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George W. Bush

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia   (Redirected from George W Bush) Jump to: navigation, search This article is about the 43rd President of the United States. For his father, the 41st President, see George H. W. Bush. For the American settler, see George Washington Bush. George W. Bush George-W-Bush.jpeg 43rd President of the United States In office
January 20, 2001 – January 20, 2009 Vice President Dick Cheney Preceded by Bill Clinton Succeeded by Barack Obama 46th Governor of Texas In office
January 17, 1995 – December 21, 2000 Lieutenant
  • Bob Bullock
  • Rick Perry
Preceded by Ann Richards Succeeded by Rick Perry Personal details Born George Walker Bush
( 1946-07-06 ) July 6, 1946 (age 71)
New Haven, Connecticut, U.S. Political party Republican Spouse(s) Laura Welch ( m.   1977 ) Relations See Bush family Children
  • Barbara
  • Jenna
  • George H. W. Bush
  • Barbara Pierce
Residence Dallas, Texas, U.S. Alma mater
  • Phillips Academy
  • Yale University (BA)
  • Harvard University (MBA)
  • Businessman
  • politician
Signature Cursive signature in ink Website
  • Official website
  • George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum
  • George W. Bush Presidential Center
  • The White House (Archived)
Military service Nickname(s)
  • "Dubya"
  • "GWB" [1]
Service/branch   United States Air Force
  • Texas Air National Guard patch.png Texas Air National Guard
  • Shield of the Alabama Air National Guard.jpg Alabama Air National Guard
Years of service 1968–74 Rank US Air Force O2 shoulderboard rotated.svg First lieutenant Unit
  • 147th Reconnaissance Wing
  • 187th Fighter Wing
  • Air Force Pilot's Badge
  • Outstanding Unit ribbon.svg Outstanding Unit Award
  • National Defense Service Medal ribbon.svg National Defense Service Medal
  • USAF Marksmanship ribbon.svg Small Arms Expert Marksmanship Ribbon [2]
George-W-Bush.jpeg This article is part of
a series about
George W. Bush
  • Political positions
  • Electoral history
  • Early life
  • Career
  • Family
  • Public image
  • Governor of Texas
  • Governorship

43rd President of the United States

  • Presidency
    • Timeline


  • Domestic
  • Economic
  • Foreign
    • Bush Doctrine
    • International trips
  • Legislation & Programs
  • Pardons
  • Space


  • Cabinet
  • Judicial Appointments

First term

  • Campaign for the Presidency
    • 2000 General election
    • Primaries
    • Bush v. Gore
    • Florida
  • 1st inauguration
  • September 11 attacks
  • War on Terrorism
  • War in Afghanistan
  • Invasion of Iraq
  • Email controversy

Second term

  • Re-election campaign
    • 2004 General election
    • Primaries
  • 2nd inauguration
  • War in Iraq
  • State of the Union, 2006
  • 2007 Iraq surge
  • Dismissal of U.S. attorneys controversy
  • Great Recession
    • Stimulus


  • Presidential Library
  • Bibliography
    • Decision Points
    • 41: A Portrait of My Father
    • Portraits of Courage
  • Clinton Bush Haiti Fund
  • One America Appeal
Seal of the President of the United States.svg
  • v
  • t
  • e

George Walker Bush (born July 6, 1946) is an American politician who served as the 43rd President of the United States from 2001 to 2009. He was also the 46th Governor of Texas from 1995 to 2000. After graduating from Yale University in 1968 and Harvard Business School in 1975, he worked in the oil industry. Bush married Laura Welch in 1977 and ran unsuccessfully for the House of Representatives shortly thereafter. He later co-owned the Texas Rangers baseball team before defeating Ann Richards in the 1994 Texas gubernatorial election. Bush was elected president in 2000 when he defeated Democratic rival Al Gore after a close and controversial win that involved a recount in Florida. He became the fourth person to be elected president while receiving fewer popular votes than his opponent. [3]

Bush is a member of a prominent political family and is the eldest son of Barbara and George H. W. Bush, the 41st President of the United States. He is only the second president to assume the nation's highest office after his father, following the lead of John Quincy Adams. [4] His brother, Jeb Bush, a former Governor of Florida, was a candidate for the Republican presidential nomination in the 2016 presidential election. His paternal grandfather, Prescott Bush, was a United States Senator from Connecticut.

