For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
February 2, 2004
Fact Sheet: Making Life Better for America's Consumers
February 2, 2004
Making Life Better for America's Consumers
Enhancing Consumer Credit Protections President Bush proposed and signed into law the Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act of 2003 to ensure that citizens are treated fairly when they apply for credit. Consumers will now have the right to receive their credit reports free of charge every year as part of a national financial literacy campaign. 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, President Bush 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. Consumers can register online at www.donotcall.gov or by calling 1-888-382-1222.
Protecting Consumers from Unsolicited Commercial E-mail
President Bush signed into law the Controlling the Assault of Non-Solicited Pornography and Marketing Act of 2003 (CAN-SPAM Act), which establishes a framework of administrative, civil, and criminal tools to help America's consumers, businesses, and families combat unsolicited commercial e-mail, known as spam. The new law allows consumers to choose to stop further unsolicited spam from a particular sender. It also provides protection against spam containing unmarked sexually-oriented or pornographic material.
Providing Tax Relief to American Families and Small Businesses Since President Bush took office in 2001, every American who pays income taxes has seen their tax burden reduced, and the economy has benefited by giving families more money to spend and businesses more money to invest. On June 7, 2001, the Economic Growth and Tax Relief Reconciliation Act (EGTRRA) was signed into law. EGTRRA eliminated the estate tax, reduced marginal income taxes, increased the child credit, and provided marriage penalty relief, among other provisions. On May 28, 2003, the President signed into law the Jobs and Growth Tax Relief Reconciliation Act (JGTRRA), which accelerated much of the tax relief enacted in 2001, reduced taxes on dividends and capital gains, and provided new incentives for businesses -- especially small businesses -- to invest in plants and equipment and create new jobs. Under this new law, 91 million taxpayers received tax relief averaging $1,226.
Achieving the American Dream of Owning a Home The American Dream Downpayment Act of 2003 will help approximately 40,000 low- to moderate-income families per year with the purchase of their first home and, in doing so, strengthen America's housing market. The average assistance grant of $5,000 per family will assist with the downpayment and closing costs. Last year, Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD)-funded housing counseling programs served over 380,000 consumers. With the President's emphasis on homeownership and the need for housing counseling, funding for these programs has doubled to nearly $40 million in FY03 (from $20 million in FY02). The reform of the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act (RESPA) proposed by HUD is an effort to make the home buying process simpler, more transparent, and less costly. RESPA reform would allow consumers to know their closing costs in time to shop for the best mortgage before incurring any out-of-pocket expenses, avoiding last-minute "junk fees," and other unexpected increases in settlement costs. It has been estimated that RESPA reform will lower settlement costs by an average of $700 per closing. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Home Loan Guaranty program helps veterans and active duty personnel purchase and retain homes. VA's Loan Guaranty program guaranteed 508,000 housing loans, resulting in mortgages of $66 billion in FY03.
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 advocated and signed will help create a modern Medicare system, providing seniors with prescription drug benefits and more healthcare choices so they can find the coverage that best meets their needs. It also makes Medicare smarter and more efficient, providing enhanced preventative screenings to diagnose and treat health problems early. Beginning this 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 could cut their yearly drug costs roughly in half, in exchange for a monthly premium. Millions of seniors with low incomes will be eligible for even greater drug savings, paying as little as $1 per prescription. These are the biggest improvements in senior health care in nearly 40 years.
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 healthcare needs, and will allow more small businesses to help workers secure health coverage. In 2003, 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.
Increasing Independence for Medicaid Recipients
The Cash and Counseling Demonstration project uses a consumer-directed approach to Personal Assistance Services (PAS) for elders and younger adults with disabilities. Co-funded by Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF), this demonstration tests the use of a cash benefit to enhance Medicaid consumers' ability to design PASs that best meet their needs (while maintaining overall program budget neutrality). Using their cash benefit, consumers choose who provides these very personal and essential services (help with bathing, eating, dressing, etc.), as well as when and how they are provided. For example, consumers may hire a friend or relative who knows their preferences to help them on evenings or weekends when agency services may be unavailable. Consumers are also able to use their benefit to pay for other services that may increase their independence (e.g. transportation, home modifications, assistive devices).
Expanded Trade Benefits Consumers President Bush is pursuing a comprehensive, long-term trade agenda because the benefits to the U.S. economy and to U.S. consumers are clear. Trade agreements like the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and the Uruguay Round global trade agreement have generated benefits -- lower prices and more choices for consumers -- totaling $1,300--$2,000 annually for the typical U.S. family. Economists say that lowering barriers to trade by even one-third will boost the world economy by as much as $613 billion -- and the U.S. economy by $177 billion a year. To the typical family of four, that means an additional $2,500 a year in savings. (January 2001 study by the University of Michigan and Tufts University)
Enhancing Education Benefits
The Montgomery GI Bill (MGIB) of 1944, one of the most significant pieces of veterans and education legislation, makes higher education broadly available to service members transitioning from military to civilian life. In FY03, VA provided 554,000 eligible applicants with education benefits, thereby assisting them in achieving their educational or vocational goals.