Myths & Facts About the Real Bush Record

Myths & Facts About the Real Bush Record

By Ed Gillespie - December 22, 2008

As the year draws to an end and President Bush enters his final month in office, there is much commentary about the Administration's record over the past eight years. Unsurprisingly, many of these stories assail and distort the President's record and recycle myths and unfounded allegations that have been leveled for the better part of his two terms. Historical accuracy requires a response to the litany of attacks leveled against President Bush, and while there's not enough space to respond to all of them, here are five of the most egregious:

Myth 1: The last eight years were awful for most Americans economically and President Bush's deregulatory policies caused the current financial crisis.


President Bush's time in office is ending as it began, with our economy under stress. The recession President Bush inherited as he entered office ran through the attacks of September 11, 2001, but during the recovery that followed, and due in no small part to the tax relief President Bush worked with Congress to provide, this country experienced its longest run of uninterrupted job growth - 52 straight months, with 8.3 million jobs created.

This reflected six consecutive years of economic growth from the Fourth Quarter of 2001 until the Fourth Quarter of 2007. From 2000 to 2007, real GDP grew by more than 17 percent, a remarkable gain of nearly 2.1 trillion dollars. This growth was driven in part by increased labor productivity gains that have averaged 2.5 percent annually since 2001, a rate that exceeds the averages of the 1970s, '80s, and '90s. In the same period, real after-tax income per capita increased by more than 11 percent, and there was a 4.7 percent increase in the number of new businesses formed. The current economic challenges, which the President and his Administration have responded to aggressively, threaten to reverse some of these gains - but the gains cannot be denied.

As for the current crisis, the President and his economic team have taken unprecedented actions to stabilize the financial sector and avert a collapse. While there are a number of causes of the housing and credit crises that are at the root of our current economic troubles, deregulation by the Bush Administration is simply not one of them. In fact, one of the circumstances that contributed to the crisis was the failure of the government sponsored enterprises (GSEs) Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, which President Bush long tried to subject to greater regulation. In April 2001, three months after taking office, the President warned in his first budget that the size of the two GSEs were a "potential problem" that "could cause strong repercussions in financial markets, affecting Federally insured entities and economic activity." In 2003, the Administration began calling for a new GSE regulator, and over the next five years, the Administration continued to call for GSE reform only to be accused by Democrats in Congress of creating artificial fears and advocating for ill-advised proposals. By the time Congress finally acted in 2008 to provide the oversight the President requested, it was too late to prevent systemic consequences. Had the Administration's initial reform proposals been adopted, some of today's turmoil in our financial markets may have been averted.

Myth 2: President Bush's tax cuts only benefitted the wealthy and were paid for by sacrificing investments in health care and education.


There are not 116 million "wealthy Americans," but that's how many taxpayers benefited from the President's tax relief. The across-the-board tax cuts provided tax relief to every American who pays income taxes, created a new bottom 10 percent bracket rate, doubled the child tax credit to $1,000, and actually increased the share of the Federal income tax burden paid by the top 10 percent of individual earners from 67 percent in 2000 to 70 percent in 2005. Furthermore, this Administration removed 13 million low-income earners from the income tax rolls completely.

The economic growth spurred by tax relief also spurred growth in Federal tax receipts. In fact, the Federal Treasury realized the largest three-year increase of revenue in 26 years, and tax receipts grew more than $542 billion between 2000 and 2007. And yes, much of that money went to investments in health care and education.

President Bush provided more than 40 million Americans with better access to prescription drugs by creating the market-based Medicare Prescription Drug Benefit. And it is one of the rare government programs that actually costs less than expected. Projected overall program spending between 2004 and 2013 is approximately $240 billion lower, nearly 38 percent, than originally estimated, thanks to the market-oriented principles included at President Bush's insistence.

Despite the heated rhetoric over children's health insurance (S-CHIP) legislation last year, estimates from a 2007 Federal survey show that the number of uninsured children under the age of 18 actually declined by 800,000 from 2001 to 2007. From 2007 to 2008, the number of people covered by affordable and portable Health Savings Account-eligible plans increased 35 percent. Additionally, since President Bush took office, more than 1,200 community health centers have opened or expanded nationwide, which has helped provide treatment to nearly 17 million people.

Federal spending on education has increased nearly 40 percent under President Bush. Additionally, Pell Grant funding nearly doubled during the Administration, which is expected to help more than 5.5 million students attend college in the 2008-09 school year, 1.2 million more students than were assisted by Pell Grants in the 2001-02 school year. This financial aid assistance also helps account for the fact that 66 percent of high school graduates from the class of 2006 enrolled in colleges, compared to 63 percent in 2000.

Perhaps more importantly, the President's No Child Left Behind Act has delivered tangible results to students. Since the law was enacted, fourth-grade students have achieved their highest reading and math scores on record, eighth-grade students have achieved their highest math scores on record, and African-American and Hispanic students have posted all-time high scores in a number of categories, narrowing the gap between minority students and white students.

Myth 3: The President's "go it alone" foreign policy ruined America's standing in the world.


Rarely can one see revisionist history occurring in the present, but this charge is nothing short of that. The United States acted with a multilateral coalition of partner nations to remove Saddam Hussein from power in Iraq after he failed to comply with the will of the international community, including numerous United Nations Security Council Resolutions. To ignore this fact is not only a distortion of history, but it is also an insult to the service members of our coalition partners who sacrificed their lives to contribute to the success we are now witnessing in Iraq. And in Afghanistan, approximately forty countries are currently deployed with American forces, including every one of our NATO allies.