The September 11 terrorist attacks occurred eight months into Bush's first term as president. Bush responded with what became known as the Bush Doctrine: launching a "War on Terror", an international military campaign that included the war in Afghanistan in 2001 and the Iraq War in 2003. He also promoted policies on the economy, health care, education, Social Security reform, and amending the Constitution to prohibit same-sex marriage. [5] He signed into law broad tax cuts, the Patriot Act, the No Child Left Behind Act, the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act, Medicare prescription drug benefits for seniors, and funding for the AIDS relief program known as PEPFAR. His tenure included national debates on immigration, Social Security, electronic surveillance, and torture.

In the 2004 Presidential race, Bush defeated Democratic Senator John Kerry in another relatively close election. After his re-election, Bush received increasingly heated criticism from across the political spectrum [6] [7] [8] for his handling of the Iraq War, Hurricane Katrina, [9] [10] [11] and other challenges. Amid this criticism, the Democratic Party regained control of Congress in the 2006 elections. In December 2007, the United States entered its longest post-World War II recession, often referred to as the "Great Recession", prompting the Bush administration to obtain congressional passage of multiple economic programs intended to preserve the country's financial system. Nationally, Bush was both one of the most popular and unpopular presidents in history, having received the highest recorded presidential approval ratings in the wake of the September 11 attacks, as well as one of the lowest approval ratings during the 2008 financial crisis. [12]

Bush left office in 2009 and returned to Texas, where he purchased a home in Dallas. In 2010, he published his memoir, Decision Points . [13] His presidential library was opened in 2013. His presidency has been ranked among the worst in historians' polls that were published in the late 2000s and 2010s. [14] [15] [16]


  • 1 Early life and career
    • 1.1 Education
    • 1.2 Family and personal life
    • 1.3 Military career
    • 1.4 Business career
    • 1.5 Early political involvement
  • 2 Governor of Texas (1995–2000)
  • 3 Presidential campaigns
    • 3.1 2000 presidential candidacy
      • 3.1.1 Primary
      • 3.1.2 General election
    • 3.2 2004 presidential candidacy
  • 4 Presidency (2001–2009)
    • 4.1 Domestic policy
      • 4.1.1 Economic policy
      • 4.1.2 Education and health
      • 4.1.3 Social services and Social Security
      • 4.1.4 Environmental policies
      • 4.1.5 Energy policies
      • 4.1.6 Stem cell research and first veto
      • 4.1.7 Genetic Nondiscrimination
      • 4.1.8 Immigration
      • 4.1.9 Hurricane Katrina
      • 4.1.10 Midterm dismissal of U.S. attorneys
      • 4.1.11 Purge of the Central Intelligence Agency
    • 4.2 Foreign policy
      • 4.2.1 September 11 attacks
      • 4.2.2 War on Terrorism
      • 4.2.3 Afghanistan invasion
      • 4.2.4 Iraq invasion
      • 4.2.5 Surveillance
      • 4.2.6 Interrogation policies
      • 4.2.7 North Korea condemnation
      • 4.2.8 Syria sanctions
      • 4.2.9 Africa
      • 4.2.10 Assassination attempt
      • 4.2.11 Other issues
    • 4.3 Judicial appointments
      • 4.3.1 Supreme Court
      • 4.3.2 Other courts
    • 4.4 Cultural and political image
      • 4.4.1 Domestic
        • Image
        • Job approval
      • 4.4.2 Foreign perceptions
      • 4.4.3 Acknowledgments and dedications
    • 4.5 Reception
  • 5 Post-presidency (2009–present)
    • 5.1 Residence
    • 5.2 Publications and appearances
    • 5.3 Collaborations
    • 5.4 Art
  • 6 Legacy
  • 7 See also
  • 8 References
  • 9 Further reading
  • 10 External links

Early life and career

Main article: Early life of George W. Bush George W. Bush with his parents, Barbara and George H. W. Bush, c. 1947

George Walker Bush was born on July 6, 1946, at Grace-New Haven Hospital (now Yale–New Haven Hospital) in New Haven, Connecticut, while his father was a student at Yale. [17] He was the first child of George Herbert Walker Bush and his wife, the former Barbara Pierce. He was raised in Midland and Houston, Texas, with four siblings, Jeb, Neil, Marvin and Dorothy. Another younger sister, Robin, died from leukemia at the age of three in 1953. [18] His grandfather, Prescott Bush, was a U.S. Senator from Connecticut. [19] His father, George H.W. Bush, was Ronald Reagan's Vice President from 1981 to 1989 and the 41st U.S. President from 1989 to 1993. Bush has English and some German ancestry, along with more distant Dutch, Welsh, Irish, French, and Scottish roots. [20]


Bush attended public schools in Midland, Texas, until the family moved to Houston after he had completed seventh grade. He then spent two years at The Kinkaid School, a prep school in Houston. [21]

