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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 29, 2004

Harriet Miers

Hello, this is Harriet Miers. I am Deputy Chief of Staff for Policy at the White House, and I am delighted to be here to answer your questions this Friday afternoon. This is always a great weekend because we will all get an extra hour of sleep Saturday night. And given all that is going on, I have to say, we here at the White House are looking forward to that extra hour!

James, from Mountain View, CA writes:
Are we better off now than we were four years ago?

Harriet Miers
Thanks, James, this is a very good question, and I am pleased to give you my views. What we did not know fully in January of 2001 turns out to be very important in answering your question. In January of 2001, there were problems facing the Nation that we did not fully perceive. First, as 2001 progressed we saw the stock market continue a decline that had begun in the middle of 2000 before the Bush Administration took office. We also witnessed an economy slipping further into a recession as 2001 unfolded. We also learned as time passed that corporate misbehavior in the nineties resulted in the eruption of scandals that shook the foundation of trust that we had in the strength and integrity of our economy.

And we all know that on September 11, 2001, we learned that there had been gathering dangers for the United States that would materialize in terrorist attacks that would kill innocent Americans as well as people from countries around the world and dramatically impact the economy, including tremendous loss of jobs and shock to our airlines industry.

In response to the economic problems, the President acted immediately to implement tax relief to get the economy going again. He signed into law corporate governance reforms to address the wrongdoing that had been occurring, and those reforms were the most far-reaching since President Franklin Roosevelt’ s time. The President’s optimism and faith in the American people and our economy helped inspire a remarkable recovery. Just today, we saw new statistics showing that our economy continues to grow solidly and compensation for our workers continues steady growth. Working families now keep more of their paychecks, and we are growing faster than any other among major industrialized nations.

The President responded swiftly to the attacks on September 11th. He has our country on the offensive against terrorism. American is waging a global war on terrorism with the help of many friends and allies from around the globe. The President believed it important to confront regimes that harbored or supported terrorists as well as the terrorists. And he is also confronting outlaw regimes that pursue weapons of mass destruction, and he is committed to ensuring that the terrorists do not obtain the world’s most dangerous weapons. At the same time, the President led in the creation of the Homeland Security Department and strengthening our defenses here at home. Although I am sure the President would be the first to say more needs to be done, we are a safer Nation today than we were four years ago.

Additionally, with victories in Afghanistan and in the toppling of Saddam Hussein in Iraq and other efforts around the world, we are promoting freedom and democracy in the greater Middle East as well as elsewhere. Sowing the seeds of freedom around the world brings the goal of peace for all nations ever closer. All these efforts require great resolve and sacrifice, but we are making our Nation safer and we will leave a better world for our children and grandchildren. The last four years have been in many ways difficult years, but we have accomplished a lot and as the President has said: "because we have made the hard journey, we can see the valley below. Now, because we have faced challenges with resolve, we have historic goals within our reach, and greatness in our future. We will build a safer world and a more hopeful America -- and nothing will hold us back."

So, James, as you can tell, I think we are much better off than we were four years ago. And that belief is without discussing many, many other areas where I believe great progress has been made also. For example, with the President’s effort in education and the implementation of No Child Left Behind we are seeing much needed improvement in our schools. The President and Mrs. Bush believe in the power of quality education. That is why immediately upon taking office, the President introduced a bill to improve our education system. I could go on and on, but it is time to take another question.

Billy, from Bethel, CT writes:
Hi, I would like to say that Bush is has the right idea about the "No Child Left Behind" program. Now clebrating its second year, for the first time children in the grades 3-8 will be tested with reading and math tests to figure out their abilities to work with such subjects. Great job and keep up the good work. Billy

Harriet Miers
Hi, Billy, and good next question! That is where I left off in the last answer. Many had given up on improving our public education system, but we should never think a problem is too big to solve. Our progress in education is a great example why.

Your comments about the No Child Left Behind Act mirror what we have seen around the Nation -- the President's education reforms are working. Last March, the Council of Great City Schools released a study and reported that the achievement gap in both math and reading between African Americans and whites, and Hispanics and whites, is narrowing.

Our reforms were designed to challenge what the President calls the "soft bigotry of low expectations," and the early results show that we're making incredible progress. For the first time, children in grades 3-8 will be tested every year on basic reading and math skills to measure their progress. And these annual test results are being published so parents can measure school performance and statewide progress, and evaluate the quality of their child’s school, the qualifications of teachers, and student progress in key subjects.

Parents and students now have options for improvement when their schools don’t measure up. These reforms are so important to the President because he knows that a good education has always been a fundamental part of achieving the American Dream and maintain excellence in innovation and our economy.

