Senate Democrats

President Bush’s Glass Is Half Full State of the Union

During his State of the Union address last night, President Bush presented a picture of America’s economy, as well as its efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan in the most positive light possible. But the President conveniently overlooked some inconvenient facts that show things are not quite as rosy as the President would like our country to believe. While jobs have been created unemployment has increased and while violence has lessened in Iraq the Iraqis have still made very little political progress. The public deserves a full and thorough accounting of the state of our union, not a White (House)-washed version of the truth.

President Bush overstated his case on the economy and the budget:

President Bush Said the Economy Is Undergoing a Period of Uncertainty, But Jobs Keep Growing and Wages Are Up. “As we meet tonight, our economy is undergoing a period of uncertainty.  America has added jobs for a record 52 straight months, but jobs are now growing at a slower pace.  Wages are up, but so are prices for food and gas.  Exports are rising, but the housing market has declined.  And at kitchen tables across our country, there is concern about our economic future.” [President Bush State of the Union Address, 1/28/08]

  • But American’s Are Working Harder But Earning Less Today Than When President Bush Came to Office. America’s families are working harder and earning less today than they were at the start of the Bush Administration.  Median household income, adjusted for inflation, has declined $962 from $49,163 in 2000 to $48,201 in 2006. [Census Bureau,  8/07]
  • But The Unemployment Rate for December 2007 Jumped to Five Percent, As More Jobs Are Lost Due to the Slowing Housing Sector. According to the Labor Department, The unemployment rate surged to 5 percent in December as the economy added a meager 18,000 jobs, the smallest monthly increase in four years. Worse yet, the nation shed 49,000 construction jobs and 31,000 manufacturing jobs. The 5 percent rate is up from 4.7 percent the month before. In a disturbing parallel shift, private-sector job creation turned negative for the month. If that weakness persists and worsens, it would echo what happened the last time the US entered a recession, in 2001.  [New York Times, 1/5/07; Christian Science Monitor, 1/7/07]
  • But The Cost of Gas at the Pump Has More Than Doubled Since President Bush Took Office. When President Bush took office, regular unleaded gasoline cost $1.45 per gallon. By January 2008, the cost of a gallon of regular unleaded gasoline had risen to $3.04. [Energy Information Administration]
  • But Health Care Costs Continue to Rise Far Faster Than Inflation. “By several measures, health care spending continues to rise at the fastest rate in our history. In 2005 (the latest year data are available), total national health expenditures rose 6.9 percent — two times the rate of inflation. Total spending was $2 TRILLION in 2005, or $6,700 per person… In 2006, employer health insurance premiums increased by 7.7 percent – two times the rate of inflation. The annual premium for an employer health plan covering a family of four averaged nearly $11,500. The annual premium for single coverage averaged over $4,200.” [National Coalition on Health Care, 2007 Facts]

President Bush Said Allowing His Tax Cuts to Expire Would Hurt Americans, Forcing a Tax Increase of an Average $1,800 on 116 Million Americans. “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.” [President Bush State of the Union Address, 1/28/08]

  • But President Bush Overstated the Effect of Letting His Tax Cuts Expire. According to the Tax Policy Center, the median American household would pay roughly $828 more in taxes in 2011 if the Bush tax cuts expire. The richest 1 percent of American households, in contrast, would have to pay an extra $64,154 a year when the tax cuts expire. [Washington Post, 1/29/08]
  • But Making The Bush Tax Cuts Permanent Would Disproportionately Help The Wealthy, Providing Little to No Needed Stimulus. According to Len Burman, director of the Urban-Brookings Tax Policy Center, making the Bush tax cuts “would accomplish nothing in the short run, and most of the benefits would go to the very rich—the group least likely to spend a tax windfall.” [Urban Institute-Brookings Tax Policy Center, 1/23/08]
  • But Democrats Support Middle Class Tax Cuts. Democrats have actively advocated for extension of tax relief for the middle class and last year successfully secured the enactment of relief from the Alternative Minimum Tax, which otherwise would have adversely affected many middle class families. [Los Angeles Times, 12/20/07]

President Bush Claimed His Budget Would Produce a Surplus by 2012. “The budget that I will submit will keep America on track for a surplus in 2012. American families have to balance their budgets; so should their government.” [President Bush State of the Union Address, 1/28/08]

