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Bush's second term

Vox asked two Dartmouth experts to comment on what lies ahead for President Bush's second term. Andrew Samwick, Professor of Economics and Director of the Rockefeller Center, assesses the domestic challenges. Kenneth Yalowitz, Director of the Dickey Center for International Understanding, gives his views on international relations.

Andrew Samwick
Andrew Samwick

On issues apart from the War on Terror, a second administration for President George W. Bush will be entirely about fiscal policy. The president has gained little traction on new initiatives outside of the budget, like education, job training, and immigration reform. He will need to achieve three fiscal policy objectives. First: make good on his promise to cut the budget deficit in half between 2004 and 2009. If he doesn't do this, regardless of the circumstances (e.g., the war and inflation), then he validates criticisms of fiscal recklessness that will stick to his party. This objective limits the extent to which he can make his tax cuts permanent. Second: achieve a bipartisan reform of Social Security that restores the program to long-term solvency. This was a campaign issue in 2000, and the subject of a pre-9/11 commission, but it has not progressed significantly since. Third: recognize that the unfunded obligations of Medicare are even larger than those for Social Security. He also has to pursue structural reforms of Medicare that reduce its future claims on general revenues.


Kenneth Yalowitz
Kenneth Yalowitz

The international agenda facing President Bush is so compelling and complex that, for the first time in recent memory, foreign policy dominated the election campaign. National security concerns lead the list and include nuclear proliferation and international terrorism. The possibility of future 9/11 type attacks will require close cooperation with our allies, especially in intelligence and information sharing. Progress in the war in Iraq hinges on the conduct of national elections there, training the Iraqi army and security forces, economic revival and greater involvement from the international community. Other long-standing issues will continue to press the Bush administration. The neglected Arab-Israeli conflict, the incomplete transition in the countries of the former Soviet Union, foreign trade, and new economic competition from China and India will complicate U.S. ties with many countries. Global health issues like AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis will increasingly become national security issues. He will also have to deal with an over-extended U.S. military, the need to restructure the intelligence community, and the reduced popular standing of the United States abroad.  


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Last Updated: 12/17/08