Thanks for your question, Billy.

Julie, from New Hampshire writes:
Hi, I know that you are probably going to be bombarded with questions, so I will try to keep it short...Do you think that it would be possible to cut off oil imports from the Middle East and replace it with ANWR? Also, do you think that it would be a good idea to use ethanol as an additive? Thank you for your time.

Harriet Miers
Julie, that's a great question. As you probably know, the US Geological Survey estimated that there is between 5.7 million and 16 billion barrels of oil available in the Artic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR), which could be accessed from about 2,000 acres of the 19,000,000 acre refuge. At its peak, production from ANWR would account for more than 20% of total U.S. oil production.

Environmentally responsible development of the resources in ANWR is one part of the President's comprehensive energy plan, which calls for a responsible mix of increased domestic energy production (like ANWR and clean coal), alternative and renewable fuels (like ethanol and biodiesel), and conservation and efficiency to reduce the growth of American energy consumption. The President's plan is essential to increasing America's energy security.

Alba, from Texas writes:
Are schools receiving the necessary funding needed to meet standards set by the No Child Left Behind Act?

Harriet Miers
Alba -- Hello to a fellow Texan! Thanks for your question about funding for No Child Left Behind. I am glad to be able to address this important question because there is a great deal of misinformation out there about the funding for NCLB. The simple answer to your question is “yes.”

First, needless to say and as I said earlier in answer to another question, educational accountability is the cornerstone of NCLB, and the early results show that the law is working: student achievement is going up. With respect to funding, the President has supported substantial increases in funding under NCLB, and for K-12 education generally.

In his 2005 budget proposal, President Bush asked for a 49% increase in K-12 funding ($12.2 billion), which includes both funding for No Child Left Behind and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. Looking just at NCLB, funding has increased 42.5% or $7.4 billion. In his first three years alone, the President sought and obtained more money for Title I (the NCLB program that serves schools with economically disadvantaged children) than the prior Administration sought in eight years.

But aside from these historic increases, the money provided more than exceeds the additional costs associated with NCLB. In the past three years, states have received $1.16 billion for student assessments (testing) that do not even need to be in place under NCLB until the 2005-06 school year. In light of recent studies about the cost of the assessment requirements being less than $6 per child, this is an impressive sum. I hope you agree! And I hope I have answered your question. Thanks for writing!

Shane, from Michigan writes:
what is the presidents plan for bettering our economy and bringing us out of this deficit?

Harriet Miers
The President has a forward-looking plan to continue the strong growth of the economy. Just today, we have good news from the Commerce Department. They announced that growth in the third quarter of this year was 3.7%, above the average of the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s. And the unemployment rate, at 5.4%, is lower than the average for those decades too. The homeownership rate is the highest ever, including ownership of homes by minorities.

However, the President knows more work is needed to ensure that every American who wants a job can get one.

To build on his record of success, the President has proposed making the tax relief he called for and that was passed permanent, simplifying the tax code, making health care more affordable and accessible, adopting a comprehensive energy policy, reducing the burden that frivolous lawsuits place on the economy, and opening new markets for American workers.

For a detailed summary of the President's program please go to /infocus/economy/index.html.

And to reduce the deficit, we have to foster economic growth and control government spending. The President's Budget for 2005 holds non-security spending to less than 1% growth. This is a restoration of fiscal discipline, especially when compared to the 15% growth in non-security Federal spending during the last year of the previous Administration. The President has pledged to cut the deficit in half in five years, and we are making progress toward that goal.

Steve, from College Station Texas writes:
Howdy I have owned a small service business in my area for the last one and a half years. I do great work and have no complaints. But the increase in workflow isn't what I had hoped for after this length of time. I have some equipment that needs work (cash outlay) and I could use some more equipment (cash outlay) to expand my small business. Also I need to do more (and more effective advertising - cash outlay).

So, as you can guess cashflow isn't up to specs. This business needs time and name recognition, as well as referrals.

My question is: Are there government grants for my small business that I can receive that will be the 'leg-up' to success that I need?

Harriet Miers
Hello, Steve.

It is nice to hear from someone from College Station, the home of the Presidential Library of our President’s Dad, former President Bush. Small businesses create 70% of the new jobs in the economy, so your work is a key part of the success of the American economy.

The Small Business Administration does offer a range of financing programs to help small businesses get off the ground. You can visit the SBA website ( or call them at 1-800-827-5722 to learn more about the help they offer. Also read the White House chat with SBA Administrator Barreto (/ask/20041027.html). You can also inquire about whether you might qualify for any grant programs.

