ladies and gentlemen, I'm sorry to report that--constitutionally speaking--the state of the union is not what it should be.
(Pause. Look at Laura. Nod to her.)
We're supposed to be promoting the general welfare. But it's recently come to my attention that even though our economy is growing, and has been for four years, most people's incomes are not. Since the year 2000, median income is down. What's that about?
I've got to admit, my tax cuts for the rich aren't working they way I'd hoped. All the new jobs seem to be in other countries.
As for the blessings of liberty and establishing justice, we've got hundreds of folks locked up who've never been charged with a crime. And the National Security Agency might be tapping your phone or reading your e-mail right now, in violation of the Fourth Amendment.
Before tonight, I've justified all this--and the torture, and the extraordinary renditions--on grounds that we're fighting a war against terrorism. But lately I've had cause to reconsider it, and it's not just because my approval ratings are down to 40 percent; no, it's also the fact that my fellow citizens think our country is on the wrong track--and is not moving in the right direction--by a solid 2-to-1 margin.
Which bothered me, frankly, because I consider myself a regular guy just like you. It bothered me so much that I started to read the newspapers. (Wait for gasps.) And you know, they're not a complete waste of time....
So, anyway, here's what I came up with: The terrorists are really just criminals, right? They're not a foreign country that you can declare a war against. But if our government is allowed to suspend due process, habeas corpus and other fundamental rights by claiming to be in a never-ending war on crime, well then, we might as well tear up the Constitution and put it in the nearest dumpster.
So tonight, I call on Congress to stop the executive branch of government from spying on Americans without warrants and from shipping terrorist suspects to other countries where they're likely to be tortured. And here's a heads-up for you: It's Vice President Cheney and Defense Secretary Rumsfeld who need to be stopped.
I've also been thinking about the war in Iraq. What a freakin' mess, huh? We sure got that one wrong. Though I've got to say in Karl Rove's defense that he never claimed to know anything about the Shiites or the Sunnis, only that if we attacked Saddam Hussein, it would put the Democrats on the spot. Which it sure did, by the way. (Wait for laugh.)
But now, I'm as curious as you are to find out why my administration was so dad-gummed sure that Saddam had weapons of mass destruction. And that he was trying to buy yellow-cake uranium in Niger. I mean, do you know how hard it would've been for him to sneak enough uranium into a processing plant with all of the reconnaissance planes we had flying overhead?
So I'm calling for passage of Rep. John Conyers' House Resolution 635, which would set up a select committee to investigate our conduct, and our use of intelligence, in the run-up to the invasion of Iraq. And let the chips fall where they may.
All I know is, I wish we had our $300 billion back--and hey, I saw the same study you all did that said the long-term cost of invading Iraq will be between $1 and $2 trillion when we count up all the extra veterans benefits, health-care costs and so on. That's got to hurt.
We need to get out of Iraq pronto, muchachos.
(Wait for applause.)
Thank you. Thank you very much. While I'm on a roll here, let me get a few other things off my chest, OK?
With or without that $300 billion, or $2 trillion--whatever it turns out to be--we've absolutely got to ramp up security around our nuclear power plants here at home. I'm all for nuclear plants, and the new law I signed in 2005 has billions of dollars in subsidies for the first utilities who succeed in building some more of them--so I say "Go, Progress Energy" down there at Shearon Harris in North Carolina. (Wait for camera to find Liddy Dole.)
But let's face it, we've got nowhere to put the spent nuclear fuel rods. God help us if the terrorists ever manage to blow up one of those cooling pools they're in.
So before we get carried away, I recommend to Congress that you undertake a serious study of the risks as well as the benefits of nuclear energy. I'm telling you, don't trust the NRC--the Nuclear Regulatory Agency--because they're in the industry's pocket. That's what I read, anyway.
Congress should also study whether an accelerated program of energy conservation plus the development of alternative sources like solar power, wind power and biomass generators would be a more efficient--and less expensive--way of meeting our future electricity needs.
Maybe the critics are right and the alternative sources would be cheaper. I don't know. Do you?
And we could sure use the money we're spending in Iraq to rebuild New Orleans and the rest of the Gulf Coast. I read in the newspapers that my administration is against Congressman Richard Baker's plan for reconstruction, which the state's entire congressional delegation is behind, plus the governor and the mayor. That really ticked me off, since I was told--and I said in a press conference--that Louisiana didn't have a plan. And Baker's a Republican, for gosh sakes.
So I'm firing Donald Powell as my Katrina czar, not that he's done anything anyway. And I'm appointing my brother, Jeb, who's resigning as governor of Florida to get this job done. Jeb wants to run for president himself some day--and my mom wants to run, too. So I know he won't screw this up.
(Applause. Camera on Jeb.)
You know what else I learned reading the papers?
I learned that Americans spent $20 billion more last year than they earned. It's the first time that's happened since 1933.
To put it in simple terms, while the rich were saving, the rest of y'all were borrowing so much that as a country we had no net personal savings at all.
So I was going to propose that we gimmick around a little with our health-care system so that people could save more of their money tax-free for medical needs. That way, they could take higher co-pays and deductibles and get their insurance cheaper. Everybody I know thought it was a good idea.
But how would that help the 45 million people who don't have health insurance in the first place? It wouldn't, because most of them don't have any money to save, tax-free or otherwise.
I read somewhere about a better idea, which is build up our Medicare system by letting folks who are 50 and older buy into it if they want to--say, if they lose their job and Blue Cross wants to charge them a fortune for individual coverage on account of they're so old. Anybody out there think 50's old?
So I'm asking the Congress to amend the Medicare law to let mid-life folks buy into Medicare. And while we're at it, the whole prescription-drug thing for seniors was a huge mistake--I never should've listened to the pharmaceutical industry on that. We can save a ton of money by making prescriptions a straight-up benefit under Medicare, and negotiating with the drug companies for better rates.
You know, that was the problem with my Social Security plan. I was only thinking of the well-to-do, who don't depend on the government for their retirement.
Same mistake I made with my tax cuts. Rich people don't need tax cuts. They're rich already! Duh. I'm going to pay more attention from now on, I promise.
I see where Responsible Wealth, which is a group of really rich folks, says that repealing the estate tax on millionaires will cost the country $1 trillion over the next decade, and they don't think we should do it. Did you know that only the super-rich pay the estate tax anymore? Only 1 in 400 estates is taxed, and then only the portion over $2 million, or $4 million if there's a surviving spouse.
Repealing the estate tax was another dumb idea of mine. Except I think it was Grover Norquist's idea--and I'm sure not listening to him any more.
So in conclusion, I'm reading the papers and doing my own thinking from now on, so look out, world. And God bless America.
On Saturday, some 65 people turned out for our first good-government group meeting in Raleigh. We're calling it WakeUP, with a little arrow pointing up out of the, er, UP part. Get it? Read all about it in dent, the politics blog of the Independent Weekly. To reach Citizen, it's email@example.com.