Bush attended high school at Phillips Academy, a boarding school in Andover, Massachusetts, where he played baseball and was the head cheerleader during his senior year. [22] [23] He attended Yale University (coincidentally located at his place of birth in New Haven, Connecticut) from 1964 to 1968, graduating with a Bachelor of Arts degree in history. [24] During this time, he was a cheerleader and a member of the Delta Kappa Epsilon, serving as the president of the fraternity during his senior year. [25] [26] [27] Bush became a member of the Skull and Bones society as a senior. [28] Bush was a rugby union player and was on Yale's 1st XV. [29] He characterized himself as an average student. [30] His GPA during his first three years at Yale was 77, and he had a similar average under a nonnumeric rating system in his final year. [31]

In the fall of 1973, Bush entered Harvard Business School. He graduated in 1975 with an MBA degree. He is the only U.S. president to have earned an MBA. [32]

Family and personal life

See also: Bush family

While Bush was at a backyard barbecue in 1977, friends introduced him to Laura Welch, a schoolteacher and librarian. After a three-month courtship, she accepted his marriage proposal and they wed on November 5 of that year. [33] The couple settled in Midland, Texas. Bush left his family's Episcopal Church to join his wife's United Methodist Church. [34] On November 25, 1981, Laura Bush gave birth to fraternal twin daughters, Barbara and Jenna. [33]

George and Laura Bush with their daughters Jenna and Barbara, 1990

Prior to getting married, Bush struggled with multiple episodes of alcohol abuse. [35] In one instance on September 4, 1976, he was arrested near his family's summer home in Kennebunkport, Maine for driving under the influence of alcohol. He pleaded guilty, was fined $150, and his Maine driver's license was briefly suspended. [36] Bush said his wife has had a stabilizing effect on his life, [33] and he attributes her influence to his 1986 decision to give up alcohol. [37] While Governor of Texas, Bush said of his wife, "I saw an elegant, beautiful woman who turned out not only to be elegant and beautiful, but very smart and willing to put up with my rough edges, and I must confess has smoothed them off over time." [33]

Bush has been an avid reader throughout his adult life, preferring biographies and histories. [38] During his time as president, Bush read the Bible daily. [39] He also read 14 Lincoln biographies, and during the last three years of his presidency, he reportedly read 186 books. Walt Harrington, a journalist, recalled seeing "books by John Fowles, F. Scott Fitzgerald, James Joyce, and Gore Vidal lying about, as well as biographies of Willa Cather and Queen Victoria" in his home when Bush was a Texas oilman. Other activities include cigar smoking and golf. [40] Since leaving the White House, Bush has also taken up oil painting. [41]

Military career

Main article: George W. Bush military service controversy See also: Killian documents controversy and Killian documents authenticity issues Lt. George W. Bush in the Texas Air National Guard, 1968

In May 1968, Bush was commissioned into the Texas Air National Guard. [42] After two years of training in active-duty service, [43] he was assigned to Houston, flying Convair F-102s with the 147th Reconnaissance Wing out of the Ellington Field Joint Reserve Base. [42] [44] Critics, including former Democratic National Committee Chairman Terry McAuliffe, have alleged that Bush was favorably treated due to his father's political standing as a member of the House of Representatives, citing his selection as a pilot despite his low pilot aptitude test scores and his irregular attendance. [42] In June 2005, the United States Department of Defense released all the records of Bush's Texas Air National Guard service, which remain in its official archives. [45]

In late 1972 and early 1973, he drilled with the 187th Fighter Wing of the Alabama Air National Guard. He had moved to Montgomery, Alabama, to work on the unsuccessful U.S. Senate campaign of Republican Winton M. Blount. [46] [47] In 1972, Bush was suspended from flying for failure to take a scheduled physical exam. [48] He was honorably discharged from the Air Force Reserve on November 21, 1974. [49]

Business career

Main article: Professional life of George W. Bush

In 1977, Bush established Arbusto Energy, a small oil exploration company, although it did not begin operations until the following year. [50] [51] He later changed the name to Bush Exploration. In 1984, his company merged with the larger Spectrum 7, and Bush became chairman. [52] The company was hurt by decreased oil prices, and it folded into HKN, Inc., [52] [53] with Bush becoming a member of HKN's board of directors. [52] Questions of possible insider trading involving HKN arose, but a Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) investigation concluded that the information Bush had at the time of his stock sale was not sufficient to constitute insider trading. [52] [54]

In April 1989, Bush arranged for a group of investors to purchase a controlling interest in the Texas Rangers baseball franchise for $89M and invested $500K himself to start. He then served as managing general partner for five years. [55] He actively led the team's projects and regularly attended its games, often choosing to sit in the open stands with fans. [56] Bush's sale of his shares in the Rangers in 1998 brought him over $15 million from his initial $800,000 investment. [57]