The President also created a worldwide coalition of more than 90 nations to combat terrorist networks by sharing information, drying up their financing, and bringing their leaders to justice. To date, we have captured or killed hundreds of al-Qaeda leaders and operatives with the help of partner nations. Furthermore, the Administration established the Proliferation Security Initiative, which now includes more than 90 nations, and other multilateral coalitions to stop the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.

The President successfully pushed for expanding NATO membership, generated international pressure on Iran to stop it from developing nuclear weapons, and organized the Six-Party Talks, which have resulted in North Korea committing to give up its nuclear weapons and abandon its nuclear programs. Verifying North Korea's commitment will be a challenge, but at the most recent Six-Party Talks meeting, there was strong consensus among the five parties that North Korea must submit to a comprehensive verification regime that accords with international standards.

U.S. ties in Asia have been strengthened over the past eight years, and the Administration has built strong relationships with China, Japan, and South Korea, among others. We have signed an historic civilian nuclear power agreement with India, reflecting a fundamental change in our relationship. Pro-American leaders have been elected in Germany, France, and Italy. Eastern European countries such as Georgia, Ukraine, and Kosovo treasure their relationships with the United States, and no president has done more to improve health and security in the nations of Africa. We have also strengthened cooperation with Latin America, including initiatives with Brazil on biofuels and with Mexico and Central America on fighting organized crime. Finally, when the President took office, America had trade agreements in force with only three countries, versus 14 today - with three additional agreements approved by Congress but not yet in force and agreements with three countries that are awaiting Congressional approval.

Myth 4: The war in Iraq caused us to "take our eye off the ball" in Afghanistan and with al Qaeda.


Iraq and Afghanistan are two fronts in the same war, and while the success of the surge in Iraq has been visible, we have also had a quiet surge in Afghanistan. The U.S. has continuously and aggressively fought side-by-side with Afghans and our allies to defeat the Taliban and al Qaeda in Afghanistan. The United States has provided nearly $32 billion for security, political, and economic development assistance and the international community has provided more than $55 billion to Afghanistan since 2001.

An additional U.S. Marine battalion deployed to Afghanistan in November and they will be followed by an Army combat brigade of about 3,400 troops in early 2009. U.S. forces now total approximately 31,000, and are joined by nearly as many coalition troops. The United States and our allies are working with Afghanistan to help it nearly double the size of the Afghan National Army over the next five years, from 79,000 now trained to 134,000 in 2014.

We have also deployed Provincial Reconstruction Teams to ensure security gains are followed by real improvements in daily life, and we have helped local communities strengthen their economies and create jobs, deliver basic services, improve governance and fight corruption, and build or repair key infrastructure such as roads, bridges, hospitals, and schools. More than six million children, approximately two million of them girls, are now in Afghan schools, compared to fewer than one million in 2001.

In this Global War on Terror, we do not have the luxury to fight on one battlefront at a time. To defeat the terrorists, we must fight them overseas so we don't have to fight them here at home. Since 9/11, we have successfully captured or killed dozens of al-Qaeda's senior leadership and hundreds of al-Qaeda operatives in two dozen countries, removed al-Qaeda's safe-haven in Afghanistan and crippled al-Qaeda in Iraq, and disrupted numerous al Qaeda terrorist plots against the U.S., including a 2006 plot to blow up passenger planes traveling from London.

Myth 5: This Administration has been bad for the environment and ignored the problem of global warming.


Given the liberal media's failure to acknowledge this Administration's true record on alternative energy, conservation, and climate change, it's not surprising this charge has stuck. But here are some irrefutable data points: From 2001 to 2007, air pollution decreased by 12 percent, and fine particulate matter pollution is down 17 percent since 2001. Ethanol production quadrupled from 1.6 billion gallons in 2000 to 6.5 billion gallons in 2007, wind energy production has increased by more than 400 percent, and solar energy capacity has doubled. In 2007, solar installations increased more than 32 percent and the U.S. produced 96 percent more biodiesel (490 million gallons) than in 2006. The Administration also provided nearly $18 billion to research, develop, and promote alternative and more efficient energy technologies such as biofuels, solar, wind, clean coal, nuclear, and hydrogen.

This Administration has improved and protected the health of more than 27 million acres of Federal forest and grasslands, protected, restored, and improved more than three million acres of wetlands, and established the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument, the world's largest fully protected marine conservation area (nearly 140,000 square miles).

Much of the misperception about the President's environmental record is born out of the President's withdrawing the United States from the Kyoto Protocol, which did not include the effective participation of major developing countries such as India and China. Instead, the President worked to address climate change by launching the Major Economies Process, which convened the leaders of the world's major economies, both developed and developing, to work on ways to further reduce greenhouse gas emissions and improve energy security without harming our economies or giving any nation a free ride. Finally, the President set the country on course to stop the growth of greenhouse gas emissions below projected levels by 2025 and invested more than $44 billion in climate change-related programs.

Some other items that are infrequently mentioned about the real record of the Bush Administration but are worth noting: Teenage drug use has declined 25 percent; in 2007, the violent crime rate was 43 percent lower than the rate in 1998; between 2005 and 2007, the chronically homeless population decreased approximately 30 percent; funding for veterans' medical care has increased more than 115 percent; and as of 2005, the most recent abortion rate is at its lowest since 1974.

And one last fact: Our homeland has not suffered another terrorist attack since September 11, 2001. That, too, is part of the real Bush record.

More on RCP: Gas Prices Shouldn't Set Our Energy Policy

Ed Gillespie is the Counselor to President George W. Bush.

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