The State of the Union was delivered with pomp and circumstance, offering bold solutions to Americas problems. Despite the rhetoric, it is clear after even a cursory analysis of the Presidents policies that this administration is failing to deal with crises that demand immediate rectification. It seems that the Bush Administrations policies, foreign and domestic, ignore major and pressing issues, a course of action that will undoubtedly force the next generation of Americans to deal with the fallout.
While Bush went to great lengths to address the hostilities in Iraq and the nuclear ambitions of Iran, North Koreas nuclear program was once again left to the wayside. To be clear, the nuclear crisis in North Korea is still a concern of international import. The estimate of the current North Korean stockpile is about 20 nuclear weapons. If nuclear non-proliferation is to be an essential arm of foreign policy, the Bush administration cannot continue to ignore North Korea.
The irony is that nuclear negotiations with Pyongyang should be relatively easy compared to a nuclear agreement with Tehran. The original non-proliferation agreement between the Clinton Administration and Pyongyang collapsed, in large part, due to a failure on the part of the U.S. to deliver on its promises. Construction of light water reactors was slow in getting underway and promised oil deliveries were unreliable.
This is not to justify the actions of the North Korean government, but rather, to challenge the conventional wisdom that negotiations with North Korea are futile. In the past, North Koreas demands in exchange for non-proliferation agreements have been reasonable in scope: security guarantees, economic and infrastructural aid, and political recognition and respect. Although much ground has been lost since then, a sincere effort by the Bush Administration to resume bilateral or multilateral talks may do much to regain that lost ground. If the President and his administration do not act soon, it is the governing generations of tomorrow that will be forced to diffuse an increasingly dire situation.
It is equally ironic that the President advocates fiscal responsibility when talking about Social Security: he has been one of the most fiscally irresponsible Presidents in our history. In 2000, Bush came into an economy that ran a budget surplus, and was ready to begin paying off the looming public debt, yet he criticized the tax-and-spend policies of his predecessor, did away with many taxes on the wealthy, and bulked up federal spending, ushering in an era of spend-and-spend economic policies. In five years, the President has turned a balanced budget into the worst streak of deficits in history, spending some $400 billion more than he taxed each year since 2002.
Unlike the Clinton Administrations spending, which was heavy on education and social programs that have had lasting benefits for the economy, the Bush Administration has spent hundreds of billions of dollars buying bombs and bullets that have, quite literally, vanished into thin air. Given the frightening current deficits, the President and his administration must know that they are condemning future generations of taxpayers to working off the debt produced by their current, unpopular war.
The Bush Administrations policies consistently ignore or offer temporary solutions to such pressing issues as the necessity of improving relations with North Korea and the need for greater fiscal responsibility. As the next generation of Americans who will inherit the unanswered problems of today, we should demand more from our government than empty rhetoric and irresponsible policy.