Cato Institute Scholars Comment on Upcoming State of the Union Address

Jan. 28, 2008

WASHINGTON, Jan. 28 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- In anticipation of President Bush's State of the Union address tonight, Cato Institute scholars comment on the economy, trade, surveillance and education.

David Boaz , executive vice president and author of Politics of Freedom:

"The president ought to use his last year in office to push Washington to face the imminent entitlements tsunami. Three big spending programs--Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid--already consume 40 percent of the federal budget and could easily hit 70 percent in barely two decades. What do Democrats and Republicans propose to do about this crisis? The president's failure to discuss it is a great disappointment. His evasion of this issue is especially troubling in light of his own role in increasing federal spending by a trillion dollars in just six years and his all-out effort to get Congress to pass a huge increase in future Medicare expenditures (the prescription drug benefit bill of 2003)."

Michael Tanner , director of Health and Welfare Studies:

"It's nice that George W. Bush has finally discovered his opposition to earmarks after ignoring them for the past 7 years. But earmarks represent only a tiny fraction of government spending. As the president who gave us the first new entitlement program in 40 years and increased domestic discretionary spending faster than any president since Lyndon Johnson , it's a little late for President Bush to try to claim he is interested in being fiscally conservative."

Daniel Griswold , director of the Center for Trade Policy Studies:

"Like similar agreements, the U.S.-Colombia FTA would eliminate almost all tariffs on trade between the two countries. More than 80 percent of U.S. exports of consumer and industrial products to Colombia would become duty free on enactment, and remaining tariffs would be phased out over next 10 years. The U.S. International Trade Commission estimates the FTA would boost U.S. exports, including a range of agricultural products, by $1 billion a year.

"Beyond trade, the agreement would strengthen our ties to one of our best allies in Latin America. President Uribe has been a bulwark against Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and against Chavez's plans to spread anti-American and anti-democratic socialism throughout the region. Rejecting the agreement would jeopardize our relationship with Colombia and undermine Uribe's credibility."

Sallie James , trade policy analyst:

"Mr. Bush is right to reaffirm the importance of open trade to the American economy, and to remind Congress of the dangers of protectionism. The Bush administration has been admirably consistent in its support for trade liberalizing agreements. With the rhetoric on the campaign trail taking an increasingly trade-skeptic tone, and time running out on the Doha round of global trade negotiations, Mr. Bush has an opportunity to promote a more positive, outward-looking agenda for the remainder of his term in office."

Jim Harper , director of Information Policy Studies:

"In his weekend radio address previewing themes from the State of the Union address, President Bush highlighted his desire for greater ability to 'monitor terrorist communications.' Alas, the legislation he prefers would allow the government to monitor far more communication than that--without any court determining whether it was reasonable. In 1967, the Supreme Court held in Katz v. United States that the privacy of Americans' communications is protected by the Fourth Amendment. Our privacy can be overcome only by a warrant, or in rare emergency circumstances. The ongoing, wholesale communications surveillance the President seeks is far afield from these basic constitutional rules. The FISA law, which sought to strike a balance between Americans' constitutional rights and the need for foreign intelligence, was flouted by the administration, and it now seeks to immunize the telecommunications companies that allegedly broke the law too. Among the goals of the terrorism strategy is to goad governments into shedding their legitimacy. Broad, unsupervised communications surveillance and immunized law-breaking are attacks on the rule of law and capitulations to the terrorism strategy."

Neal McCluskey, associate director of the Center for Educational Freedom:

"President Bush wants to get the No Child Left Behind Act reauthorized so that a major part of his legacy will be about helping children rather than just war. But contrary to the administration's NCLB spin, the law has most likely hurt kids, slowing or ending academic improvements, narrowing curricula, and pushing states to set rock-bottom standards. That's why NCLB faces heated public opposition, why its reauthorization went nowhere last year, and why renewal efforts this year will also almost certainly be DOA. Ultimately, as much as politicians don't want to be accused of leaving children behind, they really don't want to back a political loser."

Andrew Coulson , director of the Center for Educational Freedom:

"I'm sure the president wishes that NCLB was succeeding, but there's now enough accumulated evidence to know that it has failed. U.S. student achievement has either stagnated or declined across subjects and grades since NCLB was enacted, according to the latest international test results, released a couple of months ago by the Program on International Student Assessment (PISA) and the Program on International Reading Literacy Survey (PIRLS). The only way to hold on to the myth that NCLB is working is to ignore these results, which is what most NCLB supporters seem to be doing."

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SOURCE Cato Institute

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