For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
December 13, 2003
Fact Sheet: 2003: A Year of Accomplishment for the American People
BUILDING A MORE PROSPEROUS AND HEALTHIER NATION
Strengthening Our Economy. America's families and small businesses have more money to spend, save, and invest because the President proposed and signed into law the Jobs and Growth Act. Under this new law, 91 million taxpayers received, on average, a tax cut of $1,126. Since the President took office, 109 million taxpayers have received, on average, a tax cut of $1,544. 23 million small business owners received tax cuts averaging $2,209. This new law accelerated the tax relief signed into law by the President in 2001, including marriage penalty relief, an increase in the child tax credit, and tax rate reductions for every family that pays income taxes. It also provided new incentives for businesses, especially small businesses, to invest in plants and equipment and create new jobs.
Making Prescription Drugs More Affordable for Seniors. For the first time in Medicare's history, a prescription drug benefit will be offered to more than 40 million seniors and disabled Americans. The historic legislation the President signed will create a modern Medicare system, providing seniors with prescription drug benefits and more health care choices so they can find the coverage that best meets their needs. It also makes Medicare smarter and more efficient, providing screenings to diagnose and treat health problems early. Beginning next year, seniors will save 10-25% off the cost of most medicines through a Medicare-approved drug discount card, which provides savings until the full drug benefit goes into effect. Beginning in 2006, seniors will be able to join Medicare-approved plans. Beneficiaries who lack coverage will cut their yearly drug costs roughly in half, in exchange for an approximately $35 monthly premium. The more than one-third of seniors with low incomes will be eligible for even
Making Health Care More Affordable and Available. The historic Medicare legislation that the President signed included a provision establishing Health Savings Accounts (HSAs) -- tax-free savings accounts that can be used to pay for medical expenses incurred by individuals, as well as spouses and dependents. These HSAs will allow more Americans to save for health care needs, and will allow more small businesses to help workers secure health coverage. This year, President Bush also took action to make it easier for generic drugs to compete with brand-name drugs, saving Americans an average of $3 billion in drug costs each year.
Maintaining Fiscal Discipline While Funding America's Priorities. The Fiscal Year 2004 budget funds the President's priorities of winning the war on terror and securing the homeland, while continuing to restrain spending in other areas. The President brought the rate of growth in non-security annual discretionary spending down from 15% in the last budget of the previous Administration to 6% in his first budget, to 5% in 2003, and now to an expected 3% in the current Fiscal Year. When the Senate passes the pending omnibus appropriations bill, growth in annual discretionary spending will be limited to 4%, the same growth rate expected in family income for this year. The President's pro-growth economic policies and fiscal restraint will put us on a solid path toward cutting the deficit in half, to a size that is below 2% of GDP, over the next 5 years.
Expanding Homeownership Opportunities for All Americans. Building on the President's goal to increase minority homeownership by 5.5 million families by the end of the decade, more than 1 million minority families have already become homeowners in the past 18 months. Congress responded to the President's request to help 40,000 low-income families purchase homes by authorizing downpayment assistance through the American Dream Downpayment Act, which the President will sign soon.
LEADING THE WAY TOWARD A BETTER AND MORE COMPASSIONATE FUTURE
Improving Education for Every Child. Parents, teachers, and principals are seeing a positive difference in America's schools. Signed into law by President Bush in January 2002, the No Child Left Behind Act is raising standards for students and putting the focus on student achievement. This year, all 50 states and the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico now have accountability plans in place for improving public schools and increasing student achievement. And the Bush Administration is investing more money in elementary and secondary education than at any time in American history. All 50 states have received grants totaling $1.8 billion to improve reading instruction and ensure all students are reading at grade level by grade 3.
Promoting a Culture of Life. President Bush signed legislation to end the abhorrent practice of partial birth abortion, a late-term abortion procedure that offends human dignity and is not accepted by the medical community. The Department of Justice is vigorously defending the new law in court.
