Gauging the State of the Union

Columbians wait to hear Bush outline the coming year
Wednesday, February 2, 2005 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 11:48 p.m. CDT, Thursday, July 17, 2008

Tonight, President Bush will address Congress, the nation and the world in the first State of the Union address of his second term. The speech serves as the president’s keynote address for the year, an opportunity for him to outline his domestic and foreign policy agendas.

“It all comes back to down-home values.”

John Nielsen, 27

“I think he came up real short on domestic policy, and I don’t agree with his foreign policy.”

Keith Mason, 53

The tradition is rooted in the U.S. Constitution and George Washington’s historic first State of the Union address in 1790, which focused on how to maintain the union of the states and establish the foundation for a successful democracy. Two hundred and fifteen years later, President Bush is likely to discuss the challenges of establishing a democracy in Iraq, the prospect of an independent Palestinian state and the need for Social Security reform.

To help set the stage for the address, the Missourian asked people in Columbia what they thought of the president’s policies in the past year, what they would like to see him focus on this year and how they view the state of the union.

David Kemper

David Kemper, 18, a senior at Hickman High School who cast his first ballot in November, said No Child Left Be-hind legislation has caused teachers to worry more about accountability and made school "more about standardized testing and not about education."

For Kemper, foreign policy is the most pressing issue facing the nation. "As far as the war in Iraq is concerned and the state of our union and stability in terms of foreign affairs - we couldn't be worse off right now," he said. "A lot of people are worried about the possibility of a draft regardless of what George Bush says."

Lakresha Parker

Lakresha Parker, 21, said she's worried about cutbacks in Medicaid and hopes Bush will provide better jobs for low-income familes. "I'm not satisfied, but what choice do we have but to adapt," she said.

The mother of two young children works full-time at Walgreen's part time at McDonald's, putting in about 65 hours each week. Parker has been involved in local programs for young parents, but said there isn't enough money to fully support the parenting skills program she attends. "I'm disappointed," she said. "It's hard to raise a family and get enough money to make ends meet."

George and Julia Young

George Young, 41, and his wife, Julia Young, both own their own businesses and said they're excited about President Bush's proposal to offer investment options for Social Security. As they finished breakfast on Tuesday at Lucy's Café, the Youngs said the ability for the family to get funds from Social Security after a family member dies and the poten-tial for them to hire more employees under proposed changes in Social Security are reasons for their support.

Julia Young also said Bush's plan to reform health care is long overdue. Her father is a doctor and she said his in-surance costs went up $25,000 in one year, despite never having a claim. "Health care has gotten so complicated people just throw up their hands," Julia Young said. The Youngs are confident President Bush has a plan to combat problems in the medical industry and they strongly favor his faith-based initiatives.

Katie Sinclair

Katie Sinclair, 22, doesn't think anything positive can come from another four years of Bush's leadership. She takes issue with his policy of not allowing gay marriage and the fact that the U.S. is in Iraq. As she rung up organic chips and bananas for a customer at Clover's Natural Foods, Sinclair said Bush is out of touch with the people and his ac-tions in the international arena reflect a belief that "he isn't proud of the land he is in charge of."

Keith Mason

Keith Mason, 53, said the past year was not what Bush promised when he took office four years ago. "I think he came up real short on domestic policy, and I don't agree with his foreign policy. I think we're in a situation where we can't possibly win in Iraq."

Mason said he has serious concerns about the reasons the United States is involved in the war.

"I see it as oil," he said. "I've always thought they planned on dividing Iraq into three parts - regular, unleaded, super. That's what it's all about."

Another big concern for Mason is health care.

"How can we be a country the size we are and spend so much money on prescription medications to the point where people have to actually order their medications from out of the country?" he asked. "We produce all these medications over here, yet our own citizens have to go to another country to get a break on them. It doesn't make sense."

Donald Rose

Donald Rose, 56, is a retired senior accountant at MU who is well aware of medical costs, given that he has had a kidney transplant.

"The university has good benefits, so even though I had a transplant, I have good health care," he said. "If I didn't have it from the university, it would be a concern."

Rose's drug bill is $3,500 a month. He also has a 90-year-old father on Medicaid. He said both of them are taken care of, but others are not so lucky. "In my travels, I've talk to older people who really can't retire," he said. "I know a woman who sells jewelry to supplement her income and pay the drug bills."

Rose also expressed concern about the economy and the lack of jobs in the United States.

"Too many jobs are going to foreign countries," he said. "As I see it, there aren't enough workers, there are too many thinkers."

Facts of the Union

Following are some facts about the current state of the union.

