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Welcome to "Ask the White House" -- an online interactive forum where you can submit questions to Administration officials and friends of the White House. Visit the "Ask the White House" archives to read other discussions with White House officials.

Harriet Miers
Harriet Miers
Deputy Chief of Staff for Policy
October 14, 2004

Harriet Miers

Good afternoon! I am Harriet Miers, Deputy Chief of Staff for Policy for the President. I am pleased to be here to take your questions about President Bush's domestic policies. I know we have a lot of questions coming in. So why don't we get started.

Chris, from Germantown,TN writes:
Mr. President I am 65 years old,Female, have a low paying job and a small social security check. What will your tax breaks do for me? So far, I have seen nothing from the tax break. My social security check has been reduced by $68.00. I am a republician, never voted a democratic ticket. Please address the issues that will help the average person.

Harriet Miers
Chris, the tax relief that the President proposed and the Congress passed has lowered the taxes for every American who pays income taxes and has entirely eliminated the tax burden of 5 million low-income Americans. The President’s efforts helped create a 10% tax bracket. His tax relief is helping the economy grow and has helped create more than 1.9 million new jobs since August 2003.

The President has also led the way in modernizing Medicare by adding a prescription drug benefit, increasing payments to rural hospitals, and providing preventative medical screenings. For more details on the improvements the President has made to Medicare check out the White House website (/news/releases/2004/08/20040811-3.html).

James, from Maine writes:
Hi Harriet, How about letting welfare people keep there welfare monies when entering the job market for a period of 90 days. This will encourage people to seek a job and offset there welfare as they pay taxes. And, when they keep there job for more then a year they can get childcare re-enburstment at 100?

Harriet Miers
Thanks for sending your question and sharing your ideas on welfare reform with me, James. The President has worked very hard to reform welfare, and a great deal of progress has been made. The President believes that welfare programs should strengthen families and help more welfare recipients work toward independence and self-reliance. Your question indicates you share those goals. We have had the great opportunity here at the White House to meet some former welfare recipients and their employers. Their stories are very heartening and again a testimony to the greatness of our people and this Nation.

The Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program gives states enormous flexibility to design their TANF programs in ways that promote work, responsibility, and self-sufficiency, and strengthen families. Except as expressly provided under the statute, the Federal government may not regulate the conduct of states. States may use TANF funding in any manner "reasonably calculated to accomplish the purposes of TANF."

What most States choose to do is provide people going back to work with an array of support so they can transition back into the work force and towards self-sufficiency. Former recipients can receive childcare, housing, healthcare, food stamps, transportation, job skill training or other benefits after they go back to work and are earning a salary. As each person's case is different, they will each be eligible for a unique combination of benefits.

Thanks for writing.

Justin, from Oklahoma City, Ok writes:
Thanks for your service to this country.My question is do you really have a plan for bringing down the costs of health care? Litigation and trial lawyers is one cause of it .. I agree but also profit hungry pharmaceutical companies are another reason. I think this country is sort of confused about this administrations plans and I would appreciate if you would explain further. Thank you

Harriet Miers
Justin, thanks for caring about this very important topic. And, I should say, I feel very privileged to serve in the President and Mrs. Bush’s Administration and to serve this remarkable country. I wish I had time to describe all the wonderful things we see the United States do around the world and our people do to help those in need within our borders. To your question. The President has a comprehensive and affordable plan to lower the cost of health care for all Americans. You might want to check out the White House website (/infocus/healthcare/) for all the details, but let me share some of the key aspects.

The President's plan is based on the simple principle that patients and doctors ought to be making health care decisions, not government bureaucrats. A very important piece of the President's program is health savings accounts (HSA), which allow people to purchase affordable major medical insurance coupled with a tax-free savings account. The insurance covers the big bills, while the tax free account empowers the patient to choose the routine medical services that best suit their needs. The President has proposed a refundable tax credit to help low-income Americans who don't get insurance through their employer. This tax credit could be used to purchase a traditional health insurance plan or an innovative, low-cost HSA plan.

