Randy A. Fleischer, Esq.
After auditing the 2002 State of the Union address with a legal pad and a stopwatch, it is vital that we crunch the numbers before evaluating the substance of the speech.
(Please be aware that I am not an accountant so these numbers are not guaranteed as accurate nor are they verified by any consultants, CPA firm or government agency, therefore they can relied on to the same extent as any published and verified numbers.)
Although the address lasted 48 minutes from 9:14 until 10:02 EST, approximately 28 minutes of actual speech was interrupted 75 times for applause that totaled 20 minutes. Less than four minutes were spent mentioning various domestic problems.
A good part of that time was spent propping up an "economic security plan" that was "summed up in one word: JOBS!" How are JOBS going to be created? Through more tax cuts of course, which will eventually stimulate the economy. How do we know that more tax cuts will stimulate our economy even though that did not work last year or during the Reagan administration? Simply because the resident of the oval office states that his tax cuts are "just right".
As to the rest of the domestic agenda, 6 seconds were spent mentioning Head Start and early childhood development. Training quality teachers was worth another 6 seconds. Mentioning welfare reform and the importance of a job with dignity merited 14 seconds, followed by 16 seconds of applause. Health coverage for the uninsured took all of 3 seconds and better health coverage for our Veterans was worth a 4 second mention as was prescription drug coverage for seniors.
We should be grateful that 33 seconds were spent talking around Enron. Safeguards for 401(k)'s and retirement plans, full disclosure and high standards for accountants suddenly is part of the national agenda. The plans to allow flexibility in investing Social Security accounts were touted, despite a near 250 point drop in the Dow that day.
In sharp contrast to President Clinton's eight State of the Union addresses, only 3 seconds were given to minorities. Civil rights and promoting diversity was a topic of great importance over the last eight years. This administration merely mentions minority home ownership in the view that the only racial problem currently existing in America can be solved if minorities can buy a shack in previously redlined districts.
No mention was made of campaign finance reform despite previous agreements with the Republican's leading hawk and finance reform advocate, Senator John McCain. The only time the environment came into play was in discussing conservation as part of an energy policy that is bent on reducing our dependance on foreign oil while allowing more money for energy infrastructure.
Likewise the only time crime was mentioned was in discussing how doubling the Homeland Security budget will reduce crime and drugs on our streets. No mention was made of racial profiling or the loss of our individual civil liberties. Likewise, gun control, the number of senseless murders and increased gun violence is not a concern of this administration.
This administration wants us to believe that "the state of the union has never been stronger." During President Clinton's 2001 State of the Union address, the US had a $236 billion dollar surplus, after being left with a $290 billion dollar deficit by Bush Sr. (#41). Last week, the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office reported that four trillion dollars has disappeared from the surplus in Bush's first year.
How could the American people believe that the union has never been stronger? We have been murderously attacked by terrorists, are spending a billion dollars a month bombing Afghanistan into smaller pieces of rock, the stock market continues to lose ground, large companies are filing for bankruptcy, tens of thousands of jobs have been lost, tens of thousands of terrorists have scattered around the world with destructive plans for our monuments, nuclear reactors and theme parks, while millions of Americans are more depressed, worried and popping pills than ever before. The state of the union is in decline and we are being led downward with all due haste and blinders shielding our eyes from the truth.
The vast majority of the speech, approximately 86% was used to trumpet our "war" effort which is costing $30 million dollars every day. Osama Bin Laden was never mentioned, probably because he is dead and buried underneath the collapsed caves in the Afghani mountains. The administration's attempts to justify continued action is reminiscent of George Orwell's novel "1984". In describing North Korea, Iran and Iraq as the new "Axis of Evil," we are switching targets in what is being described as a perpetual war that can never achieve the goal of "eradicating evil" from the world. Although a goal has been set that can never be achieved, this administration continues to succeed in deflecting the public's attention from the real problems by trumpeting our servitude to the "war" against defeated enemies.
If we are focused and unified on the war effort, than we will not have time to debate the real problems that affect the American people. As a native New Yorker and former resident of lower Manhattan, I have many friends and relatives who barely survived the World Trade Center attack and may yet be diagnosed with cancer or lung disease as they continue to be subjected to the toxic atmosphere. Billions of people around the world were horrified at this most heinous act in the history of mankind. Those images and that feeling will never be forgotten.
Now that we have taken our revenge on the Taliban for September 11th, someone has to question the continuing goals and potential achievements of the "war" effort before we continue to spend billions of tax dollars to pay for the expensive weapons of destruction that will continue to rain on the deserts and mountains of the mideast. Who is profiting by these efforts? What is being gained by Americans? Most Americans I know are continuing to suffer with the same and worsening problems as before the attack. Except that now this administration is not paying those problems any attention.
We have lost a handful of lives in combat and sent the Al Queda to hell. The domestic threat is being exaggerated and exploited as two months have passed since the last death from Anthrax, and every other announced threat has been unrealized.
The state of the union is that we are in denial. Karl Marx said that "religion is the opiate of the masses." Today, the media is the opiate of the masses and the American people have been deluded by press coverage that only informs of sensational and titillating stories of death and destruction while ignoring the real story of the real sufferings of the American people.
Ignoring campaign finance reform, the environment, the proliferation of firearms, the erosion of our civil liberties and continuing struggle in the civil rights arena is not healthy for the state of the union. I fear that the next three such addresses will be filled with further attempts to confuse the American people and respond to overly sensationalized tragedies that do not affect the majority of us so that the real problems people are suffering will never make it to the national agenda.