Honoring Our Commitment to Veterans. America owes veterans and those on the front lines of freedom a great debt of gratitude. President Bush was pleased to sign legislation that resolved the issue of concurrent receipt in a fair and responsible manner. The President also signed the Military Family Tax Relief Act of 2003 to provide tax relief and other benefits to members of the armed services and their families.
Keeping America's Children Safe. President Bush signed the PROTECT Act in April, which gives law enforcement additional tools to prevent, investigate, and prosecute violent crimes against children. The bill strengthens child pornography laws and builds upon the steps already taken by the President to expand, enhance, and coordinate the successful AMBER Alert system across America. President Bush also signed legislation requiring states to conduct criminal background checks on prospective foster and adoptive parents.
Fostering a More Compassionate America. The Administration has taken a number of steps to help our most vulnerable citizens by partnering with faith- and community-based charitable organizations.
Building a Culture of Service. The President's initiatives have greatly expanded volunteer opportunities. Through USA Freedom Corps, more than 900 local communities have formed Citizen Corps Councils, doctors and nurses in 170 communities are now part of a new Medical Reserve Corps, Neighborhood Watch programs have doubled, programs providing volunteers to police departments have increased 900 percent, and Community Emergency Response Team training has more than tripled, expanding to 635 communities in 51 states and territories. The Peace Corps received its largest budget ever and has grown to nearly 7,600 members.
Protecting and Preserving Our Environment. As part of the President's Healthy Forests Initiative, he signed bipartisan legislation to improve forest health and reduce the risk of catastrophic wildfires while upholding environmental laws, restoring our nation's forests, and preserving the forest economy. The Bush Administration proposed stringent new rules on diesel fuel and power plant emissions, which will result in dramatic reductions of sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, and mercury.
Fulfilling a Constitutional Responsibility to Ensure a Strong Judiciary. As of this week, the President has nominated 49 individuals to the federal courts of appeals and 166 individuals to the federal district courts -- approximately one quarter of the entire judiciary. While many of the President's nominees come from diverse backgrounds, they share sterling credentials and high standards of legal training, character, and judgment. Of the President's nominees who have been rated by the American Bar Association, 99% have been rated either well-qualified or qualified. One non-partisan study concluded earlier this year, based on a review of ABA ratings, that the President's nominees are "the most qualified appointees" of any recent Administration. Since announcing his plan to return fairness and dignity to the judicial confirmation process, the President has submitted 114 judicial nominations to the Senate. As part of his plan, the President committed to submitting judicial nominees within 180 days of rec
Enhancing Consumer Credit Protections. The President proposed and signed into law the Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act of 2003 to ensure citizens are treated fairly when they apply for credit. Consumers now have the right to receive their credit reports free of charge every year. In addition, the legislation creates important new tools to address the growing problem of identity theft by establishing a nationwide fraud alert system.
Establishing a "Do Not Call" Registry for Unwanted Telemarketing Calls. On June 27, 2003, the President helped launch the national "Do Not Call" Registry with the Chairmen of the Federal Trade Commission and Federal Communications Commission. Over 54 million phone numbers have been registered on the national list, protecting millions of Americans from most unwanted telephone solicitations.
WINNING THE WAR ON TERROR AND ADDRESSING GLOBAL CHALLENGES
Protecting Our Homeland and Making Americans More Secure. The Bush Administration has made unprecedented progress in making America more secure.
Protecting America by Acting to Address the Growing Threat of Saddam Hussein. President Bush led an international coalition to enforce U.N. Resolutions and remove Saddam Hussein's regime. By acting in Iraq, the U.S. and our allies freed 25 million people from a brutal dictatorship that developed and used weapons of mass destruction; cultivated ties to terror groups; harbored known terrorists; defied more than a dozen U.N. Security Council Resolutions demanding that it disarm; and threatened its own people, the region and world. Working with the Iraqi people, we are now learning the full truth about Saddam Hussein's regime, including: the mass graves of more than 300,000 victims of Saddam's brutality; clear evidence of Saddam's illegal weapons program; and previously undocumented ties to terror organizations.
