Center for American Progress

Claim vs. Fact: 2003: A Year of Distortion for the American People

On December 13, the White House issued a document entitled "2003: A Year of Accomplishment for the American People." The document made various inaccurate and deceptive claims about the Administration's record over the last year. This report by the Center for American Progress seeks to correct those distortions, matching the White House's rhetoric with facts. Please note, text underlined in blue is hyperlinked directly to the original source material.


Drug Coverage, Drug Costs, Health Saving Accounts


Deficits, Tax Cuts

'Healthy Forests', Power Plant Emissions, Mercury Emissions
Consumer Protection, Veterans, AIDS
International Financing, Military Help, WMD, Saddam-Al Qaeda Ties
Military Support, Funding
Terrorist Financing, First Responders, Cyber Security

Produced by the Center for American Progress, 12/13/03

WHITE HOUSE CLAIM: "The historic legislation the President signed will create a modern Medicare system, providing seniors with prescription drug benefits."

FACT: "The new law gives private insurers the authority to ration access to drugs funded by Medicare. Beneficiaries will have to choose a drug insurer without knowing exactly what drugs that insurer will cover. Premiums will be higher in areas with older or sicker seniors." – American Progress Fellow Jeanne Lambrew, 12/4/03

FACT: "The Congressional Budget Office projects that 2.7 million retirees are expected to lose the drug coverage they currently receive through their former because their employers will drop such coverage when the Medicare drug benefit becomes available." – Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, 12/11/03

FACT: "[T]he insurance plan would provide little relief for about 3 million people with moderate assets and incomes near the poverty level and would cost seniors with drug expenses under $835 a year more than they currently spend." Boston Globe, 11/18/03

FACT: "A substantial number of the 6.4 million low-income Medicare beneficiaries who also are eligible for Medicaid and currently receive prescription drug coverage through Medicaid would be made worse off under the Medicare conference agreement." – Center of Budget and Policy Priorities Report, 11/21/03

FACT: "The Congressional Budget Office estimates about 2.7 million seniors could lose benefits that may be more generous than those that will be offered under Medicare." -USA Today, 11/25/03

WHITE HOUSE CLAIM: "Beneficiaries who lack coverage will cut their yearly drug costs roughly in half, in exchange for an approximately $35 monthly premium. The more than one-third of seniors with low incomes will be eligible for even greater drug savings, paying as little as $1 per prescription."

FACT: "[U]nder the new plan, seniors in the middle income quintile will pay an average of $1,650 a year in out-of-pocket expenses for prescription drugs in 2006. This figure is nearly 60 percent more than they paid in 2000, even after adjusting for inflation. Expenses are projected to continue to rise so that by 2013 middle-income seniors will be paying more than two and a half times as much for prescription drugs (adjusting for inflation) as they did in 2000." – Ctr. for Economic and Policy Research, 12/04/03

WHITE HOUSE CLAIM: "The historic Medicare legislation that the President signed included a provision establishing Health Savings Accounts (HSAs)…These HSAs will allow more Americans to save for health care needs, and will allow more small businesses to help workers secure health coverage."

FACT: The creation of "Health Care Savings Accounts" provides an "incentive to shift more costs to workers, who may be asked to 'match' their employer's contribution to a HSA with its high deductibles and high co-payments." Urban Institute economist Len Burman said HSAs will become "a boon to the healthy and wealthy and a bane" to older, sicker co-workers left to confront higher costs and premiums in traditional health plans. – Scripps Howard News, Scripps Howard, 12/3/03

FACT: According to major studies conducted in the past by RAND, the Urban Institute, and the American Academy of Actuaries, "premiums for comprehensive, employer-based coverage could more than double if such accounts became widespread." – CBPP, 11/18/03

WHITE HOUSE CLAIM: "President Bush's economic leadership is producing positive results."