And because so many of America's uninsured are self-employed or work for small businesses, the President has proposed Association Health Plans to allow small businesses to negotiate in groups for better rates, just like the big businesses and unions can. The President has also proposed a tax credit for small businesses that contribute to their employees' HSA.

The President has also proposed reforms that will give the uninsured more options when they shop for insurance, including allowing Association Health Plans, allowing religious and civic groups to offer insurance like AHPs, and allowing individuals to purchase insurance from any state, regardless of where they live.

As for pharmaceuticals, we've implemented new regulations to speed the delivery to market of generic alternatives to brand name drugs. Generic drugs are just as safe as the brand name drugs, but are significantly cheaper. The rule is estimated to save Americans $35 billion over the next ten years.

And finally in 2000, the President proposed a five-year plan to fund 1,200 new and expanded health center sites to serve an additional 6.1 million people by 2006. Today, he is well on the way to meeting that goal, with more than 600 new or expanded health centers delivering care to 3 million additional Americans, including many uninsured and low-income children and families in medically underserved communities. He's expanded this commitment to make sure that every poor county in the United States has a health center.

Justin, there's no silver bullet solution, but by implementing the reforms described above, reducing the cost of frivolous lawsuits, and implementing new health information technology to improve the efficiency of medical care, we can make health care more affordable and accessible for all Americans.

C, from Tyler, Texas writes:
Will there ever be a stop to the time changing. It is hurting everyone. It's been proven that our kids do worse in school everytime there is a time change. It is also harder to adapt to when you get older. Just when you get use to the new time, it is time to change it back. Our children in school have to eat lunch an hour earlier or later when their bodies are either telling them that they are not hungry at that time or telling them that they are straving and they either eat to little or to much.

Harriet Miers
Daylight saving time has been around for most of this century and even earlier. Did you know that Benjamin Franklin first suggested the idea in an essay he wrote titled, "An Economical Project for Diminishing the Cost of Light"? The title of Franklin's essay captures one of the principal reasons we have daylight saving time today: it saves energy.

The Uniform Time Act passed by Congress in 1966 created daylight saving time to begin on the last Sunday of April and to end on the last Sunday of October. Any area that wanted to be exempt from Daylight Saving Time could do so by passing a local ordinance. The law was amended in 1986 to begin daylight saving time on the first Sunday in April. This was done mostly to conserve energy during the month of April. Adding the entire month of April is estimated to save nationwide about 300,000 barrels of oil each year!

Studies done by the U.S. Department of Transportation show that daylight saving time trims the entire country's electricity usage by almost one percent each day with daylight saving time. We save energy in both the evening and the morning because we use less electricity for lighting and appliances. The same poll indicated that Americans liked Daylight Saving Time because "there is more light in the evenings/can do more in the evenings."

But I understand your concern about the disruptive effect the time zone can have on peoples' lives, especially young children who like to eat on a regular schedule. There are some inconveniences associated with daylight saving time, certainly, but there are also a number of benefits for our country. Thanks for your interesting question!

Charles, from St. Marys, KS writes:
On the news recently when the President sighned the extension on the tax relief, there was only one short report that mentioned anything about the Alternative Minium Tax.

Was there in fact any legislation passed and signed into law that changed, revised or repealed AMT?

If so where can I obtain current information--a website would be great.

Thank you

Harriet Miers
Charles, the Working Families Tax Relief Act that the President signed last week extends relief from the Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT) through 2005. The bill extends the $58,000 AMT exemption amount for married couples and the $40,250 AMT exemption amount for single individuals through 2005. If the bill hadn't become law, more middle income families would have been pushed into the AMT resulting in a tax hike of $23 billion over the next 10 years. The IRS will post more information on the specifics of the implementation (, but in the meantime I recommend you take a look at the website of the House Ways & Means Committee ( Thanks for the question.

Joshua, from Albany, GA writes:
how is Pres. Bush's plan for healthcare going to provide better healthcare policies, and extend coverage? In Britain they have national coverage. Why wouldn't that work here?

