No surprises in president’s yearly speech

Published 8:49 am Wednesday, January 24, 2007

By Staff
NILES – The money the U.S. has spent on the war in Iraq is making an impact in the Niles community, said Niles Mayor Michael McCauslin.
The president repeated Tuesday in his State of the Union Address his plan to send at least 20,000 more troops to Baghdad and another 4,000 to 5,000 to Afghanistan. In local reaction, McCauslin said the speech was what he expected.
"There were no great revelations from the president," McCauslin said, adding the president's policies have had a direct effect on the Niles community.
"It's like guns and butter," McCauslin said, referring to the continued war in Iraq. He said he has read that $500 billion has been spent on the war effort, and these are funds that could have been spent on Social Security, health care and education.
"$500 billion is a significant sum, but these are the kind of decisions the president and the Congress have to make," the mayor said.
President Bush's comments Tuesday concerning the war in Iraq were not new. However, he did propose new goals to meet in regards to energy and fuel alternatives – emphasizing a need to face "global climate change"- the economy and health care.
Rep. Fred Upton praised the president for his attention to the nation's energy needs and his call for bipartisanship, but offered no comments on the plan for a troop increase in Iraq even though he said one week ago he opposed the "surge" of troops in the Middle East.
"As a senior member of the Subcommittee on Energy and Air Quality, it is imperative that we shine the spotlight on our nation's energy policy and put a greater emphasis on alternative fuels and clean burning technologies," said Upton, R-St. Joseph. "Michigan's farmers, growers, scientists and researchers will all be at the forefront as the nation moves towards energy independence with a greater focus on alternative fuels and new technologies."
President Bush called on Congress to diversify the nation's energy supply with the goal of reducing U.S. gasoline usage by 20 percent in the next 10 years, partly by creating 35 billion gallons of renewable and alternative fuels by 2017. He also promoted doubling the capacity of the Strategic Oil Preserve, which is used to counter the effects a petroleum interruption may have on the country.
"America is on the verge of technological breakthroughs that will enable us to live our lives less dependent on oil," President Bush said. "These technologies will help us become better stewards of the environment – and they will help us to confront the serious challenge of global climate change."
Economic measures the president proposed included balancing the federal budget within five years without tax increases, cutting the number and cost of Congressional earmarks by half by the end of the current session and keeping entitlements like Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid "permanently sound."
The president proposed two initiatives to provide Americans with affordable health insurance, first by offering a standard tax deduction for health insurance that would be similar to the break for dependents. He also added he would like to see states creating innovative ways of providing health care receive federal funding in the form of "affordable choices grants."
Bush's address drew criticism from Michigan Democratic Sen. Carl Levin, who said the president failed to address the country's decrease in manufacturing jobs, and who also called the troop increase a "misguided plan." Levin also said the president's proposal for alternative energy sources was "not up to the task."
"We need nothing less than a comprehensive initiative to create leap-ahead energy technologies, to produce a large number of vehicles that can run on alternative fuels and to level the playing field for our domestic manufacturers," Levin said.
Levin's Democratic partner in the Senate Debbie Stabenow expressed disappointment as well that Bush did not present a policy to protect U.S. manufacturing jobs, and also said some of the president's initiatives were not good for Michigan families. For example, Stabenow said Bush's health care proposal could force new taxes on middle class families' plans.
"I support many of the proposals that the president put forward on energy independence, and I am hopeful that this priority will be reflected in his upcoming budget," Stabenow added.