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Bush on the Home Front

Domestic Policy Triumphs and Setbacks

John D. Graham

Publication Year: 2010

Military operations in Afghanistan and Iraq consumed so much attention during his presidency that few people appreciated that George W. Bush was also an activist on the home front. Despite limited public support, and while confronting a deeply divided Congress, Bush engineered and implemented reforms of public policy on a wide range of issues: taxes, education, health care, energy, environment, and regulatory reform. In Bush on the Home Front, former Bush White House official and academic John D. Graham analyzes Bush's successes in these areas and setbacks in other areas such as Social Security and immigration reform. Graham provides valuable insights into how future presidents can shape U.S. domestic policy while facing continuing partisan polarization.

Published by: Indiana University Press


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pp. v

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Preface and Acknowledgments

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pp. vii-ix

This book has a dual purpose: to examine what George W. Bush accomplished in domestic policy, and to draw lessons from the Bush experience about how future presidents can be effective in an era of polarized politics. I offer this assessment as both a scholar of public policy and a former participant in the Bush From 1985 through 2000 I was a professor at the Harvard School of Public ...

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1. Ambiguous Mandate, Polarized Congress

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pp. 1-26

As George W. Bush’s last year in office came to a conclusion, critics declared that our forty-third president was a failure. There are certainly many difficulties to be cited: the prolonged military occupation of Iraq, the messy aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, the burgeoning federal debt, rising fuel prices, a proliferation of home foreclosures, the painful recession that began in 2008, ...

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2. Lower Taxes, More Spending

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pp. 27-53

The fiscal policies of George W. Bush were decidedly expansionary: multiple rounds of tax cuts combined with substantial increases in the rate of federal spending (both domestic and military). Cross-partisanship was the key legislative strategy, and it was repeatedly successful. There is plenty of good news and bad news in these policies, but there is little doubt that Bush’s ...

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3. The Social Security Debacle

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pp. 54-62

Social Security is a mandatory entitlement program in the sense that the federal government is required to provide income to all citizens who meet the program specifications. As currently structured, current payees transfer funds to current retirees. In theory, the current payees will one day be transferred funds according to some proportion of what they paid in transfer funds ...

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4. Making Sure Kids Learn

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pp. 63-92

George W. Bush startled many Republicans in January 2001 when he announced his number one priority for social policy: reform of elementary and secondary education. Bush rejected the prevailing view of national conservatives that this issue is not a responsibility of the federal government. Indeed, he had insisted at the 2000 Republican convention that the party platform not ...

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5. Drug Coverage for Seniors

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pp. 93-114

Like education, health care is an issue that historically has been dominated by the Democratic Party. President Bush was not deterred by this history. He established principles for comprehensive Medicare reform but carved out a more targeted objective that was a direct outgrowth of a 2000 campaign pledge: ...

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6. Producing More Energy

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pp. 115-162

President Bush’s policies on tax cuts, public education, and prescription drugs emerged directly from his campaign positions against Vice President Al Gore. In some ways, the same can be said of energy policy. Bush campaigned on the need for more U.S. oil and gas production and “clean coal” technology while Gore favored renewable sources of energy. After the election, the Bush ...

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7. Consuming Less Energy

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pp. 163-193

The 2001 National Energy Policy emphasized the urgent need to increase oil production in the United States. Less well known is the fact that the policy also stipulated that “conservation and energy efficiency are important elements of a sound energy policy.”1 Even less well known is the fact (which this chapter reveals) that George W. Bush accomplished more to improve the fuel ...

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8. Cleaner Air, Warmer Climate

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pp. 194-220

When Bush took office in 2001, he sought to accelerate the progress on clean air that his father had spurred with the Clean Air Act Amendments of 1990. In contrast to leading European politicians and Vice President Al Gore, who saw global warming as the top environmental priority, Bush’s priority was to reduce the soot and smog in the air that impairs the public’s health....

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9. Illegal Immigration: Punishment or Amnesty?

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pp. 221-250

One of George W. Bush’s fascinating failures was his bold legislative proposal to reform federal immigration law. Instead of combining a unified Republican base with a limited number of crossover Democrats, the Bush White House sought to combine widespread Democratic support for his plan with support from a limited number of Republicans in Congress....

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10. Tort and Regulatory Reform

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pp. 251-271

In 2000 and again in 2004 Bush campaigned on the need to curb the unnecessary burdens caused by America’s complex tort liability system. Bush also criticized the excessive regulatory and paperwork burdens imposed on businesses and state and local governments, and called for special consideration In 2001, the best estimate was that federal regulations imposed several ...

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11. Meltdown and Bailouts

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pp. 272-291

The last year of a president’s second term is supposed to be a dud because Congress has no incentive to negotiate or cooperate with a lame duck. Bush’s persistently low public approval ratings in his second term (they sagged below 30 percent in many polls) certainly removed any fear of him among Democrats. Indeed, Bush became so unpopular that neither Democrats nor ...

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12. Taking Stock, with Lessons for Future Presidents

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pp. 292-331

George W. Bush’s domestic policies receive far less attention than his foreign policies, especially the military operations in Afghanistan and Iraq.1 Any president’s foreign policies certainly deserve sustained scrutiny, but this book has supplied a wealth of evidence that Bush was also a bold and activist president on traditional domestic issues. In light of the partisan ...


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pp. 333-401


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pp. 403-425

E-ISBN-13: 9780253004130
E-ISBN-10: 0253004136
Print-ISBN-13: 9780253354365

Page Count: 440
Illustrations: 19 tables
Publication Year: 2010