Over and over, President Bush confidently promised to â€œsolve problems, not pass them on to future presidents and future generations.â€ As the clock runs out on his eight-year presidency, a tall stack of troubles remain and Bushâ€™s words ring hollow.
Iraq, budget deficits, the looming insolvency of Social Security and Medicare, high health and energy costs, a national immigration mess â€” the next president will inherit these problems in January 2009â€¦.
â€¦ When Americans are asked to choose national priorities, they most commonly name the economy, health care, the war in Iraq, terrorism and gas prices. Consider the state of play on these and other issues:
â€“The economy is relatively sound and deficits are falling after peaking in 2004. But an entire presidency of red ink has ballooned the overall federal debt from $5.7 trillion when Bush became president to $8.9 trillion now. The Iraq war, including providing medical care and disability benefits to veterans, as well as expensive new programs like a Medicare prescription drug benefit threaten to drive deficits back up. Economists fear growing odds of a recession.
â€“The nationâ€™s health care spending, public and private, totaled $1.5 trillion when Bush took office. By the time he leaves, it is expected to be $2.6 trillion â€” a 75 percent increase. Meanwhile, the nationâ€™s number of uninsured has swelled, from 14 percent of the population in 2001 to 16 percent last year, or a total of 47 million people.
â€“Now in its fifth year, the Iraq war has claimed the lives of more than 3,800 members of the U.S. military and more than 73,000 Iraqi civilians, wounded over 28,000 U.S. military personnel, and cost nearly half a trillion dollars. Even if combat ends, Bush says the United States will need to provide military, economic and political support beyond his presidency and have â€œan enduring relationshipâ€ with Iraq.
â€“No domestic terrorist attack has followed those of Sept. 11, 2001. But the intelligence community concluded in July, nearly six years after the attacks, that al-Qaida has been allowed to re-centralize and rejuvenate itself in Pakistan, where the still-missing Osama bin Laden is believed to be hiding.
â€“Energy prices are volatile, and high. The cost of a barrel of oil has soared during Bushâ€™s presidency, from $29 to about $80 a barrel. Gas prices averaged $1.45 a gallon in 2001 and now are running about $2.80 â€” a 93 percent increase.
. . . â€œItâ€™s hard to find something he has done that really has improved the situation a great deal,â€ said Stephen J. Wayne, a Georgetown University presidential scholar.
Source: Jennifer Loven of the Associated Press