Leading the International Effort to Stabilize and Rebuild Iraq. President Bush has clearly said America will stay the course and complete its mission in Iraq, so the Iraqi people can enjoy freedom and the state will not again become a breeding ground for terror. Congress passed both of the President's emergency supplemental budget requests to provide support for rebuilding Iraq and important assistance for our troops.
Helping the Afghan People. America and more than 20 allied countries are working to help the Afghan people rebuild their war-torn nation. More than 15 million Afghan citizens have been freed from the brutal zealotry of the Taliban. The United States led the world in providing humanitarian assistance and reconstruction efforts in Afghanistan. The U.S. Congress passed the Afghanistan Freedom Support Act, which authorizes $3.47 billion for Afghanistan over fiscal years 2003-2006. More than 400,000 metric tons of food has been delivered since operations in Afghanistan began. The United States is assisting in the repair of more than 2,500 miles of roads, including re-establishing the critical Kabul-Kandahar highway link by the end of this year, reconstruction of more than 25 bridges; and the rehabilitation of over 6,000 water wells, canals, dams, and water systems. The fundamental rights and health of women have been a particular area of focus. Millions of Afghan women are experiencing freedom for the first
Hunting Down al-Qaida. Although the al-Qaida network remains a threat, it is being dismantled leader-by-leader, and members of the group are being hunted down one-by-one in dozens of countries around the world. Of the senior al-Qaida leaders, operational managers, and key facilitators the U.S. government has been tracking, nearly two-thirds have been taken into custody or killed. Counterterrorist activities against al-Qaida leaders have splintered that leadership and diminished the group's ability to plan and carry out attacks. With the help of allied nations, we have been able to disrupt the cadre of facilitators - movers of money, people, messages, and supplies - that have acted as the glue binding the global al-Qaida network.
Promoting a Forward Strategy of Freedom to Expand Democracy in the Muslim World. During his state visit to the United Kingdom, President Bush outlined 3 pillars for increasing the security and peace of the free world. The United States will work to strengthen international institutions and alliances to deal with terrorist groups and rogue states, ensure that free nations have the will and the strength to restrain aggression and despotism, and expand democracy throughout the world as an alternative to despair and terror. The Administration has also committed $129 million to the Middle East Partnership Initiative, a presidential initiative founded to support economic, political and educational reform in the Middle East and champion opportunity for all people of the region, especially women and youth.
Leading the Fight Against HIV/AIDS. In his State of the Union Address, President Bush announced the Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief - an historic 5-year, $15 billion effort to turn the tide of the AIDS pandemic. The President's comprehensive plan addresses one of the modern world's most urgent needs by preventing 7 million new HIV/AIDS infections, providing life-extending drugs to 2 million infected people, and caring for 10 million HIV-infected individuals, including AIDS orphans. Only 4 months later, Congress passed legislation authorizing the Emergency Plan based on the President's proposal.
Building an International Consensus on North Korea. The United States conducted the diplomacy necessary to bring Japan, South Korea, China, and Russia to the table for unprecedented discussions with North Korea on ending Pyongyang's nuclear weapons program. This multilateral approach has strengthened U.S. cooperation with major Northeast Asia powers and has increased the pressure on Pyongyang to completely, irreversibly, and verifiably eliminate its nuclear weapons programs.
Reducing the Spread of Dangerous Weapons. In his September address to the United Nations, President Bush called for a new Security Council anti-proliferation resolution urging all nations to criminalize proliferation activities, to enact strict export controls, and to control any and all sensitive materials within their own borders. This call has received widespread international support. Also, over 50 countries have expressed support for the weapons of mass destruction interdiction principles embodied in the Proliferation Security Initiative, which the President announced in May. The U.S. has taken the lead on deterring and defending against WMD, including developing defenses against ballistic missiles and improving our capacity to protect against chemical and biological attacks, including creation of a network of environmental sensors to detect biological attacks against major U.S. cities.
ACCOMPLISHMENTS PENDING IN OMNIBUS APPROPRIATIONS BILL
A number of significant Presidential initiatives are contained in the omnibus appropriations bill that is still pending before Congress, including: