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October 20 2004 | 7:02 p.m.(EDT)

Q: Heidi from Grafton, WI:
My mother called me in a panic today, because she heard that President Bush has a plan to privatize Social Security. Is this right?

Suzy DeFrancis A: Suzy DeFrancis, Deputy Assistant to the President for Communications:

The President does not favor privatizing Social Security. There will be no changes in benefits for those now in or near retirement.

Under the President's vision for Social Security, the publicly administered Social Security system would still be there. The President favors increased personal ownership and control within Social Security for younger workers.

The President favors giving younger workers the opportunity to save a portion of their Social Security payroll taxes in a personal account which they would own and control, and could use to build a nest egg for their retirement, which they in turn could bequeath to their loved ones.

Social Security must be fixed for our children and our grandchildren. In 1950, there were 16 workers paying into Social Security for each person withdrawing benefits. Today, there are 3.3 workers to support each person on Social Security. By the time today's young workers retire, there will be only two workers to support each person on Social Security. The system that was designed in 1935 will need to be strengthened if it is to support the retirees of 2035.

A number of plans have been put forward that would ensure that full benefits are paid to today's retirees, fix the program for future generations, and give young workers the opportunity to have a Social Security personal account. Each of these proposals would fix the system permanently at less cost than the cost of sustaining the system permanently as it is currently structured.

To repeat: The President has promised that there will be no changes in benefits for those who are now in or near retirement. He also does not favor privatizing Social Security. Those who would say otherwise are scaring our seniors without foundation.

October 20 2004 | 6:52 p.m.(EDT)

Q: Jennifer from Allegan, MI:
In my American Literature class, I'm teaching some of Abigail Adams' letters from when she first moved into the White House. One of my students wants to know how much the White House cost to build, and I couldn't find the answer on the website. Could you tell us how much it originally cost to build? Thank you

Gary Walters A: Gary Walters, White House Chief Usher:
Jennifer, thank you for your question. The first cornerstone of the White House was laid on October 13, 1792. The last cornerstone was laid just about eight years later on November 1, 1800, when the White House was first occupied. Throughout those eight years, the grand total of building the White House was $232,371.83.

October 19 2004 | 2:23 p.m.(EDT)

Q: Bob from Tampa:
What are you doing to improve health care?

Doug Badger A: Doug Badger, Senior Health Policy Advisor:
Millions of Americans lack health insurance coverage today. For them, the anxiety of not knowing how they will find the resources to pay their medical bills is a daily concern. Millions more worry that they might lose coverage if they lose their jobs or change jobs. And while most seniors have prescription drug coverage, millions do not and many are needlessly being forced to choose between their medicines and other life necessities because they don’t about the help that is available to them today through Medicare-approved prescription drug discount cards.

The President’s proposals to make health care more affordable address all of these concerns, from the uninsured child in a low-income household to the senior struggling to make ends meet on a social security check.

In addition to strengthening and improving Medicare and adding prescription drug coverage to the program, the President has:


October 18 2004 | 12:13 p.m.(EDT)

Q: Robert from Ohio:
1)Why do you stand against Stem-Cell research when it has greatpossibilites for health?

2)Why can't you at least give a chance?

Margaret Spellings A: Margaret Spellings, Assistant to the President for Domestic Policy:
President Bush is not opposed to stem cell research. To the contrary -- he is the first President to support Federal Funding for embryonic stem cell research.

There are many different kinds of stem cell research, all of which are important to studying disease. Last year, the NIH provided over half a billion dollars for all forms of stem cell research. He has asked NIH to establish Centers of Excellence for stem cell research, which give scientists in this area extra support, and his Administration is establishing a Stem Cell registry, to make sure that scientists can get access to embryonic stem cells quickly.

In fact, more than 500 shipments of eligible stem cell lines have been sent to researchers for this important work. 3,500 shipments, from 22 different genetically distinct lines, are still available.

The President has said only that researchers using taxpayer funds cannot use the funds for research that requires the destruction of an additional human embryo. Researchers can use private funds for any form of stem cell research.

