After two centuries of Presidents delivering the State of the Union to Congress, we’ve gotten used to hearing a one-word summary. The State of the Union is (fill in the blank).
The words “strong” or “resolute” no longer seem to apply as much as “divided” or “frail” this year, so it is probably best that President Bush held it back until the closing moments in his 2007 address.
But I can report to you here today that the State of the Union is…California!
With a Republican chief executive forced to work with a hostile legislative branch, the Washington is looking a lot like California has over the past three years under Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. The question remains as to whether we’re looking at California in 2004 or the Golden State of ‘ought-six.
Like California, the nation is benefiting from a strong economy. Tax receipts to the federal government are coming in ahead of projections, cutting the federal deficit in half. Similar revenue gains have led Governor Schwarzenegger to submit a balanced budget for the first time since the dot-com boom.
Shortly after the November elections, political observers (myself included) suggested that President Bush and Speaker Pelosi look west to California for inspiration on how to play nice in a divided government.
While Speaker Pelosi has yet to follow in the conciliatory footsteps of Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez—instead pushing forward with a radically partisan agenda which I doubt will ever become law – it seems President Bush is reading off the cue cards of Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger’s re-election script.
The domestic issues highlighted by President Bush in his 2007 State of the Union reflect a “progressive libertarian” approach to solving issues traditionally considered the domain of Democrats; he’s taking a page from Arnold.
Bush wants to use market forces to control greenhouse gas emissions and take healthcare decisions out of the hands of the government and employers and put it in the hands of people and their doctors. By proposing to give subventions to those states pursuing universal health insurance, he’s propping up Schwarzenegger’s “third way” to universal healthcare as opposed to those in the California legislature who would just want the government to be the single player.
Bush continues to pursue pension and political reforms – something on which both the President and Schwarzenegger have tried and failed over the course of their administrations. Yet the agenda has narrowed to “pork-busting” at the federal level just as Schwarzenegger has lowered his sights from blowing up the boxes with reapportionment reform to rearranging it on the ship-deck, alongside extended term limits.
We don’t need to “Amend for Arnold” because we have the new George W. Bush, Presidentnator of the United States.
What will determine whether the State of the Union is California 2004 or the Golden State of ’06 is Congressional Democrats’ willingness to play along with an unpopular chief executive. If they look at recent California history, they’ll see that even their poll numbers can benefit by working across the aisle.