January 24, 2007

SotU Voce

I don’t have a detailed analysis of the State of the Union speech, but I do have a few of things to say:

Health

So, what did you all think about the president’s fancy tax-increase announcement? Oh, you didn’t hear it that way? That’s because when someone says “we’re going to give you a tax credit on the first $7,500 that your employer contributes to your health coverage” it sounds like a tax cut. What he’s really saying is “now we’re taxing your employer contribution as income, but we’ll give you a break on the first $7,500. It’s twice that for married couples.

People having trouble paying for health coverage don’t need a tax break, they need health coverage. The worst off don’t pay taxes anyhow.

The presidents plan is a tax increase. I wouldn’t complain if that money were going to something useful, like some more innovative plan that provided universal care.

What about uninsured children? What about the way this plan weakens states that already have a high level of consumer protection for the insured (so that businesses can band together across state lines for purchasing negotiations)? What about the money that it shifts away from public hospitals?

I find it odd that the president focuses his attention on the tax code as the thing we have to tackle to lick this problem, ignoring nearly everything I’ve ever heard experts worry aloud about. This amounts to a tax shuffling to hang on to the status quo. Truly, rearranging the deck chairs as the health care Titanic sinks even faster.

Such half-measures like this aren’t going to stop the looking health care crisis, they’re only going to delay serious discussion over real solutions that provide universal health coverage, and that’s the most irresponsible thing about the president’s proposal.

FU “Democrat” Majority

The written text of the president’s speech is the phrase “Democratic majority.” But the president actually used the political epithet “Democrat majority.” It’s a big “FU” to the Democrats, using the word “Democrat” as an adjective instead of a noun. The adjective is “Democratic.”

Since it’s not written that way in the transcript, you can pretty much assume this is just the president being a jerk. Not very presidential, if you ask me.

Yesterday, a radio talk guy was talking about the erosion of respect for the office of the president. When the president goes out of his way to show contempt like this, it is the president who lacks respect, and perhaps deserves less respect because of it. Respect is a two way street, and this sort of childish swerving is meant to run people off the road.

Rebuttal

A big thumbs up to Jim Webb who delivered the best Democratic rebuttal in Bush’s six plus years.

Posted by James at January 24, 2007 10:51 AM
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Comments

Just to be clear, I'm not a Bush apologist. I'd didn't vote for him in 2000 or 2004.

I have a hard time, though, figuring out when something he says is intentional, or just a result of his poor speaking[1]. He's no dummy, so he could have very well intended to say “Democrat majority" even if it wasn't written that way in the transcript. I just don't know how to tell the difference.

[1] If you've seen videos of his public speaking from many years ago, you would notice a world of difference between then and now. It makes me wonder if there is something wrong with him. (I'm not trying to make a cheap joke here...)

Posted by: Jim at January 24, 2007 12:54 PM

I missed Jim Webb, but Univision ran another, brief rebuttal from a Spanish-speaking representative from CA who talked about health care, immigration, the war, and all the other stuff that the president has either ignored or screwed up.

I imagine that it gets easier and easier to pen these rebuttals every year, and the main challenge is just to keep them short.

Posted by: Julie at January 24, 2007 1:14 PM

Sure, Jim. It's possible that he doesn't know what he's saying.

I'm not sure I was clear with what I was saying, judging by your comment. It was written as "Democratic" but he read it as "Democrat." I'll assume you are sayign that he could have meant to say "Democratic" but "Democrat" came out.

He pretty much always says "Democrat" and that's part of how we know. He's chosen to adopt that as his regular way of referring to the Democratic Party.

It's possible he can't tell the difference or is ignorant that it's a slur, but I doubt it.

I guess the principle of charity says that I should not attribute to malice what can adequately be explained by ignorance and carelessness.

He is a politician. I have a hard time believing that this never came up between him and Karl Rove in any of their long talks.

But it is possible.