Moreover, many scientists focus on stem cell research that does not require the destruction of a human embryo because it uses cells from placental tissue or bone marrow. This type of stem cell research has already produced treatments for disease, and there are clinical trials underway on new treatments for diseases like parkinsons, multiple sclerosis, and leukemia.

I should also note that stem cells are just one of the many areas scientists are studying for possible cures and treatments for diabetes. Since President Bush took office, funding for all forms of diabetes research has increased by $336 million dollars -- a 49% increase.

October 15 2004 | 5:03 p.m.(EDT)

Q: Roger from Glendale:
I'm hearing rumors of a draft again. Can you set the record straight? Thanks.

Jimmy Orr A: Jimmy Orr, White House Spokesman/Internet Director:
The President has been very clear about this. And it doesn't get any more clear than last week when the President said, "I want every American to understand that, as long as I am President, there will be no draft." Click here to read the full statement.

October 15 2004 | 1:51 p.m.(EDT)

Q: Laura from Denver:
I would like us to address the problem of frivilous litigation. We are seeing now that many cave in to demands just on the threat of litigation. How can tort reform impact the explposion of litigation? What legislation would be effective? What can the Administration do directly to rein in the explosion of litigation and threat of litigation?

Kristen Silverberg A: Kristen Silverberg, Deputy Assistant to the President for Domestic Policy:
Laura -- You're exactly right. The threat of litigation, and the risk of an excessive jury award, can cause even a blameless defendant to decide to settle the case. And the fear of litigation can cause consumers to pay higher costs. Physicians, for example, may overprescribe tests or medication to avoid the risk of being sued. We call this practice "defensive medicine," and it contributes to the $60-$108b a year in health costs attributable to excessive litigation.

The President has proposed the following important reforms to our litigation system:

First, he has proposed common sense medical liability reforms that would allow unlimited economic damages, but cap non-economic damages and punitive damages. These reforms would also require defendants to pay in proportion to their degree of fault.

Second, the President has called on Congress to reform the Class Action system to, among other things, require lawyers to notify class members of a lawsuit in "plain English" and ensure that judges review any settlement that gives class members "coupons" or other non-cash benefits.

Finally, because runaway asbestos litigation has killed jobs and prevented the truly injured from receiving compensation, the President has called on Congress to pass asbestos reform.

October 14 2004 | 11:50 a.m.(EDT)

Q: Judith from Elkton, Florida:
I have an uncle who will be 90 the end of November and I read that you can receive a birthday greeting signed by the president. How can I do that?

Heidi Marquez Smith A: Heidi Marquez Smith, Special Assistant to the President and Director of Presidential Correspondence:
Heidi Marquez Smith, Special Assistant to the President and Director of Presidential Correspondence: Dear Judith, Thank you for your interest in requesting a greeting from President Bush. You may submit a request via fax at 202-395-1232, mail to The White House, Attn: Greetings Office, Washington, D.C. 20502-0039, or by Web Mail located on the White House website at http://www.whitehouse.gov/greeting/. Please make sure to include your uncle's full name with appropriate salutation, date of birth, mailing address, and your (the requestor's) name and daytime phone number. We ask that requests for greetings are received in our office at least six weeks in advance of the event date. At this date I recommend you fax or use White House Web Mail to submit your request. We will make every effort to send the greeting in time for your special occasion. For more information on our guidelines and the types of greetings you may request please visit the White House website at http://www.whitehouse.gov/greeting/.

October 14 2004 | 10:44 a.m.(EDT)

Q: Peter from Richmond, Virginia:
There doesn't seem to be a Fall Garden Tour at the White House this year. Why is that?

Sara Armstrong A: Sara Armstrong, Director, White House Visitor's Office:
Hi Peter.

Thanks for your timely question. We just announced the dates of this year's Fall Garden Tour. The annual White House Fall Garden Tour will be held on two dates: Saturday, October 23 from 10 a.m. - 4 p.m. and Sunday, October 24 from 12 p.m. - 4 p.m. Click here for additional information and details about ticket distribution. We hope you can join us for this annual tradition!