Early political involvement

George W. Bush with his father outside the White House, April 29, 1992

In 1978, Bush ran for the House of Representatives from Texas's 19th congressional district. The retiring member, George H. Mahon, had held the district for the Democratic Party since 1935. Bush's opponent, Kent Hance, portrayed him as out of touch with rural Texans, and Bush lost the election with 46.8 percent of the vote to Hance's 53.2 percent. [58]

Bush and his family moved to Washington, D.C., in 1988 to work on his father's campaign for the U.S. presidency. [59] [60] He served as a campaign advisor and liaison to the media, and assisted his father by campaigning across the country. [52] In December 1991, Bush was one of seven people named by his father to run his father's 1992 presidential re-election campaign, as a "campaign advisor". [61] The previous month, his father had asked him to tell White House chief of staff John H. Sununu that he should resign. [62]

Governor of Texas (1995–2000)

Main article: Governorship of George W. Bush Governor Bush (right) with father, former president George H. W. Bush and wife, Laura, in 1997

Bush declared his candidacy for the 1994 Texas gubernatorial election at the same time that his brother Jeb sought the governorship of Florida. His campaign focused on four themes: welfare reform, tort reform, crime reduction, and education improvement. [52] Bush's campaign advisers were Karen Hughes, Joe Allbaugh, and Karl Rove. [63]

After easily winning the Republican primary, Bush faced popular Democratic incumbent Governor Ann Richards. [52] [64] In the course of the campaign, Bush pledged to sign a bill allowing Texans to obtain permits to carry concealed weapons. Richards had vetoed the bill, but Bush signed it into law after he became governor. [65] According to The Atlantic Monthly , the race "featured a rumor that she was a lesbian, along with a rare instance of such a tactic's making it into the public record – when a regional chairman of the Bush campaign allowed himself, perhaps inadvertently, to be quoted criticizing Richards for 'appointing avowed homosexual activists' to state jobs". [66] The Atlantic , and others, connected the lesbian rumor to Karl Rove, [67] but Rove denied being involved. [68] Bush won the general election with 53.5 percent against Richards' 45.9 percent. [69]

Bush used a budget surplus to push through Texas's largest tax-cut, $2 billion. [63] He extended government funding for organizations providing education of the dangers of alcohol and drug use and abuse, and helping to reduce domestic violence. [70] Critics contended that during his tenure, Texas ranked near the bottom in environmental evaluations. Supporters pointed to his efforts to raise the salaries of teachers and improve educational test scores. [52]

In 1999, Bush signed a law that required electric retailers to buy a certain amount of energy from renewable sources (RPS), [71] [72] [73] which helped Texas eventually become the leading producer of wind powered electricity in the U.S. [74] [75] [76]

In 1998, Bush won re-election with a record [52] 69 percent of the vote. [77] He became the first governor in Texas history to be elected to two consecutive four-year terms. [52] For most of Texas history, governors served two-year terms; a constitutional amendment extended those terms to four years starting in 1975. [78] In his second term, Bush promoted faith-based organizations and enjoyed high approval ratings. [52] He proclaimed June 10, 2000, to be Jesus Day in Texas, a day on which he "urge[d] all Texans to answer the call to serve those in need". [79]

Throughout Bush's first term, he was the focus of national attention as a potential future presidential candidate. Following his re-election, speculation soared, and within a year he decided to seek the 2000 Republican presidential nomination. [52]

Presidential campaigns

2000 presidential candidacy

Main article: United States presidential election, 2000 Primary George W. Bush in Concord, New Hampshire, signing to be a candidate for president

Incumbent Democratic president Bill Clinton was completing his second and final term, and the field for nomination for President of both parties was wide open. Bush was the Governor of Texas in June 1999 when he announced his candidacy for President of the United States. He entered a large field of hopefuls for the Republican Party presidential nomination that included John McCain, Alan Keyes, Steve Forbes, Gary Bauer, Orrin Hatch, Elizabeth Dole, Dan Quayle, Pat Buchanan, Lamar Alexander, John Kasich, and Bob Smith.

