Bush promotes economy, better health care
By Bryan Long
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- In his second State of the Union speech, President Bush cited stimulating the nation's economy as the first goal of his administration and urged Congress to practice fiscal restraint as deficits grow.
Bush called on Congress to pass the $674 billion, 10-year economic stimulus and tax cut package he outlined earlier in January and said he would send a budget to Capitol Hill that increases discretionary spending by 4 percent -- "about as much as the average family's income is expected to grow."
"Federal spending should not rise any faster than the paychecks of American families," he said.
Yet Bush also proposed new spending in a variety of areas, such as $400 billion over the next decade for Medicare reform, $1.2 billion in research funding for hydrogen-powered automobiles, $600 million for drug treatment programs.
In the area of national security, Bush announced the formation of a Terrorist Threat Integration Center, based at Central Intelligence Agency headquarters in Langley, Virginia, that would collect and analyze foreign and domestic intelligence. (Full story)
"Our government must have the very best information possible, and we will use it to make sure the right people are in the right places to protect all our citizens," he said.
In addition to the economy, the president named health care and energy policy as his top domestic priorities.
He included a list of programs he described as applying "the compassion of America to the deepest problems of America" and urged Congress to pass his faith-based initiative, which would give religious charities more access to federal funds.
Among the programs: a $450 million initiative to recruit and train mentors to help more than 1 million disadvantaged junior high students and children of prisoners.
"Tonight I ask Congress and the American people to focus the spirit of service and the resources of government on the needs of some of our most vulnerable citizens -- boys and girls trying to grow up without guidance and attention, and children who have to go through a prison gate to be hugged by their mom or dad," he said.
In promoting his economic plan, which Democrats have criticized as favoring the wealthiest taxpayers, Bush said the economy would grow if Americans are taxed less.
"We must have an economy that grows fast enough to employ every man and woman who seeks a job," he said.
"Jobs are created when the economy grows; the economy grows when Americans have more money to spend and invest; and the best and fairest way to make sure Americans have the money is not to tax it away in the first place," he said to applause.
The president acknowledged medical care is too expensive and that many Americans have no coverage at all.
"These problems will not be solved with a nationalized health care system that dictates coverage and rations care," he said.
"Instead, we must work toward a system in which all Americans have a good insurance policy, choose their own doctors, and seniors and low-income Americans receive the help they need."