THE STATE OF OUR UNION NEEDS REALISTIC SOLUTIONS
by Senator Ben Cardin
President Bush recently made his annual State of the Union Address to Congress and the American people. Overall, the President did a good job of identifying the problems facing our nation, but he failed to develop realistic solutions that will be effective in solving them.
Right now, Iraq tops the list of issues concerning most Americans. In traveling around Maryland, I have talked to thousands of people who believe our policy in Iraq is not working and who want our soldiers home. I agree with them, and I recently co-sponsored a bipartisan resolution opposing President Bushs plan to send an additional 21,000 troops to Iraq.
Iraq is now in a civil war between the Sunnis and Shias. American soldiers should not be in the middle. Iraqis need to assume primary responsibility for their country. The President needs to reach out to the international community to craft a political and diplomatic solution to end the sectarian violence. I was disappointed that in his State of the Union Address the President called for a continuation of his same policies in Iraq, only with more troops.
I have been a long-time supporter of developing alternative fuel sources to help us become energy independent, but we also must increase fuel standards and decrease our consumption. We need a comprehensive energy policy that includes development of alternative energy and conservation. I was disappointed that the President failed to address the needs to decrease greenhouse gas emissions from power plants.
The President also missed an opportunity to realistically address our nations health care crisis. Currently, more than 46 million Americans lack heath insurance. His solution is a series of tax breaks and new taxes to try and increase the number of Americans with health insurance.
His proposals are unrealistic and do not address the realities of our nations health care crisis. Providing tax credits to low-income workers will do little to help them actually pay the necessary premiums. It also does nothing for individuals who may have pre-existing conditions and who are unable to purchase health care at almost any price.
His plan includes taxing Americans who have health-care benefits he deems as gold-plated insurance. Few Americans today believe they have gold-plated insurance. Instead, many are struggling with higher premiums and deductibles and fewer benefits. His proposal, if enacted, is likely to shift more of the cost of health care on to working families.
Although the President urged the reauthorization of the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB), important legislation that was originally signed into law in 2002, he failed to commit to fully fund the federal governments obligation. I supported the original goal of accountability under the NCLBA, but, unfortunately, states have never gotten the resources they need to make it effective. Congress needs to ensure proper funding and realistic accountability standards.
Now its time for Congress to get to work, review the Presidents proposals and pass legislation that will present more realistic alternatives.