FACT: "More than 2.2 million jobs have been lost since Bush took office. Bush is still on pace to be the first President since Herbert Hoover to have a net job loss over his four year term." BLS Data

FACT: In July 2003, the Counsel of Economic Advisors predicted that the President's latest round of tax cuts would produce 1,530,000 jobs would be created in the first five months. In fact, only 271,000 jobs were created over those five months for a cumulative shortfall of 1,259,000 jobs. Economic Policy Institute

FACT: "Twenty five major American cities saw a 19% increase in the need for emergency food last year alone." – UK Guardian, 11/3/03

FACT: "New jobs created during the 2004-05 period are forecast to pay an average of $35,855, far lower than the $43,629 average pay of those jobs lost between 2001-03." – U.S. Conference of Mayors, 11/10/03

FACT: "Only 14% of CEOs are planning to increase the pace of hiring." – Business Council Poll, 10/9/03

FACT: Poverty levels have risen for the second straight year in a row – the first time in more than 13 years. Economic Policy Institute

WHITE HOUSE CLAIM: "Maintaining Fiscal Discipline: [The President has] continued to restrain spending."

FACT: The House recently passed a massive $373 billion spending bill, laden with pork-barrel spending and controversial provisions as far as the eye could see. "The size of the measure invites abuse. Spending set-asides for home-state projects have grown to extraordinary levels, filling scores of pages in the Congressional Record." President Bush issued a "personal appeal" to Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-TN) to "push the spending package through the Senate" without changes after the House passed the pork-laden bill." – AP, 12/8/03, 12/5/03, Wall Street Journal 12/3/08

FACT: "For the 2003 budget year, which ended Sept. 30, the government recorded a deficit of $374.8 billion, according to revised figures. In November alone, the deficit swelled to nearly $43 billion." – AP, 12/12/03

FACT: "Most observers familiar with the budget outlook, including the White House’s Office of Management and Budget, agree that deficits will become even larger after 2013." – American Progress Senior Economist Christian Weller, 12/12/03

WHITE HOUSE CLAIM: "91 million taxpayers received, on average, a tax cut of $1,126. Since the President took office, 109 million taxpayers have received, on average, a tax cut of $1,544. Without the fiscal measures implemented under President Bush, there would be as many as 2 million fewer jobs for American workers today."

FACT: 80% of taxpayers would receive less than $1,083, and half would receive $100 or less. The handful of millionaires who would get about $90,000 artificially inflates the average. – Citizens for Tax Justice, 5/22/03, CBPP, 5/28/03

FACT: 'The economic consulting firm found that the tax cuts were responsible for only 13 percent of the growth last quarter – meaning that we still would have seen GDP growth of about 7 percent without the tax cut." – American Progress Fellow Gene Sperling, 12/11/03

WHITE HOUSE CLAIM: "23 million small business owners received tax cuts averaging $2,209."

FACT: "Nearly four out of every five tax filers (79%) with small business income would receive less than $2,209." Additionally, "52% of people with small business returns would get $500 or less." – Urban Inst.-Brookings Tax Policy Center, 1/21/03

WHITE HOUSE CLAIM: "As part of the President's Healthy Forests Initiative, he signed bipartisan legislation to improve forest health and reduce the risk of catastrophic wildfires while upholding environmental laws, restoring our nation's forests, and preserving the forest economy."

FACT: The Congressional Research service reported that the "Health Forests" bill may actually increase the risk of fire. CRS expert Ross W. Corte said, "Timber harvesting removes the relatively large diameter wood that can be converted into wood products but leaves behind the small material, especially twigs and needles" that contributes to fires. – CRS report, 8/22/2000

FACT: In fact, the bill was sought by the timber industry "not because they wanted to remove brush and chaparral" which can cause forest fires but because it would "increase commercial logging with less environmental oversight." – CBS News, 12/3/03

WHITE HOUSE CLAIM: "The Bush Administration proposed stringent new rules on power plant emissions."

