Pardon me while I wax sardonic and just a teensy bit irritated withall. (Hey, nobody can accuse me of false advertising.)
We achieved historic education reform...
We did? When? How did I miss that? I thought all we did was to restyle our education system so that teachers can now focus on making students memorize what they need to pass certification tests. And since when is education a federal responsibility in any event?
To insist on integrity in American business, we passed tough reforms, and we are holding corporate criminals to account.
... You know, I'm surprised that he wasn't smited where he stood for letting those words escape his mouth. Between Harvey Pitt, Haliburton, revelations of somewhat improper conduct in the president's own past ... I'm astonished that someone in his administration didn't say to him, "Mr President, you absolutely cannot say that. They will shred you for it tomorrow. Please just don't say a word about that stuff." But he did. No doubt the shredding has commenced.
I am proposing that all the income tax reductions set for 2004 and 2006 be made permanent and effective this year.
And the concept of massive tax relief when your budget office is projecting deficits as far as the eye can see is desperately irresponsible. He's not proposing to shrink government, as past Republican administrations did, which means that he wants more government, but doesn't want to pay for it. (And we'll just ignore the fact that the tax breaks are shaded to primarily affect upper tax brackets.)
As we continue to work together to keep Social Security sound and reliable, we must offer younger workers a chance to invest in retirement accounts that they will control and they will own.
OK, that was a surprise. It's not that I expected that he's changed his views on the privatization of Social Security; I just thought he knew better than to throw it out there when the economy was this insecure. It's not a sensible political tack to take: Hey, the stock market has fallen off a cliff these past two years, but we're going to allow you to invest your retirement funds in it! Because losing your 401k and pension moneys wasn't enough!
My budget will commit an additional $400 billion over the next decade to reform and strengthen Medicare. Leaders of both political parties have talked for years about strengthening Medicare. I urge the members of this new Congress to act this year.
... Wait. He wants Congress to cut taxes, he's spending funds to establish the Department of Homeland Security ... where the hell does he propose to get an additional $400 billion to put into Medicare?
I urge you to pass both my faith-based initiative and the Citizen Service Act to encourage acts of compassion that can transform America one heart and one soul at a time.
We'll just ignore the fact that most of the various faith based initiatives he proposes violate the Constitutional separation of church and state, shall we? Let's shall.
I propose a $450 million initiative to bring mentors to more than a million disadvantaged junior high students and children of prisoners. Government will support the training and recruiting of mentors, yet it is the men and women of America who will fill the need. One mentor, one person, can change a life forever, and I urge you to be that one person.
And again: where is the $450 million coming from if Congress cuts taxes as he requests? It's a noble goal, sort of. (Why only junior high students? Intervention earlier is generally more effective, isn't it? And how on earth did this law-and-order administration decide that children of prisoners needed anything -- or rather, that they needed anything that this administration was willing to give them?)
Too many Americans in search of treatment cannot get it. So tonight I propose a new $600 million program to help an additional 300,000 Americans receive treatment over the next three years.
And again: where does that money come from?
Oddly, although it sounds like a lot, drug treatment tends to be fairly resource-intensive. $2,000 per addict actually isn't very much. However, it is a significant amount. I hope at least some part of it goes through, depending on the details of the proposal. However, in a year in which they are likely to have to finance a war, as well as a new cabinet department, Congress is likely to be reluctant to spend money on addicts.
Ladies and gentlemen, seldom has history offered a greater opportunity to do so much for so many. We have confronted, and will continue to confront, HIV/AIDS in our own country. And to meet a severe and urgent crisis abroad, tonight I propose the Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, a work of mercy beyond all current international efforts to help the people of Africa. This comprehensive plan will prevent 7 million new AIDS infections, treat at least 2 million people with life-extending drugs and provide humane care for millions of people suffering from AIDS and for children orphaned by AIDS. I ask the Congress to commit $15 billion over the next five years, including nearly $10 billion in new money, to turn the tide against AIDS in the most afflicted nations of Africa and the Caribbean.
Now that, I confess, was a total surprise. I wouldn't have thought this administration was in the least concerned. I would like to know the details of how they plan to prevent new AIDS infections, however; I strongly suspect it will be a variation of what they want to use here -- Just Say No To Sex. Which doesn't work. But depending on the details, it does appear to be an actually compassionate program.
All told, more than 3,000 suspected terrorists have been arrested in many countries. And many others have met a different fate. Let's put it this way: They are no longer a problem to the United States and our friends and allies.
... What a very odd way to put that. Mind, I'm not sure how you can say, "We've assassinated or murdered alleged terrorists wherever we could find them." Saying it that baldly would produce an uproar, to put it mildly. But even in context, assassination seems a terribly odd thing to boast of.
