George W. Bush took office with a long list of reforms and policy goals. Here is the list.
Bush's $47 billion, 10-year plan aims to set high standards, promote character education and ensure school safety — but without too much federal involvement. In return for this freedom, states will be held accountable for the results of their education policies, winning rewards from a $500 million fund for high student achievement but risking 5 percent cuts in funds if student performance lags.
In areas where public schools fail to meet standards for three years, Bush would let federal tax dollars help parents send their children to private schools. He would encourage the creation of more charter schools.
The president also wants to increase federal college scholarships and grants by $8 billion and to let families save $5,000 a year, tax-free, for education expenses at all ages.
In a time of prosperity and surpluses, Bush says, all Americans deserve tax cuts — specifically, an across-the-board, $1.3 trillion cut that over the next decade would reduce the lowest rate to 10 percent, with the highest at 33 percent. Bush wants to double the child tax credit to $1,000, eliminate the inheritance tax, reduce the marriage penalty by allowing a deduction of 10 percent of the lower-earning spouse's salary, up to $30,000, and allow people who don't itemize to take charitable deductions.
Bush wants to give workers the option of staying entirely in the current system or else investing a portion of their Social Security taxes in individual retirement accounts, taking a smaller payout from the program when they retire but supplementing their benefits with the private investments. For younger workers, he has not ruled out a further increase in age for receiving benefits.
DEFENSE AND FOREIGN POLICY
Bush wants to strengthen and modernize the military by spending $20 billion more for weapons R&D over the next five years, and by spending $1 billion a year to boost salaries, giving the average soldier a $750 raise in the first year. The president wants to build an effective national missile defense system, which would require an amendment to the U.S.-Russia Anti-Ballistic Missile treaty. Bush has said he would proceed with the system even without Russia's agreement. He also wants to cut the U.S. nuclear stockpile, even if Moscow does not match them. As for foreign policy, Bush wants to focus on national interests, but without withdrawing from the world.
Bush opposes abortion rights except in cases of rape or incest or when a woman's life is endangered. He says he will nominate "strict constructionists" to the Supreme Court, which some take to mean justices sympathetic to abortion restrictions. He said he was disappointed by federal approval of the abortion pill but did not think a president could overturn it. He would, however, sign a ban on a kind of late-term abortion called "partial birth" by its critics.
Bush plans to decrease the ranks of the 43 million uninsured by making it easier for small businesses to get lower-cost insurance through associations. He would also try to remove federal regulations that he says restrict states' abilities to run programs for those without health insurance. Low-income families would get a $2,000 refundable health credit. Bush also wants to create a $158 billion plan to cover prescription drugs for the elderly poor and subsidize choice in drug plans for other Medicare beneficiaries.
In addition, he wants to provide $3.6 billion to build 1,200 rural health clinics and $500 million in grants over five years to fund projects that address targeted health risks such as childhood diabetes.
AGRICULTURE AND FARMING
Bush supports the agriculture industry's eventual "transition to a market economy" by opening markets overseas for U.S. farm products and eliminating agricultural export subsidies and tariffs worldwide. He would also eliminate the inheritance tax and set aside extra $7.6 billion for crop insurance over 10 years.
TECHNOLOGY AND THE NEW ECONOMY
Bush wants to encourage investment in R&D, pursue free trade and reform export controls. He would accelerate e-government and spend more than $1 billion over five years increase access to assistive technologies for Americans with disabilities. He wants to extend the moratorium on new Internet sales taxes at least through 2006 and spend $400 million over five years to improve the education value of Internet use in schools.
ENVIRONMENT AND NATURAL RESOURCES
Bush wants to maintain a strong federal role in environmental protection but would return significant authority to states and local communities. He wants to set high standards but use market-based incentives — such as halving capital gains taxes for landowners who sell property for conservation — to develop technologies to meet them. Bush would provide $50 million in matching grants with states for landowners to restore habitat or protect rare species while farming or ranching. Bush plans for the federal government to comply with all regulations.
The president would try to increase domestic oil production and exploration, including in the protected Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska. At the same time, he would try to increase reliance on natural gas.
Bush opposes extending federal control over forests, seashores and monument properties, and he opposes ratification of the Kyoto agreement on global warming.
Bush wants to restore presidential authority to negotiate trade agreements. He supports the entry not only of China into the World Trade Organization but also Taiwan, and he would launch a new round of global trade talks. Priority, however, would go to a free-trade agreement for the Western Hemisphere.
Bush says existing gun laws have not been adequately enforced and that he would vigorously prosecute those who illegally sell, carry and commit crimes with guns. But he also says it's up to states to decide whether law-abiding citizens should be allowed to carry concealed guns.
He would, however, raise the age for handgun possession to 21 and require background checks at gun shows if they are instant. He would sign a bill requiring child-safety locks to be sold with guns.
In his first year in office, Bush wants to provide $8 billion in tax breaks and other incentives to mobilize what he calls the "armies of compassion" — charities, churches, communities and corporations — to assume more responsibility for the needy.
CAMPAIGN FINANCE REFORM
Bush's proposal for campaign-finance reform begins with full disclosure of campaign contributions and would extend to banning corporations and unions from giving “soft” money to political parties. He would also institute "paycheck protection” to prevent unions from spending members’ dues on politics without their permission. The same would not apply to corporations and their shareholders.