FACT: "The Bush administration on Friday eased clean air rules to allow utilities, refineries and manufacturers to avoid having to install expensive new anti-pollution equipment when they modernize their plants." – CBS News, 11/22/02

FACT: "More than a dozen state attorneys general yesterday sought to block the federal government from implementing a rule change they argued would lead to more air pollution from the nation's power plants. Fourteen states, and a number of cities – including New York, San Francisco, and Washington, D.c= – are seeking a court injunction to impede a measure by the Environmental Protection Agency before it goes into effect." – AP, 11/18/03

FACT: "The chief of the Environmental Protection Agency's civil enforcement office has resigned, complaining the White House is undermining anti-pollution efforts at power plants that violate clean air laws. Eric Schaeffer, a lawyer at the EPA for a dozen years dating from the first Bush administration, said in a letter to EPA Administrator Christie Whitman that the White House "seems determined to weaken the rules we are trying to enforce." – CBS News, 3/1/02

WHITE HOUSE CLAIM: "The Bush Administration proposed stringent new rules which will result in dramatic reductions of sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, and mercury."

FACT: Two separate reports issued by the GAO and the Rockefeller Family Fund project and Council of State Governments stated that the Administration's relaxation of pollution rules for power plants would lead to reduced fines and pollution controls as well as 1.4 million tons more air pollution. – CBS News, 11/6/03

FACT: "The Administration is proposing to use a provision of the Clean Air Act never before used to regulate toxics and setting a level of reductions for mercury emissions far below what the Clean Air Act toxic provisions would require. Using the [traditional] provisions of the Clean Air Act would achieve at least a 90 percent reduction in mercury emissions from coal-fired power plants by 2008. The Administration’s proposals suggest only a 30% reduction, to the benefit of Coal-fired power plants and utilities." – Former EPA Administrator Carol Browner, 12/4/03

WHITE HOUSE CLAIM: "Parents, teachers, and principals are seeing a positive difference in America's schools. The No Child Left Behind Act is raising standards for students and putting the focus on student achievement."

FACT: "The sweeping federal law left cash-strapped states battered and confused in 2003. More nationwide provisions will take effect in 2004, along with the threat of losing millions of dollars for states that don’t pass muster." – Stateline, 12/8/03

WHITE HOUSE CLAIM: "The Bush Administration is investing more money in elementary and secondary education than at any time in American history."

FACT: "President Bush proposed a budget that was $9.7 billion below the amount needed to fund his own No Child Left Behind Bill. The budget eliminates 45 education programs, and slashes another 18 programs by $1.4 billion. Specifically, he proposes to cut $400 million (40%) out of after-school programs, resulting in 485,000 children being thrown off these programs. He proposes to freeze teacher training grants, meaning a loss of opportunity for 30,000 teachers. And, during a recession, he has proposed a $307 million cut for vocational/technical education grants, and a freeze on Pell Grants." – House Appropriations Committee report, 3/10/03

WHITE HOUSE CLAIM: "Enhancing Consumer Credit Protections. The President proposed and signed into law legislation to ensure citizens are treated fairly when they apply for credit. It also addresses the growing problem of identity theft by establishing a nationwide fraud alert system."

FACT: "In addition to previous votes that gutted state provisions to prevent financial institutions from sharing customers' information with others, the final version of the bill will roll back states' anti-identity-theft measures." – SF Chronicle, 11/22/03

FACT: The Administration proposed new regulations that "would shield national banks from state laws enacted to protect consumers from predatory lending." The regulations were criticized by NY AG Eliot Spitzer as preventing the states from prosecuting "nationally chartered financial services companies for charging outsized fees and interest rates to poor consumers who have bad credit." – Financial Times, 12/11/03

WHITE HOUSE CLAIM: "Honoring Our Commitment to Veterans: America owes veterans and those on the front lines of freedom a great debt of gratitude."