Bush portrayed himself as a compassionate conservative, implying he was more centrist than other Republicans. He campaigned on a platform that included bringing integrity and honor back to the White House, increasing the size of the United States Armed Forces, cutting taxes, improving education, and aiding minorities. [52] By early 2000, the race had centered on Bush and McCain. [52]

Bush won the Iowa caucuses, and although he was heavily favored to win the New Hampshire primary, he trailed McCain by 19 percent and lost that primary. Despite this, Bush regained momentum, and according to political observers, he effectively became the front runner after the South Carolina primary—which according to The Boston Globe —made history for his campaign's negativity. The New York Times described it as a smear campaign. [80] [81] [82]

General election 2000 electoral vote results

On July 25, 2000, Bush surprised some observers when he selected Dick Cheney—a former White House Chief of Staff, U.S. Representative, and Secretary of Defense—to be his running mate. At the time, Cheney was serving as head of Bush's Vice-Presidential search committee. Soon after at the 2000 Republican National Convention, Bush and Cheney were officially nominated by the Republican Party.

Bush continued to campaign across the country and touted his record as Governor of Texas. [52] During his campaign, Bush criticized his Democratic opponent, incumbent Vice President Al Gore, over gun control and taxation. [83]

When the election returns were tallied on November 7, Bush had won 29 states, including Florida. The closeness of the Florida outcome led to a recount. [52] The initial recount also went to Bush, but the outcome was tied up in lower courts for a month until eventually reaching the U.S. Supreme Court. [84] On December 9, in the controversial Bush v. Gore ruling, [85] the Court reversed a Florida Supreme Court decision that had ordered a third count, and stopped an ordered statewide hand recount based on the argument that the use of different standards among Florida's counties violated the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. [52] The machine recount showed that Bush had won the Florida vote by a margin of 537 votes out of six million cast. [86] Although he had received 543,895 fewer individual nationwide votes than Gore, Bush won the election, receiving 271 electoral votes to Gore's 266 (Gore's statewide victories had electoral votes tallying 267; however, one of Gore's pledged electors abstained, rendering the official tally at 266). Bush was the first person to win an American presidential election with fewer popular votes than another candidate since Benjamin Harrison in 1888. [86]

2004 presidential candidacy

Main article: United States presidential election, 2004 George W. Bush speaks at a campaign rally in 2004 2004 electoral vote results

In his 2004 bid for re-election, Bush commanded broad support in the Republican Party and did not encounter a primary challenge. He appointed Ken Mehlman as campaign manager, and Karl Rove devised a political strategy . [87] Bush and the Republican platform emphasized a strong commitment to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, [88] support for the USA PATRIOT Act, [89] a renewed shift in policy for constitutional amendments banning abortion and same-sex marriage, [88] [90] reforming Social Security to create private investment accounts, [88] creation of an ownership society, [88] and opposing mandatory carbon emissions controls. [91] Bush also called for the implementation of a guest worker program for immigrants, [88] which was criticized by conservatives. [92]

The Bush campaign advertised across the U.S. against Democratic candidates, including Bush's emerging opponent, Massachusetts Senator John Kerry. Kerry and other Democrats attacked Bush on the Iraq War, and accused him of failing to stimulate the economy and job growth. The Bush campaign portrayed Kerry as a staunch liberal who would raise taxes and increase the size of government. The Bush campaign continuously criticized Kerry's seemingly contradictory statements on the war in Iraq, [52] and argued that Kerry lacked the decisiveness and vision necessary for success in the War on Terror.

In the election, Bush carried 31 of 50 states, receiving a total of 286 electoral votes. He won an absolute majority of the popular vote (50.7 percent to his opponent's 48.3 percent). [93] Bush's father George H.W. Bush was the previous president who won an absolute majority of the popular vote; he accomplished that feat in the 1988 election. Additionally, it was the first time since Herbert Hoover's election in 1928 that a Republican president was elected alongside re-elected Republican majorities in both Houses of Congress.

Presidency (2001–2009)

Main article: Presidency of George W. Bush President Bush addressing the media at the Pentagon, September 17, 2001

Bush had originally outlined an ambitious domestic agenda, but his priorities were significantly altered following the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. [94] Wars were waged in Afghanistan and Iraq, and there were significant domestic debates regarding immigration, healthcare, Social Security, economic policy, and treatment of terrorist detainees. Over an eight-year period, Bush's once-high approval ratings [95] steadily declined, while his disapproval numbers increased significantly. [96] In 2007, the United States entered the longest post-World War II recession. [97]

Domestic policy

Main article: Domestic policy of the George W. Bush administration Economic policy Main article: Economic policy of the George W. Bush administration

Bush took office during a period of economic recession in the wake of the bursting of the dot-com bubble. [98] The terrorist attacks also impacted the economy. His administration increased federal government spending from $1.789 trillion to $2.983 trillion (60 percent) while revenues increased from $2.025 trillion to $2.524 trillion (from 2000 to 2008). Individual income tax revenues increased by 14 percent, corporate tax revenues by 50 percent, customs and duties by 40 percent. Discretionary defense spending was increased by 107 percent, discretionary domestic spending by 62 percent, Medicare spending by 131 percent, social security by 51 percent, and income security spending by 130 percent. Cyclically adjusted, revenues rose by 35 percent and spending by 65 percent. [99]