Harriet Miers
Thanks for the question, Joshua. The American medical system is the envy of the world because it provides the best care and provides patients with the most choices. The President firmly believes that medical decisions should be made by patients and their physician, not by government bureaucrats. President Bush has proposed a comprehensive and affordable plan to make health care more affordable and more accessible for all Americans. See my answer to the question from Justin from Oklahoma City for more details or Thanks for the question, Joshua. The American medical system is the envy of the world because it provides the best care and provides patients with the most choices. The President firmly believes that medical decisions should be made by patients and their physician, not by government bureaucrats. President Bush has proposed a comprehensive and affordable plan to make health care more affordable and more accessible for all Americans. See my answer to the question from Justin from Oklahoma City for more details or /infocus/healthcare/. Have a great day!

John, from Sunnyvale, CA writes:
If only 14 of the tax cuts went to the lowest 60 of taxpayers, that means that 86 of the tax cuts went to the top 40 of taxpayers. In other words, those of us in the 60 category didn't really get much. In fact, most policies supported by this President don't help ordinary Americans and, in fact,lean more towards business. Can you please name a couple of implemented policies where the welfare of Americans was put ahead of President Bush's love of business?

Harriet Miers
John, I hope you will spend some time learning about what the President really has done for the American people, in tax relief and so many other ways. Please let me share with you a few facts about the President’s accomplishments in getting tax relief for people just like you. His tax relief has reduced the tax burden on working families and on every American who pays income taxes. The professional analysts at the Treasury Department have calculated that because of the President's tax policies:

- 111 million individuals and families received an average tax cut of $1,586 in 2004 because of the tax cuts of 2001 and 2003.
- Nearly 5 million taxpayers, including 4 million taxpayers with children, had their income tax liability completely eliminated in 2004.
- 49 million married couples received an average tax cut of $2,602.
- 43 million families with children received an average tax cut of $2,090.
- 14 million elderly individuals saw their taxes fall, on average, by $1,883.
- 25 million small business owners received an average tax cut of $3,001.

The President's tax relief is leaving more money in the hands of families up and down the income scale and it is spurring economic growth. You see, the President believes that people can spend their money better than the government, and that no one should pay more than one-third of their income in taxes. Since August 2003, the tax cuts have helped create over 1.9 million new jobs and that's means even more money in the hands of working Americans.

Also, as you may have heard, the President is committed to reforming the tax code through a bi-partisan effort to make the tax code simpler, fairer, and pro-growth.

Larry, from Houston, TX writes:
When do you anticipate the President signing the Jobs Creation Act 0f 2004?

Harriet Miers
Thanks for the question, Larry. I am happy to hear from someone from Houston. Please tell my Brother Buddy who lives there, “Hello!” Before the President can sign the bill, the Constitution requires that it be presented to him by the Congress. Once it is officially presented, the President has 10 days (excluding Sundays) to take action on the bill. The White House does not have the Jobs bill yet, but we expect to get it soon. This is a long way of saying, sometime soon.

Courtney, from Birmingham writes:
This Verichip news that was in the Birmingham Times today concerns me, and should concern any American who likes and deserves their: 1. freedom 2.privacy What is the current administration's policy on the Verichip matter other than medical. Will we one day be required by law to submit ourselves to this technology for global numbering and tracking? Thank You.

Harriet Miers
Hello, Courtney. Not on our watch.

Roxana, from Whittier, California writes:
If stem cell research is a very promising field why is President Bush restricting federal funding on embrionic stem cell research?

Harriet Miers
Roxana, your question addresses a very important issue and very difficult issue. First, the President is a big supporter of new medical technologies and medical research.

For example, he has completed doubling the National Institutes of Health budget. He also has increased funding for adult stem cell research, and this research shows great promise. And he is the first president to provide Federal funding for embryonic stem cell research.

You should start from the premise that the President supports promising medical research. Like us all, he wants researchers to find cures for the many dreaded diseases that our society faces as quickly as we can. So, why then does he place restrictions on Federal funds flowing for embryonic stem cell research other than on the stem cell lines that existed at the time of his decision in August of 2001? Scientists tell us it is too early to tell what can be accomplished through embryonic stem cell research. And, taking one life to save another presents moral and ethical issues, and these important issues must be balanced with the potential scientific benefits that may be derived from stem cell research.

