Jan 302007
Authors: Ryan Speaker

In his State of the Union address last week, President Bush talked about issues – such as Iraq, immigration and education – that typically evoke partisan responses. But President Bush called on Congress, and America, to work together.

“Our citizens don’t much care which side of the aisle we sit on – as long as we are willing to cross that aisle when there is work to be done. Our job is to make life better for our fellow Americans, and help them to build a future of hope and opportunity.”

Sen. Barack Obama, in his book “The Audacity of Hope,” has a similar message:

“They don’t always understand the arguments between right and left, conservative and liberal, but they recognize the difference between dogma and common sense, responsibility and irresponsibility, between those things that last and those that are fleeting.”

What I found most refreshing about the book was the emphasis on making rational, logical laws that adequately address issues, and building consensus among Democrats and Republicans.

Despite being liberal, I can see value in the State of the Union address. And with a message of hope from two prominent politicians, I wanted to address some points President Bush made; not as a liberal, but as a thoughtful, questioning American.

Bush called for the federal budget to be balanced, without raising taxes. Most people, including myself, would or do support the gesture. It seems, however, that at some point we may want to address the growing federal deficit, which is $8.689 trillion dollars as of this writing. Of that, $2.2 trillion is owed to foreign countries, including Japan, China and even Mexico.

It would be nice to see some of that debt paid off. In FY 2006, taxpayers paid $406 billion in interest on the federal debt. Compare that with a $419 billion defense budget of the same year; we spent almost as much on interest payments as we did to protect our country.

Balancing the federal budget is a step in the right direction, but we should also seriously consider getting our national debt problem under control.

Bush also mentioned Social Security, which he unsuccessfully tried to overhaul in 2004. There is a dirty little secret about Social Security that would solve any shortfalls. Every American pays 6.2 percent of their paycheck into the program, but only up to $90,000. This means a person making $1 million per year will not pay more than $5,580 per year, or just .56 percent of his or her earnings. According to Moveon.org, if the cap were removed and everyone paid 6.2 percent, an extra $100 billion would go to Social Security… every single year.

It would be fair to make everyone pay 6.2 percent. However, before the election I asked Angie Paccione if she would vote to remove the ceiling. She said no, because the more money people earn the less they rely on the program; she said she would prefer to increase the limit to $100,000, which puts more money into the system while not unfairly taxing those who do not use it.

Fair enough.

President Bush also spoke on immigration, and the imperative to strengthen our border security. He failed to address the fact our Congress passed legislation in 2004 requiring a passport to enter the United States. The law, however, was not enacted until last week, and only for air travelers; those who arrive in the United States by land and sea will not be required to show a passport until January 2008, according to CNN.com.

We should also not ignore the fence that is to be built along our border with Mexico. The border is just shy of 2,000 miles long; the fence will be just 700 miles. Also, Congress only allotted $1.2 billion for the fence, while the total cost is expected to be $6 billion, according to The Washington Post.

I take a few issues with regulating immigration, but understand it is something we have done many times in our country’s history, without serious detriment. But if we are going to regulate, we need to be serious about it. Passing laws, but waiting years to implement or choosing to underfund them, makes a mockery of any steps we might take towards regulation.

In recent years, our politics have become terribly divided. It is difficult to find moderate politicians driven by their conscience and search for truth and logic; this is true for both parties. We seem to think a politician willing to compromise is a capitulator. Reasoned debate is for flip-flopping invertebrates, undoubtedly victims of swirlies in middle school.

Students at CSU have called for a more conservative voice in the paper, and I understand their frustrations. I, however, think we need more than conservative (or liberal) voices; what we need are reasoned voices.

Sen. Obama calls for Congress, and all Americans, to focus on their values and not on political ideologies. If more of us – here at the Collegian, the university and the country at large – could focus on our shared values instead of our political differences, we all might have a little less to complain about.

Ryan Speaker is a senior history major. His column appears every Wednesday in the Collegian. Replies and feedback can be sent to letters@collegian.com.

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