FACT: The Administration is pushing a cut of $1.5 billion in military housing/medical facility funding, despite the fact that UPI reports “hundreds of sick and wounded U.S. soldiers including many who served in the Iraq war are languishing in hot cement barracks here while they wait – sometimes for months – to see doctors." – Wash Post, 1/17/03, UPI, 10/17/03

FACT: “One million children living in military and veteran families are being denied child tax credit help" in President Bush’s tax cut. “More than 260,000 of these children have parents on active military duty." – Children’s Defense Fund, 6/6/03

WHITE HOUSE CLAIM: "President Bush was pleased to sign legislation that resolved the issue of concurrent receipt in a fair and responsible manner."

FACT: In the fiscal year 2003 defense authorization bill, Congress stipulated that veterans with disabilities would no longer have to give up part of the retirement pay they have earned. In other words, they would receive retired pay and disability pay concurrently. Bush threatened to veto the bill if it includes concurrent receipt. – Baltimore Sun, 12/1/02, Wash. Post, 10/7/02

WHITE HOUSE CLAIM: "Leading the Fight Against HIV/AIDS: In his State of the Union Address, President Bush announced the Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief an historic 5-year, $15 billion effort to turn the tide of the AIDS pandemic. Only 4 months later, Congress passed legislation authorizing the Emergency Plan based on the President's proposal."

FACT: President Bush's budget introduced four days after his State of the Union "only sought $2 billion for the year" for AIDS – 33% less than the $3 billion needed to keep his $15-billion-over-5-year pledge. When the Senate voted to increase the President's budget, the White House "repeated its strong opposition to any funding beyond $2 billion." – LA Times, 10/31/03

FACT: "President Bush plans to ask Congress for relatively small funding increases to fight AIDS and poverty in the developing world, stepping back from his highly publicized pledge to spend huge sums to help fight them." – WSJ, 12/10/2003

WHITE HOUSE CLAIM: "At the Madrid donors' conference, 73 countries and 20 international organizations joined together and pledged over $30 billion for Iraq."

FACT: "Six weeks after organizers of an international donors conference in Madrid said that more than $3 billion in grants had been pledged to help Iraq with immediate needs, a new World Bank tally verifies grants of only $685 million for 2004." – NY Times, 12/7/03

WHITE HOUSE CLAIM: "Our mission has broad support from the international community, including troops from 18 out of 25 current and future NATO countries."

FACT: While the U.S. has over 160,000 troops in Iraq, the next largest force contingent is Britain, with about 9,000 troops. Additionally, since President Bush asked for more military help in September, not one additional new international soldier has been sent to Iraq. – UK Guardian, 12/12/03

WHITE HOUSE CLAIM: "We are now learning the full truth about Saddam Hussein's regime: clear evidence of Saddam's illegal weapons program."

FACT: “A draft report on the search for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq provides no solid evidence that Iraq had such arms when the United States invaded the country in March." – Reuters, 9/15/03

FACT: “We have not uncovered evidence that Iraq undertook significant post-1998 steps to actually build nuclear weapons or produce fissile material…We have not yet been able to corroborate the existence of a mobile biological weapons production effort…Technical limitations would prevent any of these processes from being ideally suited to these trailers…Iraq did not have a large, ongoing, centrally controlled chemical weapons program after 1991… Iraq's large-scale capability to develop, produce, and fill new chemical weapon munitions was reduced – if not entirely destroyed – during Operations Desert Storm and Desert Fox, 13 years of UN sanctions and UN inspections." – Bush Administration Weapons Inspector David Kay, 10/2/03

WHITE HOUSE CLAIM: "[We have found] previously undocumented ties to terror organizations."