The President’s policy allows for significant Federal funding for stem cell research (over $500 million since 2001) where the destruction of life issue had already been made before his decision. Today there are 22 stem cell lines available to federally funded researchers. His policy also places no restrictions on Federal funding for adult stem cell research, which is also a promising research area, or on private funding for stem cell research. Hopefully, the robust public and private research program will produce breakthroughs that will help millions of people. If you want to see the President’s own words about stem cell research, here is the link to his answer in the second Presidential Debate (/news/releases/2004/10/20041009-2.html).

Jordan, from Arizona writes:
I am only 17 years old, but I work very hard for my money. I am curious with everyone saying social security wont be aroudn by the time I am retirement age. What motive do I have to continue paying social security if I will get nothing out of it?

Harriet Miers
Jordan, you are right to be concerned. Our Social Security system does need to be fixed, and President Bush has committed to working with the Congress to do just that. He will ensure that benefits for current retirees or those near retirement aren’t changed. For you and other younger workers, President Bush supports giving you the option of putting some of your Social Security taxes in a personal account that you can control, own, and pass on. He understands that you need to get better rates of return than the rates available in the current Social Security trust fund. President Bush has pledged to take this issue on and bring Republicans and Democrats together to fix Social Security so you won’t have to be concerned anymore. One more point, President Bush will not raise the payroll tax on working Americans.

hello, from goodbye writes:
What would President Bush do to protect America from further terrorist attacks?

Harriet Miers
You have a very interesting name and a very good question! President Bush believes that his most solemn duty is to protect the American people. He wakes up every morning trying to figure out how to better protect America from attack, and he will never relent in defending the security of America. His strategy is clear. We're defending the homeland. We're transforming our military. We're strengthening our intelligence-gathering services. We're staying on the offensive. And we are striking the terrorists abroad so we do not have to face them here at home.

On national security and homeland security, President Bush has increased defense spending by more than one-third, which is the largest increase in a generation. He doubled investment in a missile defense system. The President has nearly tripled homeland security funding. And more than $18 billion has been awarded to state and local governments to protect the homeland.

If you would like to learn more about these efforts to make us all safer, here's a link for you to visit: /homeland/

Oddie, from writes:
I'm looking for information about people who have been convicted of crimes to have a second chance at living outside of the prison system. I was told there is such a thing that our President has started. If this is true, can you please send me information on this or direct me to the right source.

Thank You.

Harriet Miers
Great question, Oddie. The area of prison reentry definitely does need attention. President Bush already has worked to bring mentors to children of prisoners, to provide treatment for the addicted, and to help for the homeless.

You are most likely referring to a program that President Bush called for in his 2004 State of the Union address and his 2005 Budget. He called for help for the some 600,000 inmates who will be released from prison back into society this year. We are hopeful that the Congress will fund fully this program, and the President has called upon the Congress to do so. The President knows from our Nation’s long experience that if returning inmates can't find work, or a home, or help, they are much more likely to commit crime and return to prison. So he proposed a four-year, $300 million prisoner re-entry initiative to expand job training and placement services, to provide transitional housing, and to help newly released prisoners get mentoring, including from faith-based groups. The President reminded all of us that “America is the land of second chance, and when the gates of the prison open, the path ahead should lead to a better life.” In the meantime, you can contact the White House Faith-based Office to determine what resources might be available in your State or community and what the status is of the President’s effort to get his program funded. You also can contact the Employment and Training Administration at the Department of Labor, 200 Constitution Avenue, NW, Washington, DC 20210.

Gregory, from Houston writes:
s. miers,what is the current administration doing to further our goal of education for help to the unemployed and underployed? couldn't the united states require service for education grants vs. repaying the pell grants and other loans available for our retraining?

Harriet Miers
Gregory -- You've asked a question about one of the President's favorite topics: better education for better jobs. President Bush has proposed community-based job training grants and significant reforms to Federal worker training programs to double the number of workers receiving job training. And he has been working to close the skills gap so we fill every high-growth job with a well-trained American worker.

