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Increasing economic problems

If the key to being president is really, as Clinton felt, about "the economy, stupid," then the Bush administration could be judged on its economic numbers. The gross domestic product (GDP, the value of the output of goods and services produced within the nation's borders) grew at an average annual rate considerably slower than the average for the post-World War II period. Unemployment stayed low. Budget deficits rose rapidly, a change from the budget surplus in the last year of the Clinton administration.

The national debt went up by trillions of dollars during Bush's presidency, adding more than a third to the burden future generations would have to pay off. With the low cost of imported manufactured goods, living was easy for most Americans, but the bulk of income gains went to people earning more than $250,000 a year.

Health care and children: Hot-button issues

President Bush signed the No Child Left Behind Act (2001), which improved educational standards but failed to provide much funding for schools. He vetoed the expansion of the State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP), which would have expanded health care for poor children, because he said he was against socialized medicine.

He may not have supported children's health, but Bush took a turn toward government health care for older people when he signed the Medicare Prescription Drug Improvement and Modernization Act (2003), which added prescription drug coverage to Medicare (though people pay extra for it).

Bush also vetoed a bill that would have allowed for stem cell research to find cures for disease since some religious conservatives opposed the research.

Climate change

Upon arriving in office in 2001, Bush withdrew United States support for the Kyoto Protocol, an amendment to the United Nations Convention on Climate Change trying to control global warming; as a major world polluter, the U.S. was the only leading country not to sign. Bush administration officials censored the reports of government officials on global warming, and Bush said he didn't take action on the problem because of "debate over whether it's man-made or naturally caused."

Bush did set aside the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands as a national monument, creating the largest marine reserve in the world. Reserve or not, due to climate change and pollution on which there had been no action, the beautiful coral reef and tropical fish were slowly dying all around the world.

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