FACT: The bipartisan September 11th commission report “undercuts Bush Administration claims before the war that Hussein had links to Al Qaeda." – LA Times, 7/19/03

FACT: "Since the fall of Baghdad, coalition forces have not brought to light any significant evidence demonstrating the bond between Iraq and Al Qaeda." – NY Times, 7/20/03

FACT: "Three former Bush Administration officials who worked on intelligence and national security issues said the prewar evidence tying Al Qaeda was tenuous, exaggerated and often at odds with the conclusions of key intelligence agencies." – National Journal, 8/9/03

WHITE HOUSE CLAIM: "America and more than 20 allied countries are working to help the Afghan people rebuild their war-torn nation. More than 15 million Afghan citizens have been freed from the brutal zealotry of the Taliban."

FACT: The U.N. delegation reported that "insecurity caused by terrorist activities, factional fights and drug related crime remain the major concern of Afghans today." Insecurity is especially a problem in the southern part of the country where "attacks against non-governmental organizations was contributing to the slowing of reconstruction." Throughout the nation "individuals and communities suffer from abuses of their basic rights by local commanders and factional leaders." The problems are exacerbated in many areas of the country "by terrorist attacks from suspected members of the Taliban and Al Qaeda." Also of serious concern: "Arbitrary control exercised by local commanders and factional armies [that] has resulted in heavy casualties." – UN Report, 11/11/03

WHITE HOUSE CLAIM: "The U.S. Congress passed the Afghanistan Freedom Support Act which authorizes $3.47 billion for Afghanistan over fiscal years 2003-2006."

FACT: While President Bush declared a "Marshall Plan for Afghanistan" in April 2002, the nation has "received only a fraction of the $10.2 billion" that the World Bank said was necessary over the first five years. – Senate Foreign Relations Committee Testimony, 10/16/03

WHITE HOUSE CLAIM: "The Treasury Department has frozen over $136 million from over 240 terrorist-related entities."

FACT: "Federal authorities do not have a clear understanding of how terrorists move their financial assets and are still struggling to prevent the flow of money to terror groups," according to a new report by the GAO to be released Sunday. – NY Times, 12/12/03

WHITE HOUSE CLAIM: "Helping State and Local First Responders: The President is continuing to give our nation's first responder and public health system the training and equipment to prepare, prevent and respond to any future terrorist attack."

FACT: "Emergency Responders are drastically underfunded and dangerously unprepared. The United States remains dangerously ill prepared to handle a catastrophic attack on American soil. On average, fire departments across the country have only enough radios to equip half the firefighters on a shift, and breathing apparatuses for only one-third. Police departments do not have the protective gear to safely secure a site following a WMD attack. Public health labs in most states still lack basic equipment and expertise to adequately respond to a chemical or biological attack. Most cities do not have the necessary equipment to determine what kind of hazardous materials emergency responders may be facing." – Council on Foreign Relations Report by former Sen. Warrren Rudman (R-NH), 7/29/03

FACT: "Despite a $2 billion federal investment, the nation's public health system is only marginally better prepared today to handle a bioterrorism attack or other health emergency than it was in 2001."– USA Today, 12/12/03

FACT: The federal program that added more than 100,000 cops to local police forces is being rolled back because local governments can't afford to keep many of the officers on the street. Law enforcement analysts say that the largest federally funded buildup of local police in U.S. history is being washed away by cutbacks." – USA Today, 12/2/03

FACT: "The White House is now saying that its spending plan does not provide enough money to protect against terrorist attacks on American soil. It concedes that domestic counterterrorism programs were shortchanged." – NY Times, 2/26/03

WHITE HOUSE CLAIM: "The President provided a framework for protecting our critical infrastructure by releasing for protecting our critical infrastructure by releasing the first-ever National Strategy for the Physical Protection of Critical Infrastructure and the National Cyberspace Security Division."

FACT: The annual cybersecurity report card is out, and "the Department of Homeland Security – the government's lead agency on matters of Internet security – led the list of seven federal agencies that earned an "F" grade for their own network security efforts in 2003." And "also earning an 'F' was the Justice Department, the agency charged with investigating and prosecuting many cases involving hacking and other forms of cybercrime." – Washington Post, 12/9/03

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