Unlike in earlier State of the Union addresses in which the president made the simple claim that the state of the union is strong, he prefaced that claim with a condition: “And so long as we continue to trust the people, our nation will prosper, our liberty will be secure, and the state of our Union will remain strong.” The dominant theme of this final address was that it is the people who make and keep a nation strong, not government.
President Bush’s remark at the end of the address about trusting the people unified the speech. He began by reminding Congress: “All of us were sent to Washington to carry out the people's business.” He continued to emphasize the importance of government’s responsibility to the people. He said, “In this election year, let us show our fellow Americans that we recognize our responsibilities and are determined to meet them. Let us show them that Republicans and Democrats can compete for votes and cooperate for results at the same time.” Then he remarked that “we have unfinished business before us, and the American people expect us to get it done.”
Issues that must be addressed
The body of the speech consisted of issues that the government needs to address in order to finish the people’s business. The president began by elucidating “the philosophy that made our nation great.” A philosophy that does not fall easily on liberal tax-and-spend Democrat ears. He stated affirmatively that “[t]o build a prosperous future, we must trust people with their own money and empower them to grow our economy.” He claimed that “we believe in the power of individuals to determine their destiny and shape the course of history.”
After stressing the growth of the economy, he acknowledged that “our economy is undergoing a period of uncertainty.” Despite 52 months of job growth, that growth has slowed down. And although wages are up, so are food and gas prices. So to stimulate the sagging economy, “my administration reached agreement with Speaker Pelosi and Republican Leader Boehner on a robust growth package that includes tax relief for individuals and families and incentives for business investment.” He urged Congress pass that legislation as soon as possible.
President Bush urged that the Congress not let his tax relief efforts expire. He explained, “Some in Washington argue that letting tax relief expire is not a tax increase. Try explaining that to 116 million American taxpayers who would see their taxes rise by an average of $1,800,” adding humorously to laughter and applause, “Others have said they would personally be happy to pay higher taxes. I welcome their enthusiasm. I'm pleased to report that the IRS accepts both checks and money orders.”
He emphasized that most Americans “think their taxes are high enough.” And he promised to veto any tax-raising bill arriving on his desk.
Cutting wasteful or bloated programs
To cut wasteful and bloated programs, he said to Congress, “Next week, I'll send you a budget that terminates or substantially reduces 151 wasteful or bloated programs, totaling more than $18 billion.” He suggested that only items worth funding and appropriations bills worth defending openly in Congress should expect support. He emphasized that “earmarks” are undermining the people’s confidence in government.
President Bush called for legislation to reform Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and to modernize the Federal Housing Administration to allow state housing agencies to issue tax-free bonds to help homeowners refinance their mortgages. He called for empowering Americans with the responsibility of homeownership. His administration has called together a group call the Hope Now Alliance to help struggling homeowners who are facing foreclosure.
Regarding health care, it is vital to read entire statement, which run contrary to the socialized medicine aka “universal health care” that Democrats are constantly touting:
To build a future of quality health care, we must trust patients and doctors to make medical decisions and empower them with better information and better options. We share a common goal: making health care more affordable and accessible for all Americans. The best way to achieve that goal is by expanding consumer choice, not government control. So I have proposed ending the bias in the tax code against those who do not get their health insurance through their employer. This one reform would put private coverage within reach for millions, and I call on the Congress to pass it this year.Furthermore, regarding health care he added,
The Congress must also expand health savings accounts, create Association Health Plans for small businesses, promote health information technology, and confront the epidemic of junk medical lawsuits. With all these steps, we will help ensure that decisions about your medical care are made in the privacy of your doctor's office--not in the halls of Congress.Other Issues
He emphasized the importance of choice in education, opening new markets throughout the world for American workers, trusting the American genius to solve the energy problems. His speech emphasized repeatedly the theme of trusting the American people to help the country solve its problem. He reported that last year Congress passed legislation to support an American Competitiveness Initiative, but “but never followed through with the funding.” He asserted that funding this initiative was necessary to keeping our “scientific edge.” He also spoke on new research that is making use of fetal-stem-cells obsolete.
He urged the Congress to give a number of justices a fair up or down vote. He reported that charitable donations are higher than ever. And he called for reform in entitlements such as Social Security. He mentioned the continuing issue of immigration and called on Congress to help with this challenge.
State of the Union 2008 – Foreign Policy and Protecting the Homeland
A transcript of the 2008 State of the Union Address