The NEWS with Tim O'Callaghan

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Monday, February 4, 2008

Bush: What he did and didn't say

This first published January 31, 2008 in the Henderson Home News, a Community Newspapers of Nevada publication.

As a good American I listened intently to the president's State of the Union Address to the 110th Congress earlier this week, probably more so than any other State of the Union address in my lifetime. It has been a tradition for me passed on by my father to take the time to either watch it on television or listen to it on radio.

The purpose of my keen listening was to hear what the president was saying and at the same time listen to what he wasn't saying, which is often more telling.

I find it even more telling to watch it on television, not read the emotions of the orator but rather the mood, attentiveness and response of the audience, those folks we elect to represent us in our government including the vice president and the speaker of the house sitting directly behind the president during his presentation.

So let's examine the highlights of what I heard President Bush say Monday night and what I didn't hear him say.

The president said,“To build a prosperous future, we must trust people with their own money and empower them to grow our economy. 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. At kitchen tables across our country, there is a concern about our economic future.”

What he didn't say is we empowered millions of people to grow our economy, which they did, but not wisely. That's why our economy is in a period of uncertainty. What I'm referring to is the proliferation of sub-prime loans, whereby banks made larger loans, with less accountability and lower interest rates. We allowed more Americans to purchase larger homes and more homes, creating a false market that artificially inflated values, generating unearned equity that was tapped and spent.

Not to worry though because he then said, “On housing, we must trust Americans with the responsibility of homeownership and empower them to weather turbulent times in the housing market. My administration brought together the HOPE NOW alliance, which is helping many struggling homeowners avoid foreclosure. And Congress can help even more. Tonight I ask you to pass legislation to reform Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, modernize the Federal Housing Administration, and allow state housing agencies to issue tax-free bonds to help homeowners refinance their mortgages. These are difficult
times for many American families, and by taking these steps, we can help more of them keep their homes.”

What he didn't say is “don't worry, we're going to bail you out.'’

The one thing the president said the most was people would be empowered by our government ‹ he used the word empower 11 times.

What exactly does he mean when he says “empower," is it the government is going to give us the tools to become empowered?

So I ask what would empower you as an American? Do you know? Think about it!

Many young Americans in their 20s could be empowered with a college education or their parents empowered to afford a college education for them. However, that would just become another entitlement, wouldn't it?

The president surprised me with his remarks on immigration, leading me to believe he actually gets it. No it doesn't resonate with many Americans and that was showed by the gentle applause from the battered Congress not yet recovered from last session's defeat of immigration reform.

He said, “The other pressing challenge is immigration. America needs to secure our borders – and with your help, my administration is taking steps to do so. We're increasing work-site enforcement, deploying fences and advanced technologies to stop illegal crossings. We've effectively ended the policy of 'catch and release' at the border, and by the end of this year, we will have doubled the number of border patrol agents. Yet we also need to acknowledge that we will never fully secure our border until we create a lawful way for foreign workers to come here and support our economy. This will take pressure off the border and allow law enforcement to concentrate on those who mean us harm. We must also find a sensible and humane way to deal with people here illegally. Illegal immigration is complicated, but it can be resolved. And it must be resolved in a way that upholds both our laws and our highest ideals.”

What he didn't say is we can't just remove 12 million workers from the economic machine without choking it further. That illegal immigrants contribute billions in tax revenue. Even though he didn't say it directly, the president has reinforced what I've been yapping about for months. The truth is empowering and fear is simply paralyzing, so spare me the hate mail this time.

Finally, the president spoke about the war in Iraq and how we must empower the troops with the tools to succeed and how many troops will be coming home soon.

What he didn't say, and it speaks volumes, is what we are doing to help the soldiers who have served in Iraq and returned wounded, traumatized, jobless, homeless and hopeless.

Tim O'Callaghan, co-publisher of the News, can be reached at 990-2656 or tim.oc@vegas.com.