October 8 2004 | 6:32 p.m.(EDT)

Q: Thad from Pittsburgh:
First of all, thank you for providing this forum. Secondly, there is a lot of news coverage on today's job numbers announcement. What is your take on it?

Don Evans A: Don Evans, Secretary of Commerce:
For the 13th straight month, we've had job gains despite being in a wartime economy. Hurricanes and high energy prices haven't dampened our resilient recovery because America created over 1.9 million jobs since last August.

October 8 2004 | 12:10 p.m.(EDT)

Q: Jumeye from Norfolk State University:
Is it true that by july 2005 we will have a draft? And if we do, how will we be picked?

Taylor Gross A: Taylor Gross, White House Spokesman:
Thanks so much for your question Jumeye. We appreciate you visiting the White House web site and using our White House Interactive feature.

With regards to your question, the President has been very clear on this issue. In fact, just last week both the President and the Vice President made sure to point out that this notion there is a plan by the Administration to reintroduce the draft is completely untrue. As the President has said, "we don't need a draft" and "we won't have a draft as long as I'm the President of the United States". While some in Congress, specifically Senator Hollings (D) of South Carolina and Congressman Rangel (D) of New York have sought legislation that would reinstitute a draft, the President applauded the Congress for soundly rejecting it. If this bill had been presented to the President, he would have vetoed it http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2004/10/20041005-6.html

The President will keep our military all volunteer. In fact, the President has worked to make sure of this by increasing pay and housing benefits for our men and women in uniform and making sure our troops are skilled. As the President has said, "in order to win the war on terror, we need specialized forces. This is specialty work and if you draft, you don't get the specialized force you need."

Thanks again for your question Jumeye.

October 8 2004 | 11:04 a.m.(EDT)

Q: Robbie from Chandler, Arizona:
Does the working family tax relief include single adults also? I have only been hearing about married couples and singles with children.
Thank you.

John Snow A: John Snow, Secretary of Treasury:
The tax cuts enacted by President Bush help all taxpayers--married couples, families and singles. Single taxpayers without children benefit from several provisions in the "Working Families Tax relief Act of 2004" including the expansion of the new 10 percent individual income tax bracket and the higher exemption under the alternative minimum tax. Single taxpayers also benefit from a number of provisions included in the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts, such as the reduction in tax rates, the lower tax rates on capital gains and dividend income (if they have investment income), higher contribution limits for IRA and 401(k) contributions, and a new deduction for higher education expenses.

October 7 2004 | 10:40 a.m.(EDT)

Q: Tony from Vacaville, CA:
Tax breaks are great for families with children living at home, but what about the parents and families working to put their kids through college?

Colleges and higher education should be looked at as an investment for the future of America but with tuition up across the nation and reductions in funding from the states and the federal government to help with the costs, families are struggling more than ever. What are the movements towards tax breaks or credits for families putting their kids through college?

Margaret Spellings A: Margaret Spellings, Assistant to the President for Domestic Policy:
I agree Tony, higher education is a great investment by families and by government. There have been increases in federal funding for higher education, not reductions. The President's FY 2005 budget expands overall, available student financial aid to $73.1 billion, an increase of $4.4 billion or 6% over the 2004 level, and an increase of 55% over the 2001 level. The number of recipients of grant, loan, and work-study assistance would grow by 426,000 over last year to 10 million students and parents. Since President Bush has been in office, total Pell Grant funding for low-income college students has increased by $4.1 billion including the President’s FY 2005 budget, a 47% increase over 2001. In addition, one million more low-income students will be receiving Pell Grants compared to 2001, and the maximum award has increased from $3,750 in 2001 to $4,050 in the President’s FY 2005 budget.

The President also understands that students who are well-prepared when entering college are more likely to succeed and complete their college education. In his FY 2005 budget, President Bush proposed Enhanced Pell Grants, which would provide an additional $1,000 in grants in the first two years of college in addition to the regular Pell Grant for low-income students who complete a rigorous high school curriculum.