President Bush signing a $1.35 trillion tax cut into law, June 7, 2001

The increase in spending was more than under any predecessor since Lyndon B. Johnson. [100] The number of economic regulation governmental workers increased by 91,196. [101]

The surplus in fiscal year 2000 was $237 billion—the third consecutive surplus and the largest surplus ever. [102] In 2001, Bush's budget estimated that there would be a $5.6 trillion surplus over the next ten years. [103] Facing congressional opposition, Bush held townhall style meetings across the U.S. in order to increase public support for his plan for a $1.35 trillion tax cut program—one of the largest tax cuts in U.S. history. [52] Bush argued that unspent government funds should be returned to taxpayers, saying "the surplus is not the government's money. The surplus is the people's money." [52] Federal Reserve chairman Alan Greenspan warned of a recession and Bush stated that a tax cut would stimulate the economy and create jobs. [104] Treasury Secretary Paul H. O'Neill, opposed some of the tax cuts on the basis that they would contribute to budget deficits and undermine Social Security. [105] O'Neill disputes the claim, made in Bush's book Decision Points , that he never openly disagreed with him on planned tax cuts. [106] By 2003, the economy showed signs of improvement, though job growth remained stagnant. [52] Another tax cut program was passed that year.

During the 2001 to 2008 years, GDP grew at an average annual rate of 2.125 percent, [107] less than for past business cycles. [108]

Bush entered office with the Dow Jones Industrial Average at 10,587, and the average peaked in October 2007 at over 14,000. When Bush left office, the average was at 7,949, one of the lowest levels of his presidency. [109]

Deficit and debt increases 2001–2009. Gross debt has increased over $500 billion each year since FY2003.

Unemployment originally rose from 4.2 percent in January 2001 to 6.3 percent in June 2003, but subsequently dropped to 4.5 percent as of July 2007. [110] Adjusted for inflation, median household income dropped by $1,175 between 2000 and 2007, [111] while Professor Ken Homa of Georgetown University has noted that "Median real after-tax household income went up 2 percent". [112] The poverty rate increased from 11.3 percent in 2000 to 12.3 percent in 2006 after peaking at 12.7 percent in 2004. [113] By October 2008, due to increases in spending, [114] the national debt had risen to $11.3 trillion, [115] an increase of over 100 percent from 2000 when the debt was only $5.6 trillion. [116] [117] Most debt was accumulated as a result of what became known as the "Bush tax cuts" and increased national security spending. [118] In March 2006, then-Senator Barack Obama said when he voted against raising the debt ceiling: "The fact that we are here today to debate raising America's debt limit is a sign of leadership failure." [119] By the end of Bush's presidency, unemployment climbed to 7.2 percent. [120]

In December 2007, the United States entered the longest post–World War II recession, [97] which included a housing market correction, a subprime mortgage crisis, soaring oil prices, and a declining dollar value. [121] In February, 63,000 jobs were lost, a five-year record. [122] [123] To aid with the situation, Bush signed a $170 billion economic stimulus package which was intended to improve the economic situation by sending tax rebate checks to many Americans and providing tax breaks for struggling businesses. The Bush administration pushed for significantly increased regulation of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac in 2003, [124] and after two years, the regulations passed the House but died in the Senate. Many Republican senators, as well as influential members of the Bush Administration, feared that the agency created by these regulations would merely be mimicking the private sector's risky practices. [125] [126] [127] In September 2008, the crisis became much more serious beginning with the government takeover of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac followed by the collapse of Lehman Brothers and a federal bailout of American International Group for $85 billion. [128]

Many economists and world governments determined that the situation had become the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression. [129] [130] Additional regulation over the housing market would have been beneficial, according to former Federal Reserve chairman Alan Greenspan. [131] Bush, meanwhile, proposed a financial rescue plan to buy back a large portion of the U.S. mortgage market. [132] Vince Reinhardt, a former Federal Reserve economist now at the American Enterprise Institute, said "it would have helped for the Bush administration to empower the folks at Treasury and the Federal Reserve and the comptroller of the currency and the FDIC to look at these issues more closely", and additionally, that it would have helped "for Congress to have held hearings". [126]

In November 2008, over 500,000 jobs were lost, which marked the largest loss of jobs in the United States in 34 years. [133] The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that in the last four months of 2008, 1.9 million jobs were lost. [134] By the end of 2008, the U.S. had lost a total of 2.6 million jobs. [135]

