WICKER PRAISES PRESIDENT'S STATE OF UNION ADDRESS
By Congressman Roger F. Wicker
In his fifth State of the Union address, President Bush outlined a wide-ranging agenda that includes a continued offensive against terrorism, a plan for victory in Iraq, and several domestic initiatives aimed at boosting an already strong economy.
I felt Mr. Bush was effective in sounding broad themes about the importance of maintaining America's leadership role in defense of freedom around the world and working for greater prosperity here at home. The speech also contained some specific proposals, including plans to address the nation's energy crisis and the need for more affordable health care. I hope Congress will give attention to these issues in the coming days.
The President reiterated his formula to achieve success in Iraq and spoke of dramatic progress on the road to democratic rule there. He said U.S. troop levels would begin to decrease as Iraqi forces increasingly take charge of security operations.
SUCCESS IN FIGHTING TERRORISM
Mr. Bush deserves praise for his efforts to fight terrorism here and abroad. A number of terrorist networks have been disrupted around the world, and many of their leaders have been killed or captured. "If we were to leave the terrorists alone, they would not leave us alone," he correctly pointed out. "They would simply move the battlefield to our own shores."
It is worth noting that we have not suffered another terrorist attack on American soil since September 11, 2001. While we are constantly working to improve homeland security, the programs put in place since that time have worked well. One of the most effective tools for law enforcement agencies to track and capture terrorists is the USA Patriot Act. I was pleased to hear the President call for its reauthorization.
ECONOMY IS STRONG
Mr. Bush also merits praise for policies that have strengthened the U.S. economy. I wish he had devoted more time in the speech to the recent economic successes that produced more than 4.6 million jobs over the past two and a half years. A major factor in our economic surge has been enactment of tax relief. He urged Congress to make permanent several tax relief initiatives that are set to expire in the next few years. I strongly agree with him.
Another factor in maintaining a strong economy is competitiveness. The President proposed making permanent the research and development tax credit to boost investment in new technologies, and offered a plan to help future generations of Americans power that investment by increasing emphasis on the teaching of math and science.
ENERGY CRISIS SOLUTIONS
The President was blunt in his assessment that America "is addicted to oil." He offered several proposals for new technologies to break this addiction and set a goal of replacing more than 75 percent of oil imports from the Middle East by 2025. The effort involves creating new energy sources for homes, businesses, and automobiles. He also pressed for action on reforms to make health care more affordable, including improving health savings accounts and passing medical liability reform.
I was also encouraged to hear Mr. Bush talk about the need to reform entitlement spending. The coming retirement of the Baby Boom generation will place great strains on the government's ability to provide Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid and other benefits. I hope Democrats will heed his call to work with Republicans in a bipartisan manner to address this looming crisis.