..... On the Korean Peninsula, an oppressive regime rules a people living in fear and starvation. Throughout the 1990s, the United States relied on a negotiated framework to keep North Korea from gaining nuclear weapons. We now know that that regime was deceiving the world and developing those weapons all along. And today the North Korean regime is using its nuclear program to incite fear and seek concessions.
America and the world will not be blackmailed. America is working with the countries of the region--South Korea, Japan, China and Russia--to find a peaceful solution and to show the North Korean government that nuclear weapons will bring only isolation, economic stagnation and continued hardship. The North Korean regime will find respect in the world and revival for its people only when it turns away from its nuclear ambitions.
... But, you know, that means that by making the nuclear threat, North Korea is getting what it wants. Or, in other words, North Korea has successfully blackmailed the US, South Korea, Japan, China and Russia into acceding in some significant way to its demands. It isn't reasonably possible to say anything but that North Korea has won this round. And as long as they have some sort of nuclear program, and we're afraid that they'll turn Seoul into a glowing pit, they'll continue to win, at least the lower level encounters. (And nobody thinks that they'll really disarm, do they?)
The section on Iraq in the speech is very interesting. It keeps very carefully to the things that the weapons inspectors have confirmed, or that were already public knowledge. At least ... right up until the point where he talks about Iraq aiding Al Qaida. Which runs hard into the fact that his own CIA has said, repeatedly, that Iraq has been doing no such thing, that Iraq, in fact, killed Al Qaida agents that crossed over from Afghanistan, because they don't like secular dictators any more than they like us. That he aids and abets terrorists is quite likely; he just doesn't aid and abet those terrorists.
There were some interesting and unexpected sections of the speech. But by and large, it really seems to indicate a very strong external focus, of a sort that may not serve him well politically.
And his math is appalling.Posted by iain at January 29, 2003 12:40 AM
Actually, I think what they're doing with North Korea is going limp. The situation there is very grim, and there's a damned good chance that they're going to implode within weeks.Posted by Steven Den Beste at January 30, 2003 08:45 AM
Yes, much of what he said "sounds" good. But it IS too good to be true. Take AIDS policy. Check this out from ZNet:
(here's the url for easier reading)
Behind Dramatic Declarations: Bush's AIDS Plan
by Sanjay Basu
February 04, 2003
Winning praise from the editorial staffs of The Washington Post and The New York Times, Bush's AIDS plan has been described as a wonderful "surprise" to those working against the global pandemic--a turnaround from previous policy, especially for a White House that has for so long been strongly connected to the patent-based pharmaceutical industry. Even some major NGOs sat back in awe at the prospect of a $15 billion contribution to AIDS (including $10 billion in new monies) from the Bush White House. The plan is to include treatment--not just prevention--with generic medicines.
But behind the rhetoric of the State of the Union lay a much darker picture of White House policy. In the fine print of the Bush AIDS proposal is a consistently with previous policies: the plan, first of all, excludes 36 of the highest burden African countries from receiving funds. The $15 billion is also spread over five years (making it about equivalent to the rounding error on the defense budget), and nearly all but $200 million a year will be routed through mechanisms other than the Global Fund for AIDS, TB and Malaria. The Global Fund contribution, in other words, is unchanged. This reflects a continuation of White House policy to undercut the Global Fund (preventing future, multilateral commitments) while claiming to support anti-AIDS efforts. Previous AIDS funds have also been consistently directed to USAID instead of the Global Fund--and USAID's programs (which almost totally exclude treatment, except for four pilot projects) have become notorious for failing to provide appropriate, comprehensive c
But an even darker part of this AIDS plan relates to its policy on generic drugs. Bush declared that AIDS drug prices have lowered to $300 per year--which is correct, if you are purchasing from generic manufacturers. The problem is that the US Trade Representative (USTR) has threatened poor countries around the world with trade sanctions (using what it calls the Special 301 Watch List), forcing them to change their intellectual property rules to be more stringent than those required by the World Trade Organization. Two of the main types of antiretroviral drugs--nevirapine and 3TC--will be illegal to import to 37 of the African countries covered by the Bush proposal precisely because of the consistent pressure of the USTR to prevent generic competition for the U.S. pharmaceutical industry. While the Bush plan claims to support generic funding, the policies of the USTR under Bush simultaneously undercut the possibility of actual generic use.