Education and health

Bush undertook a number of educational agendas, such as increasing the funding for the National Science Foundation and National Institutes of Health in his first years of office, and creating education programs to strengthen the grounding in science and mathematics for American high school students. Funding for the NIH was cut in 2006, the first such cut in 36 years, due to rising inflation. [136]

President Bush signing the No Child Left Behind Act into law, January 8, 2002

One of the administration's early major initiatives was the No Child Left Behind Act, which aimed to measure and close the gap between rich and poor student performance, provide options to parents with students in low-performing schools, and target more federal funding to low-income schools. This landmark education initiative passed with broad bipartisan support, including that of Senator Ted Kennedy of Massachusetts. [137] It was signed into law by Bush in early 2002. [138] Many contend that the initiative has been successful, as cited by the fact that students in the U.S. have performed significantly better on state reading and math tests since Bush signed "No Child Left Behind" into law. [139] Critics argue that it is underfunded [140] and that NCLBA's focus on "high-stakes testing" and quantitative outcomes is counterproductive. [141]

After being re-elected, Bush signed into law a Medicare drug benefit program that, according to Jan Crawford, resulted in "the greatest expansion in America's welfare state in forty years;" the bill's costs approached $7 trillion. [142] In 2007, Bush opposed and vetoed State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) legislation, which was added by the Democrats onto a war funding bill and passed by Congress. The SCHIP legislation would have significantly expanded federally funded health care benefits and plans to children of some low-income families from about six million to ten million children. It was to be funded by an increase in the cigarette tax. [143] Bush viewed the legislation as a move toward socialized health care, and asserted that the program could benefit families making as much as $83,000 per year who did not need the help. [144]

Social services and Social Security

Following Republican efforts to pass the Medicare Act of 2003, Bush signed the bill, which included major changes to the Medicare program by providing beneficiaries with some assistance in paying for prescription drugs, while relying on private insurance for the delivery of benefits. [145] The retired persons lobby group AARP worked with the Bush Administration on the program and gave their endorsement. Bush said the law, estimated to cost $400 billion over the first ten years, would give the elderly "better choices and more control over their health care". [146]

President Bush discussing Social Security reform at the Lake Nona YMCA Family Center in Orlando, Florida, March 18, 2005

Bush began his second term by outlining a major initiative to "reform" Social Security, [147] which was facing record deficit projections beginning in 2005. Bush made it the centerpiece of his domestic agenda despite opposition from some in the U.S. Congress. [147] In his 2005 State of the Union Address, Bush discussed the potential impending bankruptcy of the program and outlined his new program, which included partial privatization of the system, personal Social Security accounts, and options to permit Americans to divert a portion of their Social Security tax (FICA) into secured investments. [147] Democrats opposed the proposal to partially privatize the system. [147]

Bush embarked on a 60-day national tour, campaigning for his initiative in media events known as "Conversations on Social Security", in an attempt to gain public support. [148] Nevertheless, public support for the proposal declined [149] and the House Republican leadership decided not to put Social Security reform on the priority list for the remainder of their 2005 legislative agenda. [150] The proposal's legislative prospects were further diminished by the fall of 2005 political fallout from Hurricane Katrina. [151] After the Democrats gained control of both houses of Congress as a result of the 2006 midterm elections, there was no prospect of further congressional action on the Bush proposal for the remainder of his term in office.

Environmental policies Main article: Domestic policy of the George W. Bush administration § Environment

Upon taking office in 2001, Bush stated his opposition to the Kyoto Protocol, an amendment to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change which seeks to impose mandatory targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions, citing that the treaty exempted 80 percent of the world's population [152] and would have cost tens of billions of dollars per year. [153] He also cited that the Senate had voted 95–0 in 1997 on a resolution expressing its disapproval of the protocol.

In May 2001, Bush signed an executive order to create an interagency task force to streamline energy projects, [154] and later signed two other executive orders to tackle environmental issues. [155]

In 2002, Bush announced the Clear Skies Act of 2003, [156] which aimed at amending the Clean Air Act to reduce air pollution through the use of emissions trading programs. Many experts argued that this legislation would have weakened the original legislation by allowing higher emission rates of pollutants than were previously legal. [157] The initiative was introduced to Congress, but failed to make it out of committee.