Posted by: James at January 24, 2007 1:30 PM

I understand that Bush is intentionally saying "Democrat" and that he should use respect his political opponents by the proper name of the party. No argument there.

But even after reading the Wikipedia entry I'm having a difficult time thinking of it as a slur. Is this a way to oversimplify everything the Democratic Party stands for by labeling it all as "Democrat"?

Posted by: Mike at January 24, 2007 2:03 PM

I meant to type "respect his political opponents by *using* the proper name of the party."

Posted by: Mike at January 24, 2007 2:04 PM

Considering how he bent over backwards to kiss Nancy Pelosi's ass (if that's not too gruesome of a mental image), I find it hard to believe that he'd intentionally use a slur. I also don't think he's ever had a great understanding, or appreciation, of the subtleties of language. So he could easily have made a mistake, glancing at the tpt and reading it wrong and not caring because in his mind, being almost-right is good enough. Even if he's been wrong before.

Speaking of Pelosi, did it look to anyone else as if she was grinding her teeth through the whole speech?

I also thought it was funny that Clinton was sitting right behind Obama. I wonder if they have assigned seats, or if one deliberately sat near the other to ensure they'd always be on camera together.

Posted by: Julie at January 24, 2007 2:24 PM

Jim Webb's rebuttal was excellent partly because of who he is and where his son is, in contrast to our strutting coward of a president. He was straightforward, charismatic, and I just got the feeling that he was cutting through all of the bullshit we just heard and telling it like it is: you recklessly put our soldiers in harm's way, and we're going to show you how to get them out if you can't figure it out for yourself. It felt like an adult admonishing a selfish child, but it wasn't at all condescending, as our president frequently is.

I get very tired of the implications in Bush's speeches -- if you don't agree with me, it's because you don't understand (I don't even know that this was implied so much as stated); if you don't agree with my plan to win the war, you don't support our troops, etc.

Also, I don't think anybody else got this feeling, but the first few minutes of the speech were the typical meaningless rah-rah rhetoric, and then all of a sudden he was enmired in facts and figures that he seemed to be reading incorrectly off the prompter (or wherever he reads from), i.e. he'd put the wrong emphasis on words in a sentence, I felt like I'd fallen into the rabbit's hole or something. What? Where'd all those numbers come from, and how come even you don't know what you're saying? That was bizarre, IMO.

Posted by: Maggie at January 24, 2007 2:27 PM

I actually "missed" most of the speech itself, sensing that its contents would be irrelevant, as usual. But I did see some.

Since he has pretty much lost his credibility with EVERYONE by now, it was strange for him to continue singing that whole keeping-the-world-safe tune. It's so bad, at this point, that I half-expected a Republican rebuttal as well.

Posted by: Julie at January 24, 2007 2:36 PM

People having trouble paying for health coverage don’t need a tax break, they need health coverage. The worst off don’t pay taxes anyhow.

Precisely. When I first heard this, I thought, well, that's fair. I get my pay pre-tax, and it's all part of my "total compensation," as HR would say. If you don't get your healthcare through your employer, then you ought to be able to deduct some of the cost associated with getting it on your own.

Did you know this, though?

"If you have employer-provided health insurance, you don't pay any taxes on that. Under the President's proposal, that health insurance benefit would become taxable income."

So says analyst Hillary Wicai, who appears on Marketplace (see the story at http://marketplace.publicradio.org/shows/2007/01/22/PM200701222.html?refid=0)

But I digress.

I heard an analyst on NPR say this tax break wouldn't benefit the very people at which it is aimed because they don't pay enough taxes to make a difference. I wonder if this is becuase they make so little and/or don't own homes that they don't itemize.

I thought more about this on my way to work whilst listening to the news, and I said the same thing James did: They don't need a tax break, they need healthcare coverage. further, it is not mandated the $7,500/person, $15,000/family be spent on healthcare. So, this is a tax break that doesn't do anything specifically about healthcare coverage.