The President's tax relief program is also helping small businesses like you keep more of the money you earn by reducing tax rates across the board and increasing the amount of investment in equipment that small businesses can expense on their taxes. Steve, your efforts and those of people just like you all around the United States are so important to the continued strength of our economy, so keep up the good work and we wish you great success.

Debra, from Ohio writes:
My mother is in a nursing home and I was told last night that the nursing home will not be able to receive flu vaccines from their supplier. The people who most need these shots can not receive them? Are the elderly expendable?

After they cared for us as children, do we turn our backs on them when they need our help now? How can we keep them safe?

Harriet Miers
Debra, I appreciate the depth of your concern. America's seniors deserve the respect and gratitude of all Americans. My hope is that everyone understands the President’s respect for and commitment to our seniors as demonstrated by his actions. The President is committed to protecting Social Security and the benefits of those in retirement or near retirement, and he strengthened Medicare by adding a prescription drug benefit for our seniors for the first time in the program's history.

As for the flu vaccine shortage, every effort is being made to ensure that those Americans with the greatest need (the elderly, young children, and the chronically ill) have access to the flu vaccine. Through the extraordinary efforts of the Department of Health and Human Services working with vaccine manufacturers around the world, at this point in time we expect to have about 66 million vaccine doses available this flu season. It's still early in the flu season, and thankfully the season has not gotten off to a fast start. In the coming weeks, millions more vaccine doses will be delivered and it will be targeted to people, like your mother, who are in the greatest need for flu vaccine. We have also made arrangements to have nearly 40 million doses of antiviral drugs available during this flu season to help individuals who didn't get the vaccine. You can contact your state health department ( to get more information on how you can get your mother a flu shot.

Bob, from Mayo, MD writes:
Please express to all at VA MED DC my sincere appreciation for a job well done and their continued service and dedication to the veterans' community.

The VA MED DC has truly turned into a customer oriented facility from the "meat factory" it was in the mid 80's. Thanks gang. When will h.r. 4200 be signed by POTUS?

Harriet Miers
Bob, thanks for the kudos. The President's commitment to honoring our Nation's Veterans is unwavering. I'll also pass them along to Secretary Principi (/government/principi-bio.html) and his team at Veterans Affairs. The President has increased funding for veterans more in four years than the previous Administration did in eight, including a 40% increase for veterans’ health care.

As for H.R. 4200, the Ronald W. Reagan Defense Authorization Act, the President signed it yesterday (/news/releases/2004/10/20041029-6.html).

Andrea, from Long Island, NY writes:
Hi Ms. Miers. I heard from a friend that a new federal law was passed this week that will enable banks to process our checks more quickly. I can't find any information on this. Is this true? Happy Halloween

Harriet Miers
Hi Andrea.

Your friend was probably referring to the Check Clearing for the 21st Century Act (P.L. 108-100), also known as the Check 21 Act. The President signed the bill into law exactly one year and a day ago. The bill modernizes the check processing system including by allowing banks to use electronic copies of checks instead of the old system that required physical shipments of checks around the country. Many of the bill's provisions went into effect today.

And a Happy Halloween to you too. You should check out our Halloween page at /halloween/

Barry, from Ottumwa, IA writes:
I have been reading the answers to the questions in this forum but have not seen anything on President Bush's plan for creating and keeping good paying jobs for Americans in America. What does he plan to do help my children and Grandchildren have a secure future?

Harriet Miers
Barry, the President shares your commitment to making sure that America continues to create good-paying jobs for today and tomorrow.

His Jobs for the 21st Century Initiative is building on the success of the No Child Left Behind education reforms so that American workers have the skills they need to compete with anyone in the world. The President's tax relief has created incentives for firms to grow and expand. The future of the American economy depends on making America the best place in the world to do business by making the President's tax cuts permanent, lowering the costs of health care, reducing the burden of frivolous lawsuits and unnecessary regulation, opening new markets for American goods and services, and adopting a comprehensive energy policy.

He is also dedicated to improving job training available in our country, and he is taking steps to make our training programs cost effective and responsive to the needs of our workers. President Bush believes strongly in the value of our community colleges both for education and job training, and he has a number of programs to support and improve them. And, of course, for the sake of our children and grandchildren, President Bush works hard every day to make sure our Nation is safe.

Sam, from Miami Beach writes:
Did NBC use the real Camp David to film THE WEST WING? They have shown Camp David for the past two episodes. GO BUSH GO We are all routing for you in Miami Beach

Harriet Miers
Sam -- Thanks for your strong support in Miami Beach!