Later in 2006, Bush declared the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands a national monument, creating the largest marine reserve to date. The Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument comprises 84 million acres (340,000 km 2 ) and is home to 7,000 species of fish, birds, and other marine animals, many of which are specific to only those islands. [158] The move was hailed by conservationists for "its foresight and leadership in protecting this incredible area". [159]

Bush has said that he believes that global warming is real [160] and has noted that it is a serious problem, but he asserted there is a "debate over whether it's man-made or naturally caused". [161] The Bush Administration's stance on global warming remained controversial in the scientific and environmental communities. Critics have alleged that the administration [162] misinformed the public and did not do enough to reduce carbon emissions and deter global warming. [163]

Energy policies

In his 2006 State of the Union Address, Bush declared, "America is addicted to oil" and announced his Advanced Energy Initiative to increase energy development research. [164]

President Bush delivering a statement on energy, urging Congress to end offshore oil drill ban, June 18, 2008

In his 2007 State of the Union Address, Bush renewed his pledge to work toward diminished reliance on foreign oil by reducing fossil fuel consumption and increasing alternative fuel production. [165] Amid high gasoline prices in 2008, Bush lifted a ban on offshore drilling. [166] However, the move was largely symbolic because there was still a federal law banning offshore drilling. Bush said, "This means that the only thing standing between the American people and these vast oil reserves is action from the U.S. Congress." [166] Bush had said in June 2008, "In the long run, the solution is to reduce demand for oil by promoting alternative energy technologies. My administration has worked with Congress to invest in gas-saving technologies like advanced batteries and hydrogen fuel cells... In the short run, the American economy will continue to rely largely on oil. And that means we need to increase supply, especially here at home. So my administration has repeatedly called on Congress to expand domestic oil production." [167]

In his 2008 State of the Union Address, Bush announced that the U.S. would commit $2 billion over the next three years to a new international fund to promote clean energy technologies and fight climate change, saying, "Along with contributions from other countries, this fund will increase and accelerate the deployment of all forms of cleaner, more efficient technologies in developing nations like India and China, and help leverage substantial private-sector capital by making clean energy projects more financially attractive." He also announced plans to reaffirm the United States' commitment to work with major economies, and, through the UN, to complete an international agreement that will slow, stop, and eventually reverse the growth of greenhouse gases; he stated, "This agreement will be effective only if it includes commitments by every major economy and gives none a free ride." [168]

Stem cell research and first veto

Federal funding for medical research involving the creation or destruction of human embryos through the Department of Health and Human Services and the National Institutes of Health has been forbidden by law since the passage in 1995 of the Dickey-Wicker Amendment by Congress and the signature of President Bill Clinton. [169] Bush has said that he supports adult stem cell research and has supported federal legislation that finances adult stem cell research. However, Bush did not support embryonic stem cell research. [170] On August 9, 2001, Bush signed an executive order lifting the ban on federal funding for the 71 existing "lines" of stem cells, [171] but the ability of these existing lines to provide an adequate medium for testing has been questioned. Testing can be done on only 12 of the original lines, and all approved lines have been cultured in contact with mouse cells, which creates safety issues that complicate development and approval of therapies from these lines. [172] On July 19, 2006, Bush used his veto power for the first time in his presidency to veto the Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act. The bill would have repealed the Dickey-Wicker Amendment, thereby permitting federal money to be used for research where stem cells are derived from the destruction of an embryo. [173]

Genetic Nondiscrimination

On May 21, 2008, Bush signed into law the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA). [174] [175] The bill aimed to protect Americans against health insurance and employment discrimination based on a person's genetic information. The issue had been debated for 13 years before it finally became law. The measure is designed to protect citizens without hindering genetic research.

Immigration President Bush discussing border security with Homeland Security Director Michael Chertoff near El Paso, November 2005

Nearly 8 million immigrants came to the United States from 2000 to 2005, more than in any other five-year period in the nation's history. [176] Almost half entered illegally. [177] In 2006, Bush urged Congress to allow more than 12 million illegal immigrants to work in the United States with the creation of a "temporary guest-worker program". Bush also urged Congress to provide additional funds for border security and committed to deploying 6,000 National Guard troops to the Mexico–United States border. [178] From May to June 2007, Bush strongly supported the Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act of 2007, which was written by a bipartisan group of Senators with the active participation of the Bush administration. [179] The bill envisioned a legalization program for illegal immigrants, with an eventual path to citizenship; establishing a guest worker program; a series of border and work site enforcement measures; a reform of the green card application process and the introduction of a point-based "merit" system for green cards; elimination of "chain migration" and of the Diversity Immigrant Visa; and other measures. Bush argued that the lack of legal status denies the protections of U.S. laws to millions of people who face dangers of poverty and exploitation, and penalizes employers despite a demand for immigrant labor. [180] Bush contended that the proposed bill did not amount to amnesty. [181]