  • But President Bush is Expected to Exclude the Cost of the Iraq War, Among Other Known Cost. Currently, the cost of the Iraq war has reached $10 billion per month, and yet the President has indicated that he again will fail to include the full costs of the war in his budget. Newly released figures by the Congressional Budget Office showed the federal budget deficit reaching $250 billion, when factoring in the cost of the war. [Associated Press, 1/28/08; Congressional Research Service, 12/18/07]
  • But  The National Debt Will Almost Double on President Bush’s Watch, As It Increases $1 Million Per Minute. The national debt — the total accumulation of annual budget deficits — is up from $5.7 trillion when President Bush took office in January 2001 and it will top $10 trillion sometime right before or right after he leaves in January 2009. Furthermore, the national debt is also expanding by about $1.4 billion a day — or nearly $1 million a minute. Put another way, the debt at this rate would cost every American $30,000. [Associated Press, 12/3/07]

President Bush also overstated his case on progress in Iraq:

President Bush Said Reconciliation Is Taking Place in Iraq. “While the enemy is still dangerous and more work remains, the American and Iraqi surges have achieved results few of us could have imagined just one year ago. When we met last year, many said that containing the violence was impossible. A year later, high profile terrorist attacks are down, civilian deaths are down, sectarian killings are down… Progress in the provinces must be matched by progress in Baghdad.  And we are seeing some encouraging signs.  The national government is sharing oil revenues with the provinces.  The parliament recently passed both a pension law and de-Ba’athification reform.  Now they are debating a provincial powers law.  The Iraqis still have a distance to travel.  But after decades of dictatorship and the pain of sectarian violence, reconciliation is taking place — and the Iraqi people are taking control of their future.” [President Bush State of the Union Address, 1/28/08]

  • But Iraqi Government Has Still Met Just 3 of 18 Benchmarks. “On the one year anniversary of President Bush’s State of the Union address justifying his ‘New Way Forward’ in Iraq, it is clear that the surge has failed to meet its objectives. One year ago, the president pledged that ‘America will hold the Iraqi government to the benchmarks it has announced.’ Despite the fact that the Iraqi government has only met three of the 18 benchmarks laid out last year, an end to U.S. military and financial commitment is nowhere in sight.” [Center for American Progress, “Iraq Benchmark Report Card,” 1/24/08]
  • But New DeBaathification Law Could Set Off a New Purge of Ex-Baathists. “But now, under new legislation promoted as way to return former Baathists to public life, the 56-year-old and thousands like him could be forced out of jobs they have been allowed to hold, according to Iraqi lawmakers and the government agency that oversees ex-Baathists. ‘This new law is very confusing,’ Awadi said. ‘I don’t really know what it means for me.’ He is not alone. More than a dozen Iraqi lawmakers, U.S. officials and former Baathists here and in exile expressed concern in interviews that the law could set off a new purge of ex-Baathists, the opposite of U.S. hopes for the legislation. [Washington Post, 1/23/08]

President Bush Touted the Success of the Anbar Awakening. “The Iraqis launched a surge of their own. In the fall of 2006, Sunni tribal leaders grew tired of al Qaeda’s brutality and started a popular uprising called ‘The Anbar Awakening.’ Over the past year, similar movements have spread across the country. And today, the grassroots surge includes more than 80,000 Iraqi citizens who are fighting the terrorists.” [President Bush State of the Union Address, 1/28/08]

  • But Shiite-Led Iraqi Government Views Leaders of Sunni Awakening Movement As a Threat, While Sunni Leaders Oppose the Central Government. “The United States is empowering a new group of Sunni leaders, including onetime members of former president Saddam Hussein’s Baath Party, intelligence services and army, who are challenging established Sunni politicians for their community’s leadership. The phenomenon marks a sharp turnaround in U.S. policy and the fortunes of Iraq’s Sunni minority. The new leaders are decidedly against Iraq’s U.S.-backed, Shiite-led government, which is wary of the Awakening movement’s growing influence, viewing it as a potential threat when U.S. troops withdraw.” [Washington Post, 1/8/08]
  • But Sunni Awakening Council Members Have Come Under Fire from AQI and Shiite Militias, Putting Security Gains At Risk. “At least 100 predominantly Sunni militiamen, known as Awakening Council members or Concerned Local Citizens, have been killed in the past month, mostly around Baghdad and the provincial capital of Baquba, urban areas with mixed Sunni and Shiite populations, according to Interior Minister Jawad al-Bolani. At least six of the victims were senior Awakening leaders, Iraqi officials said… But the recent onslaught is jeopardizing that relative security and raising the prospect that the groups’ members might disperse, with many rejoining the insurgency, American officials said… American and Iraqi officials blame Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia for most of the killings, which spiked after the Dec. 29 release of an audio recording in which Osama bin Laden called the volunteer tribesmen ‘traitors’ and ‘infidels’… Both Sunni and Shiite officials in Baghdad blame two government-linked Shiite paramilitary forces for some of the attacks: the Mahdi Army and the Badr Organization.” [New York Times, 1/24/08]

