'State of Our Union Is Confident and Strong'
Byline: THE WASHINGTON TIMES
Excerpts from President Bush's State of the Union address, as prepared for delivery last night to a joint session of Congress:
As a new Congress gathers, all of us in the elected branches of government share a great privilege: We have been placed in office by the votes of the people we serve. And tonight that is a privilege we share with newly elected leaders of Afghanistan, the Palestinian territories, Ukraine and a free and sovereign Iraq.
Two weeks ago, I stood on the steps of this Capitol and renewed the commitment of our nation to the guiding ideal of liberty for all. This evening, I will set forth policies to advance that ideal at home and around the world.
Tonight, with a healthy, growing economy, with more Americans going back to work, with our nation an active force for good in the world - the state of our union is confident and strong. ...
Over the next several months, on issue after issue, let us do what Americans have always done and build a better world for our children and grandchildren.
First, we must be good stewards of this economy, and renew the great institutions on which millions of our fellow citizens rely.
America's economy is the fastest growing of any major industrialized nation. In the past four years, we have provided tax relief to every person who pays income taxes, overcome a recession, opened up new markets abroad, prosecuted corporate criminals, raised homeownership to the highest level in history, and in the last year alone, the United States has added 2.3 million new jobs. When action was needed, the Congress delivered - and the nation is grateful. ...
America's prosperity requires restraining the spending appetite of the federal government. I welcome the bipartisan enthusiasm for spending discipline. So, next week, I will send you a budget that holds the growth of discretionary spending below inflation, makes tax relief permanent and stays on track to cut the deficit in half by 2009. My budget substantially reduces or eliminates more than 150 government programs that are not getting results, or duplicate current efforts, or do not fulfill essential priorities. The principle here is clear: A taxpayer dollar must be spent wisely, or not at all.
To make our economy stronger and more dynamic, we must prepare a rising generation to fill the jobs of the 21st century. Under the No Child Left Behind Act, standards are higher, test scores are on the rise, and we are closing the achievement gap for minority students. Now we must demand better results from our high schools, so every high school diploma is a ticket to success. We will help an additional 200,000 workers to get training for a better career, by reforming our job-training system and strengthening America's community colleges. And we will make it easier for Americans to afford a college education, by increasing the size of Pell Grants.
'Reward, not punish'
To make our economy stronger and more competitive, America must reward, not punish, the efforts and dreams of entrepreneurs. Small business is the path of advancement, especially for women and minorities, so we must free small businesses from needless regulation and protect honest job creators from junk lawsuits. Justice is distorted, and our economy is held back, by irresponsible class actions and frivolous asbestos claims - and I urge Congress to pass legal reforms this year.
To make our economy stronger and more productive, we must make health care more affordable, and give families greater access to good coverage and more control over their health decisions. I ask Congress to move forward on a comprehensive health care agenda - with tax credits to help low-income workers buy insurance, a community health center in every poor county, improved information technology to prevent medical errors and needless costs, association health plans for small businesses and their employees, expanded health savings accounts, and medical-liability reform that will reduce health care costs and make sure patients have the doctors and care they need. …