In the debate last night, the President talked about the role of community colleges to increase worker skills. The President believes we need to make it easier for Americans to receive training, to earn a degree, or to take specialized courses that help them achieve their full potential. Community colleges are a vital part of that effort. The President is therefore encouraging partnerships between community colleges and neighboring employers, so that colleges can tailor training programs to meet the local employment needs. When particular skills are in high demand in a given area, the President's Jobs for the 21st Century program would make it possible for more people to go to a community college. Preparing students for jobs that are in high demand provides local employers with well skilled workers. And better training improves a graduate's chances of finding a good job, and it helps the local economy by increasing employment.

You might be interested in reading a speech the President recently gave outlining all of his new education initiatives for a stronger workforce. I found the link for you: /news/releases/2004/04/20040406-6.html

Amy, from Greeneville, Tennessee writes:
I am a single mother who is trying to start my own business. I am trying to find some information on federal small business grants for women entreprenuers, but am having difficulty finding any information that won't cost me $40.00 to get. If you could help in any way, I would greatly appreciate it. Thank you so much for your time.

Harriet Miers
Amy, congratulations on your efforts to become an entrepreneur! President Bush is enthusiastic about small business because the entrepreneurial spirit makes America strong and prosperous and can improve peoples’ lives. He's a strong believer in making information available for small businesses, as well as reducing the burden of taxes and regulations.

The Small Business Administration should give you information without a charge. I suggest that you try SBA's website ( for information about resources available to help you to start a small businesses, or to find your nearest SBA office for that information. If that fails, email the President's team at SBA here in Washington (, and we'll make sure you get to the right person. Best wishes with your plan! You also can check out the Online Women's Business Center website, also run by the Small Business Administration (

It's a great resource for women who are looking to start new businesses, or seeking advice on how to improve operations of an existing business. On a personal note, I will tell you I had an assistant whose parents were trying to start a small business in San Antonio, Texas. She told me that she and her parents were astounded at how much information and assistance was available through SBA. So, I hope you get the information and help you need. Thanks for the question and good luck!

Mark, from Texas writes:
Just want to see actual and broad statistics on tax cut results? Where can I get reliable info?

Harriet Miers
Mark, I am always glad to hear from a fellow Texan. Thanks for the question. With the elections so close there are a lot of charges flying back and forth about the President's tax cuts. I am happy to provide the following facts:

- The President's tax relief bills have reduced income taxes on every American who pays income taxes (including by entirely eliminating the income tax liability of 5 million Americans).
- 94 million Americans will have a lower tax bill next year, including 70 million women and 38 million families with children.

Last week, the President signed the Working Families Tax Relief Act which

- Extends the full marriage penalty relief to couples who are unfairly taxed just because they are married;
- Lessens the tax burden of lower-income Americans by ensuring the full benefits of the 10% percent tax bracket;
- Helps working moms and dads by ensuring that the full $1,000 per child tax credit is available through 2010;
- Supports military men and women living in combat zones by providing nearly $200 million of assistance in the form of higher child credit refunds and earned income tax credits;
- Protects middle-class taxpayers from the Alternative Minimum Tax by exempting from it the first $58,000 of a married couple's income. Without this AMT relief, taxpayers would be saddled with an extra $23 billion AMT levy through 2005; and
- Simplifies the tax code for families who qualify for the child tax credit, the Earned Income Tax Credit, the dependent care credit, the dependent exemption for children, and those who file as the head-of-household.

For more details, I recommend you check out the Treasury Department's website (, which has detailed breakdowns of who benefits and how much. I hope this helps and have a great rest of the day in a great State.

Kim, from Syracuse writes:
Part of the tax bill that was to be sent to the President for his signature included proposed changes to flexible spending accounts (IRS sections 125 and 129). These are very beneficial programs to all Americans and the proposed enhancements will only make it better. Can you inform me where the process is and if there is any documentation related to it so I can keep informed? Thank you.