But you see, it is in this that Bush is a genious. He can sound like he's helping to ensure healthcare coverage for the poor while he's not actually doing it.

Posted by: Patti M. at January 24, 2007 3:06 PM

I think James already pointed out that Bush's idea means your employer's contribution to your insurance would be taxable.

I think the reason it wouldn't help the people who need it most is because their employers are not providing health insurance at all. I don't think deductions enter into it, because it's a credit, not a deduction.

Posted by: Julie at January 24, 2007 3:13 PM

I don't buy that "Democrat Party" is a slur. Here's my take:

US Citizens often refer to themselves as "Americans", when in truth "America" is the continent we live on. North Americans, South Americans, Central Americans are all Americans. And I've heard of people being a little miffed that US citizens sometimes coopt the term "American" as if it applied only to them.

By the same token, we live in a democracy--all of our parties are democratic parties. Therefore, to folks who are not democrats, referring to my party as "the Democratic Party" may seem presumptuous.

Republicans call their party "the Republican Party". It only seems normal that the party comprised of Democrats would be "the Democrat party". Refusing to call it "the Democratic Party" may simply be a protest--a refusal to recognize the party's sole rights to the adjective "democratic".

Not that I agree mind you, I think it's so much fuss over nothing. If anyone wants to call my party "the democrat party" they have my blessings. As far as I'm concerned it's "the democratic party".

Posted by: Chuck S. at January 24, 2007 3:41 PM

I see your point. Unfortunately, I don't think it's that simple. I'll agree that "slur" is on the far end. I'll soften my opinion and call it "a churlish habit." But some people still do see it as a slur.

The party has a name, and it's churlish to refuse to user the name. That's my point. That some people do not see it that way doesn't change the possible (IMHO probable) intent and the effect.

One of the most basic courtesies you extend to people is to call them by the name they choose for themselves. Bush has a history of making up nicknames for everyone, a habit which many find endearing, but others find is a way to exert some small power over them. Not all of his nicknames are flattering.

Sorry, Bush knows full well that it matters what you call people.

Posted by: James at January 24, 2007 4:09 PM

"Democrat party" is a slur. Somebody may use it because they think that the actual name of the party is confusing, but they can't use it without the possiblity of the insulting connotation, because of the history of how it's been used. If a word has a history, it has a history. You have to take that into account when you're using it.

The conclusion of a New Yorker article about those two little letters:

In days gone by, the anti-“ic” tic tended to be reined in at the Presidential level. Ronald Reagan never used it in polite company, and George Bush père was too well brought up to use the truncated version of the out party’s name more than sparingly. Not so Bush fils—and not just in e-mails sent to the Party faithful, which he obviously never reads, let alone writes. “It’s time for the leadership in the Democrat Party to start laying out ideas,” he said a few weeks ago, using his own personal mouth. “The Democrat Party showed its true colors during the tax debate,” he said a few months before that. “Nobody from the Democrat Party has actually stood up and called for actually getting rid of the terrorist surveillance program,” he said a week before that. What he meant is anybody’s guess, but his bad manners were impossible to miss. Hard as it is to believe from this distance in time, George W. Bush came to office promising to “change the tone.” That he has certainly done. But, as with so much else, it hasn’t worked out quite the way he promised.

Posted by: Maggie at January 24, 2007 6:36 PM

I see your points but for me the omission of the "ic" has the opposite effect of making the speaker seem less intelligent. Of course, I'm not sure that's possible with our current President.

LOL at the idea of a Republican rebuttal to the SotU, Julie.

Posted by: Mike at January 24, 2007 7:37 PM

I'm starting to think that if he offends them any further, they'll impeach him themselves.

Posted by: Julie at January 25, 2007 10:30 AM

Not as long as the Vice President keeps maintaining that there haven't been any mistakes in Iraq, including the invasion.

Posted by: Mike at January 25, 2007 10:40 AM

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