  • Social Security is the only source of income for one-fifth of people who are 65 or older.
  • 30 million retired workers receive Social Security benefits.
  • -- Social Security Administration

  • 45 million Americans have no health care.
  • -- U.S. Census Bureau

  • 12.5 percent of Americans live in poverty.
  • -- U.S. Census Bureau

  • The federal budget deficit is projected to be $521 billion for the 2004 fiscal year.
  • -- White House Web site

  • Number of Americans unemployed: 8.0 million
  • -- U.S. Department of Labor

  • The 2005 proposed budget for the Department of Education is $57.3 billion.
  • The 2005 proposed budget for the Department of Defense is $401.7 billion.
  • -- White House Web site

    -- Compiled by M. Zapp

    Becky Asher

    Becky Asher, 28, co-owner of Village Books on Paris Road, wants to see policies in the next year that "will instill self-responsibility and a work ethic that is missing in this generation" and hold the unemployed accountable to actively seek jobs.

    Asher also said that education should be a much larger priority for the Bush administration. "We have created wonderful sports programs, which are great, but they have been created at the expense of fine arts and music," she said. Asher is critical of the No Child Left Behind legislation, which she said has hurt, rather than helped, education. "We are lowering standards and passing students through rather than getting everyone up at a higher level."

    Rick Pinnell

    Rick Pinnell, 51, gave the state of the union a grade between C- and D+ Tuesday morning at the Bull Pen Cafe. Pinnell,, a local retail manager, said Bush needs to address the economy first because government spending is going to aggravate inflation. Putting a stop to pork-barrel spending, he said, would be a good place to start. Pinnell doesn't have a problem with the privatization of Social Security, but he cautioned that it must be handled carefully. "It could be a big screw-up," he said. "Lot's of people don't know how to handle their money," Pinnell said in regards to the President's plan to allow younger individuals to invest a portion of their Social Security in private accounts. On the topic of foreign policy, Pinnell is concerned the President has no exit strategy for Iraq. "I'm concerned so much money is spent on contactors and not enough is being spent on our troops bringing independence to Iraq," he said.

    Phil Overeem

    Phil Overeem, an English teacher at Hickman High School, would like Bush to make education a higher priority. "We're going to regret yielding so much to special interests groups, particularly corporate America and the religious right," Overeem said. "Those two things are antithetical to what the country's supposed to be."

    Overeem is skeptical of Bush's Social Security plan. "It seems like there's this attitude toward programs that are designed to help elderly and disabled people that any civilized country would want to have (and the administration is) looking at them like this is stupid, we don't need this." He said he won't watch the speech because "it is not even his words - it's all scripted. I can't even watch him - his smugness and unfamiliarity with eloquent American speech cannot be overstated."

    The Iraqi elections were a positive development, Overseem said, but he believes the administration's approach to foreign policy has "done tons of damage to our position in the international community."

    At the Missourian's request, Chris Fischer asked students in his ninth-grade honors government and economics class at West Junior High School what they think the president should say. Here are three of their responses:

    If I were the president, in my State of the Union address I would state my immediate resignation because I am not competent as a leader of the country. I put my religion too much into my leadership (can we say "unconstitutional"?), and I can't admit my blame for things that are obviously my fault. I need to FINALLY state that the war in Iraq was a mistake, and I need to end the blatant discrimination that is the abolition of gay and lesbian marriage.--Alex Taylor

    On account of the State of Union Address being a speech that is very important to the well-being of America, it is important that the president talk about the most essential topics. I believe that it is very vital that the war in Iraq be recognized because it is such a controversial issue. I agree with the war in Iraq, so I would definitely talk about that in my speech. Furthermore, I think it is necessary to talk about moral issues such as abortion, gay marriage, prayer in schools, etc. because those seem very controversial issues today because I think that people are starting to see the importance of issues such as these. -- Sarah Anthony

    If I were the president of the United States of America and I was giving the State of the Union address in 2005 I would apologize to American military families, the Afghan people and the Iraqi people for my lack of judgment that caused them unnecessary worry, sorrow, and cost some their lives. I would state that it was unethical to use the Sept. 11 attacks as a reason to go to war in Iraq, when in fact the two are not linked at all. I would ask forgiveness from the American people for my abuse of power that has caused reduced environmental regulations, giving profit to my friends, putting my friends in powerful positions even though they have obvious conflict of interests. I would apologize for my tax cuts that have given money to the top 1 percent while causing the abolishment of many public services that has positively affected the majority of Americans, the working and middle class. -- Rachel Zemke

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