Politics & Policy

State of Bush’S Union

We need short and fiscally conservative.

I am recommending herein the shortest State of the Union speech in American history.

Tonight, in front of 100 million Americans, who are not watching college basketball on ESPN or a horror flick on the Sci-Fi channel, George Bush should say:

My fellow Americans: The state of the union is healthy. The economic recovery is picking up steam. We are winning the war against terrorism. Keep the faith. Good night.

The American people would stand up on their living couches roaring with thunderous applause. Brevity is, after all, the soul of wit. The art of short speeches went out sometime soon after the Gettysburg Address, which was only a few hundred words and took less than five minutes to deliver.

Instead Bush will drone on for an hour. This is an unwise strategy, because Mr. Bush is not the most gifted of orators. He is no Bill Clinton, for example. That is a small blessing compared to the hour and a half monologue that Bill Clinton once subjected us to. I always felt that Clinton was going to solve every problem in America, including exterminating the fly swimming around in my soup, with some new fancy sounding government program. You needed a cash register to ring up the cost of Clinton’s new spending pronouncements.

Bush too, has this unattractive tendency to believe that there is a government grant program for every problem that afflicts America. Bush may not announce an anti-acne agency one of these days, but it wouldn’t be a stretch. He wants to send a man to mars–not Paul O’Neill regrettably–that will cost $500 billion over ten years. He wants to spend millions to promote holy matrimony. He wants to spend $200 million to fight obesity–why can’t we just tell fat people to stop overeating. There will be funds to fight AIDS in Africa and to purchase garbage trucks in Iraq. He wants money for hydrogen-operated cars, and a manufacturing czar, who presumably, like Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz, can click the heels on her ruby slippers and make factory jobs reappear.

All of this is to say that there seems to be a correlation between the length of the State of the Union speech and the size of the budget expansion in the upcoming year. Americans seem to unfailingly approve this wish list, as if government really is Santa Claus and that we are all entitled to ask what the country will do for us. Just once–just one blasted time–I would love for a president to say: Want prescription drugs? Want your toddler’s pre school paid for? Want to go to college? Want a marriage counselor? Want to get thin? Then work hard and pay for it yourself you whiners!

Alternatively, the president could say: “I could give you all a super-sized goodie bag, but then I couldn’t cut your taxes anymore. So instead of new federal programs, we will have another $500 per family tax cut and then you can go out and buy your own cans of Slim Fast.

.

That won’t happen even though taxpayers would respect this kind of honesty. Wouldn’t be compassionate. But the lesson of the last 50 years is that there is no end to government compassion when the politicians’ are reaching into someone else’s pocket.

We’ve had too much compassion from government, thank you. That is the biggest impediment to freedom and economic growth in America today. The State of Bush’s Union has become in some ways a State of Dependency and a State of Entitlement. With the federal budget now costing more than $20,000 on average for every family in America, Bush should not add to the burden by promoting false compassion.

Keep it short and sweet Mr. President. As my old high-school English teacher used to warn us of on essay tests: Unnecessary verbiage will be penalized.

Stephen Moore is president of the Club for Growth and a senior fellow at the Cato Institute.

Members of the National Review editorial and operational teams are included under the umbrella “NR Staff.”

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