President Bush Touted Success in Taking on Iraqi Militias. “When we met last year, militia extremists — some armed and trained by Iran — were wreaking havoc in large areas of Iraq. A year later, coalition and Iraqi forces have killed or captured hundreds of militia fighters. And Iraqis of all backgrounds increasingly realize that defeating these militia fighters is critical to the future of their country.” [President Bush State of the Union Address, 1/28/08]

  • But Mahdi Army May Not Renew the Cease-Fire it Agreed to in August Which Has Been a Major Factor in Reducing Violence. “Influential members of Muqtada al-Sadr’s movement have urged the anti-U.S. Shiite cleric not to extend a cease-fire when it expires next month, officials said Monday, a move that could jeopardize recent security gains… Al-Sadr’s August order for his feared Mahdi Army militia to freeze activities for six months was seen by U.S. commanders as a major factor in a nationwide reduction of violence. But U.S. and Iraqi forces insisted they would continue to hunt down so-called rogue fighters who ignored the order. Al-Sadr’s followers claim this is a pretext to crack down on their movement. The maverick cleric has threatened not to renew the cease-fire unless the government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki purges ‘criminal gangs’ operating within security forces he claims are targeting his followers.” [Associated Press, 1/28/08]

President Bush overstated his case on progress in Afghanistan too:

President Bush Said Afghanistan Is Thriving, Citing Numbers of Children Going to School. “In Afghanistan, America, our 25 NATO allies, and 15 partner nations are helping the Afghan people defend their freedom and rebuild their country. Thanks to the courage of these military and civilian personnel, a nation that was once a safe haven for al Qaeda is now a young democracy where boys and girls are going to school, new roads and hospitals are being built, and people are looking to the future with new hope.” [President Bush State of the Union Address, 1/28/08]

  • But Taliban Attacks Have Been Aimed at Schools in Order to Intimidate Students, Forcing Many Schools to Close. “A reality check for me was to talk in Kabul with Mohammad Hanif Atmar, the country’s bright young minister of education. He said that Taliban terrorist attacks killed 147 students and teachers over the past 10 months and seriously injured 200 others. This campaign of intimidation closed 590 schools last year, up from 350 the year before. In areas where students are too scared to go to school, stability and security are still distant goals.” [Washington Post, Ignatius Op-Ed, 1/27/08]
  • But U.N. Report: Afghanistan Experiencing Most Violence Since 2001. “Afghanistan is currently suffering its most violent year since the 2001 U.S.-led intervention, according to an internal United Nations report that sharply contrasts with recent upbeat appraisals by President Bush and his Afghan counterpart, Hamid Karzai. ‘The security situation in Afghanistan is assessed by most analysts as having deteriorated at a constant rate through 2007,’ said the report compiled by the Kabul office of the U.N. Department of Safety and Security. There were 525 security incidents — attacks by the Taliban and other violent groups, bombings, terrorism of other kinds, and abductions — every month during the first half of this year, up from an average of 425 incidents per month in 2006.” [McClatchy, 10/1/07]
  • But Secretary Gates Criticized NATO Allies Amid Rising Tensions Over Afghanistan Mission. “In an unusual public criticism, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates said he believes NATO forces currently deployed in southern Afghanistan do not know how to combat a guerrilla insurgency, a deficiency that could be contributing to the rising violence in the fight against the Taliban… Gates’ criticism comes as the Bush administration has decided to send 3,200 U.S. Marines to southern Afghanistan on a temporary mission to help quell the rising number of attacks. It also comes amid growing friction among allied commanders over the Afghan security situation. But coming from an administration castigated for its conduct of wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, such U.S. criticism of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization is controversial. Many NATO officials blame inadequate U.S. troop numbers earlier in the war in part for a Taliban resurgence.” [Los Angeles Times, 1/16/08]