President Bush is also a strong supporter of tax relief that allows families to save money for college. The tax relief bill that the President worked with Congress to enact in 2001 not only lets working families keep more of the money they earn right now, but targets additional tax relief to encourage savings for postsecondary education. Specifically, the tax relief bill increased the annual limit on contributions to education savings accounts from $500 to $2,000, and allows tax-free distributions from Qualified Tuition Plans (Section 529 plans) used to pay college costs and permits private institutions to offer such plans. Thanks for writing.

October 6 2004 | 6:34 p.m.(EDT)

Q: Dean from Osawatomie, KS:
Is it true the your Administration is escalating attacks on our environment by letting corportations increase air and water pollution, cut down our wild forest, and destroy our public lands? This information came to me by the Natural Resources Defense Council. If this is what is going on or is planned, will you please have it stopped?

Jim Connaughton A: Jim Connaughton, Chairman Council of Environmental Quality:
Thanks for the question and the opportunity to respond to some of the myths out there. We appreciate it when interested and concerned Americans, like you, want to find out the facts for themselves. Our air and water quality are continuing to improve, even as our economy is rapidly growing. For example, since 1970, air pollution has been dramatically cut by more than half – while the economy more than doubled in strength. In the last several years alone, power plant emissions of nitrogen oxide (NOx) and sulfur dioxide (SO2) have been significantly reduced. We’re going to build on that progress.


October 6 2004 | 11:28 a.m.(EDT)

Q: Linda from Camarillo, CA:
Housing costs in California are highier than ever before. Knowing this, how can President Bush cut funding for programs that provide rental assistance to low income families, seniors, and those with disabilites?

Alphonso Jackson A: Alphonso Jackson, Secretary of Housing & Urban Development:
The Bush Administration is committed to serving those who rent, and we recognize that the Section 8 program is in desperate need of reform. In the past four years, funding for Section 8 has increased by 41 percent, to more than half of HUD’s total annual budget. Unfortunately, the growth in the Section 8 budget does not mean that more families are being served, and it is crowding out funding for programs like those that serve the elderly, people living with AIDS, and the homeless.

We have proposed to strengthen the Section 8 program by allowing local housing agencies more flexibility to run the program provided they serve at least the same number of families. By promoting self-sufficiency and more effective use of subsidy, more families currently on waiting lists will be served. Click here to read more about the President's record of achievement in expanding home ownership.

October 5 2004 | 12:27 p.m.(EDT)

Q: Mike from San Antonio, TX:
I'm 43, married, have three young children, and make just under $75,000 a year. What is today's tax cut going to do for me?

John Snow A: John Snow, Secretary of Treasury:
Mike, you and your family will benefit from many of the provisions in the "Working Families Tax Relief Act of 2004." First, you and your wife will have relief from the unfair marriage penalty, which taxes you just because you are married. You also will be able to keep more of your hard earned money because of the expansion of the 10% tax bracket. The full $1,000 per child tax credit will be available to you and your family through 2010. As a middle-class taxpayer, you and your family are provided greater protection from the Alternative Minimum Tax Relief by the larger exemption (i.e., the first $58,000 of a married couple's income).

The "Working Families Tax Relief Act of 2004" also helps simplify the tax code by providing clear direction for families who qualify for the child tax credit, the Earned Income Tax Credit, the dependent care tax credit, the dependent exemption and those who file as the head of household.

October 1 2004 | 5:13 p.m.(EDT)

Q: Priscilla from Katy, Texas:
Why are unelected judges given so much authority over such issues as redefining marriage? Who are these judges and is there anything that can be done to stop them?

Judge Al Gonzales A: Judge Al Gonzales, White House Counsel:
In our system of government the role of the judge is to resolve disputes that fall within their jurisdiction. Unless Congress chooses to limit the jurisdiction of federal judges they will resolve disputes such as gay marriage. The President believes that judges should not decide policy for the American people, and he has nominated judges who do not come to the bench with an agenda.


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