The story doesn't end there. Last December, at a WTO council meeting, trade ministers from around the world were to settle on the mechanism by which poor countries without the capacity to produce medicines were to import cheap generic drugs. In November of 2001, at the Doha conference of the WTO, the USTR and other trade ministers signed a declaration to allow "access to medicines for all" on the premise that intellectual property should be secondary to public health. They decided to also agree to a mechanism (by December 2002) that would determine how generics could be produced for exportation to poor countries without manufacturing capacity. Such a declaration sounds charitable, but the fact that it had to be declared is bordering on perverse. No one bothered to mention that a vast amount of the research and development on AIDS drugs (sometimes through the clinical trial stage) was paid for through tax payer funds directed through the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to divisions of the NIH and to uni
But in spite of these facts, the December 2002 meeting turned into a stalemate. Rather than decide on a clear mechanism to allow generics to be produced for exportation to the poorest of countries, the USTR decided to "reinterpret" the declaration made at the Doha conference, claiming that it applied only to a limited number of diseases, and also claiming that the countries most able to produce medicines could not export to poor countries. Even the legal mechanism for allowing exportation was to be woefully complex, effectively rendering generic competition impossible. The talks broke down after the USTR refused to negotiate. Even the EU trade minister blamed the USTR's stubbornness for the lack of access to medicines, calling it representative of the pharmaceutical industry's "stupid" position.
The industry, and the USTR, claims that generics would undermine the capacity to pay for research and development--that is, the research and development that American taxpayers actually foot most of the bill for. The industry doesn't bother to release it's own tax information, however, which reveals that Merck this year used 13% of its profits on marketing and only 5% on R&D, Pfizer spent 35% on marketing and only 15% on R&D, and the industry overall spent 27% on marketing and 11% on R&D according the Securities and Exchange Commission. That's not accounting for the fact that 52% of new drugs on the market aren't even the result of R&D, but are "me too" drugs that are simple reformulations of old products slapped with new stickers.
The industry still claims that generics will undermine its business, even as it continues to be ranked by Fortune Magazine as the world's most profitable industry for 11 years in a row (having profits as a percentage of revenue nearly three times the rest of the Fortune 500 industry). When confronted with the fact that Africa comprises only 1.3% of the industry's revenues (making its loss equivalent to "about three days fluctuation in exchange rates," according to an industry analyst quoted in The Washington Post), the industry claims that generic drugs will get diverted to the North to undermine its key markets, and cites GlaxoSmithKline's recent loss of AIDS drugs sent to Africa as a case in point. But a look at the GSK case shows that Glaxo failed to even track the shipments and only discovered after a year that its packages to Africa had been shipped improperly, allowing them to be smuggled to Europe. Tracking mechanisms, however, seem to be no trouble for neighborhood flower shops. Indian generic manu
But based on the rhetoric--and the $20 million in campaign contributions (hard and soft)--of the patent-based pharmaceutical industry, the USTR and the White House have decided to continue their campaign against generic drugs. While losing the support of even the EU at the WTO, the USTR has decided that if it can't multilaterally cut off access to cheaper medicines for the poor, it will do so through bilateral and regional trade agreements. So the current draft of the Free Trade Area of the Americas excludes key public health protections and creates mechanisms far too difficult to achieve generic access. One common mechanism used by the USTR is to force one country to have another country pass legislation for exportation of goods. In other words, India's government would have to pass legislation to authorize exportation of medicines from Indian companies to Pakistanis. What a politically feasible plan! The USTR is expanding such a model in a second agreement with a group of Latin American countries, a plan
Cutting off medicine access isn't the only hypocritical part of the Bush AIDS plan, however. The deeper problem is not just one of medicine access--it's that the economic and social effects of the free trade agreements are precisely those that spread AIDS. Epidemiologists and physicians have agreed that the number one epidemiological correlate to AIDS (and TB, and a number of other infectious and non-infectious diseases) is poverty. We saw the nasty effects of NAFTA on the health of Mexicans, and now the Free Trade Area of the America's (FTAA) deal will expand that to the entire Western hemisphere. Migration in Thailand, as Walden Bello has shown, resulted from IMF packages there that destroyed rural agricultural systems and broke up families as laborers traveled to Bangkok for work. Marriages split, women lost jobs and entered into prostitution for work, and AIDS and TB spread among the poorest. The same trends have been established elsewhere. The excessive focus on "individual behavior" in public discour
And so the Bush AIDS plan may seem miraculous, and indeed it does add some funds to AIDS programs. But AIDS has become increasingly commodified, treated as a problem that can be solved with declarations while the broader public health and socioeconomic context in which it occurs is ignored. And that is the real problem with the Bush AIDS plan: as one hand provides a poor, leaky bandage, the other cuts deeper into the wound.
Posted by Michelle at February 5, 2003 02:52 PM