Kim, the changes you're talking about are contained in the Working Families Tax Relief Act that the President signed into law last Monday (/news/releases/2004/10/20041004-7.html). That bill made sure that taxes didn't increase in 2005 for 94 million Americans.

As you may know, the President has announced tax reform will be a priority of his in the years ahead. He wants to make sure the tax code is pro-growth, fairer, and simpler. The Working Families Tax Relief Act is a step in the right direction as far as simplifying the code. One of the complexities that has developed over the years in the tax code is that many new tax provisions would have their own definition of who qualified as a child for the purposes of that provision. So this bill provides a uniform definition for a child (including in Sections 125 and 129), after all a child is a child is a child.

For more details check out the IRS website (

Ron, from Rancho Cucamonga, California writes:
I have requested an answer to this question 3 times now and I do not get a responses, perhaps you can answer this for me. If we do not have a draft nor will we have one, why is it necessary for students applying for finacial aid to register with selective service?

Harriet Miers
Ron, since 1948 the law has mandated that the Selective Service System maintain a list of men ages 18 to 25 in the event that a draft became necessary. One of the ways this law is enforced is by making registration a condition of receiving aid from the Federal government for higher education. But as the President has repeatedly said, as long as he is President, there will not be a draft.

Jeff, from Charlotte, NC writes:
As a hiring manager for a large company, it is frustrating for me to hear how much of a problem unemployment is in our country. I have had great difficuly recently filling some well paying, entry level positions. I realize that it is important to get as many people in the workforce as possible, but it almost seems to me that an individual can find work if they truly want to. As a matter of fact, isn't the unemployment rate at one of the lowest points it has been in several years?

Harriet Miers
Jeff, thank you for writing. The President believes strongly in improving our education system to prepare our children for college or a good job. He has a number of programs to better prepare our workers for 21st century jobs. You might want to look at my answer to Gregory from Houston a few minutes ago. Importantly, you are absolutely correct about the unemployment rate. Our current rate is 5.4% and that is better than the average unemployment rate for the 1970's, 1980's, and 1990's. That said, the President will not be satisfied until every American who wants a job can find one. Sounds like you are creating some good jobs and that is a very good thing!

Amy, from Tulsa, OK writes:
There are four women from Tulsa who are making a "Barney Pillow" for Laura.

We love Barney and the First Family so much we wanted to send them something they all would enjoy. Please be watching the mail delivery as it should arrive about Nov. 1st if all goes as planned. Right now we are getting the right color trim for it. We think Barney loves red.

Harriet Miers
We all love Barney, too. I am sure you check out Barney's website to see the photo of the day. Today he is in outer space! We better get him back before the President returns to the White House or we will be in big trouble. Thank you for thinking about the President and Mrs. Bush.

Liz, from Ohio writes:
Ms. Miers: Thanks for taking questions today. In the United States today, would you say that a small business owner would be better off with an educational degree or some higher education in order to know the best way to keep their small afloat in times of trouble, and would an immigrant who is desirous of having a small business of their own be hard-pressed for answers to keep a small business afloat if they did not have some level of higher education?

Harriet Miers
Liz, I appreciate your question and thank you for writing. I would say having additional education is always a help generally in life and especially when someone is trying to run a business. Education is a top priority for President Bush. The President’s No Child Left Behind program is showing great progress in improving education across our Nation. Additionally, you can see in my answer to Gregory's question that the President's programs are helping provide valuable education and training. These programs can be helpful for someone running a business. Also, the President has proposed a number of programs to encourage life-long learning. These include providing new loans to pay for short-term training; increasing flexibility of Federal student aid programs, and allowing Pell Grants for low income students to be used on a year-round basis. The President has proposed developing a comprehensive web-based literacy tool for adults, which would be made available in public libraries, community colleges, and at social service offices, including Head Start Centers and One-Stop job centers.

Harriet Miers
I very much appreciate all the very good questions I received today. We have discussed some critic questions for our people and Nation. Thanks to all of those who wrote and those of you who have been following along. I hope you have a great rest of the week. Harriet