I hope this doesn't disappoint you too much, but I understand that the real Camp David was not used to film episodes of the West Wing. Camp David is a beautiful, serene place. It provides a perfect backdrop for the President to meet with and entertain foreign and other visitors. It is a real asset for the United States Government.

Eric, from Mississippi writes:
I want to thank the President for his actions of securing our nation. What are his future plans for better securing our borders?

Harriet Miers
Eric -- You ask a timely question about our borders because the President recently signed an appropriations bill to fund the Department of Homeland Security, which includes more money to protect our borders. Since taking office, the President has tripled funding for homeland security.

With respect to securing our borders, it's important to take a step back and see how far we've come since September 11. Three years ago, there were inspectors from three different Federal agencies at our ports of entry. Today, the Department of Homeland Security's Customs and Border Protection (CBP) consolidates all port inspection activities into a single workforce to create "one face at the border." The Border Patrol is also part of CBP. More than 18,000 CBP Officers, 1,400 CBP Agriculture Specialists, and 11,000 Border Patrol Agents now guard our Nation's borders.

Another initiative that is doing a great job to protect our borders is the US- VISIT program. The US-VISIT entry-exit system uses biometric technology to help ensure that our borders remain open to legitimate travelers but closed to terrorists. US-VISIT was launched at 116 airports and 16 seaports across the country, and the program is expanding to land ports of entry. This program has been very successful, processing more than 8.5 million travelers since January.

You can learn more about these initiatives on our Website at this link: /homeland/

Jeff, from Groton, NY writes:
Good afternoon Harriot. Thank you for taking my question. Why is it hard for your administration to get the word out that the economy is not bad at all. The current numbers look fantasitic. Why are people ignoring the fact that this President is doing a tremendous job with the economy?

Harriet Miers
Thank you for your question. The current numbers do look great, and we are encouraged the economy will continue to get better and better. As you probably know, though, we are not going to be satisfied until every American who wants a job can get one. We have seen signs recently that people across the Nation are learning more and more that the economy is strong and getting stronger. That is encouraging also. Thanks for helping us get the word out by sending your great question. For more,

Nick, from Maryland writes:
Has the President signed the NDAA FY05 bill yet?

Harriet Miers
Hi, Nick. Yes, the President has signed it. You can see my earlier answer that provides the link. Thanks for writing.

Elizabeth, from Covina, CA writes:
Dear Mr President: First of all thank you for all your hard work.

Secondly I want to share the following: Yesterday I attended a memorial service of a young man from my community that was killed in Iraq, I believe Oct. 16, 2004. As you know first hand it is a heartbreaking situation.

Although I personally did not know this soldier I attended in order to pay my respects and to somehow relay to the parents that I acknowledge what this young man died for, a service to his country and us his fellow Americans meaning me. I don't know if I conveyed this in any way to the parents, and I left feeling so helpless. I went home to my family, and life when on as if no loss of live had taken place.

I kept wondering why more people were not there thanking this family for their son's sacrafice. I wanted the whole community to of been there. I have a boy in Iraq, and I know how sad it makes me feel when I think his service there is taken for granted.

I wanted to share this story with you. You probably have hundreds.

May God continue to bless you.

Harriet Miers
Elizabeth, your note shows the greatness of the spirit of the American people. Yes, our Nation is grateful for the sacrifices of our servicemen and women and their families. As the President has said, he has been told by the loved ones of those who have paid the ultimate sacrifice that we should honor their loved ones by completing their mission. The President is committed to doing just that.

Thank you for your wonderfully inspiring words. May God bless you and yours, may he protect our servicemen and women, and may God continue to bless this great country of ours.

Eileen, from Orlando, FL writes:
Not really a question just a note of encouragement for President Bush and

his family. I wanted you to know that my family prays for you everyday, for you safety , for your wisdom, and most of all that you will remain our Leader. Thank you President Bush.

P.S. I am a registered democrat, divorced mom, with two little ones at home and one in the navy. I've had lots of conversation with other mothers and its amazing how much they don't know about you and what you have done for the american people. Once they allow me to talk I can see they have some thinking to do , I just hope your message gets out without bias. Thank you again.

Eileen, Navy Mom

Harriet Miers
Dear Eileen, I appreciate your note. I know the President and Mrs. Bush greatly value the support of Americans like yourself. You and your family are sacrificing to help make the United States safer, and your contribution and the service of your son is helping advance the cause of freedom around the world. Your fellow Americans salute him and his mom! All the best.

Harriet Miers
I appreciate all of those who wrote in today and you for being with us also. Hearing from Americans across the country is inspiring and interesting. I hope everyone has a great weekend.....and don't forget to reset your clocks Saturday night. Harriet