GEORGE BUSH: THE FIRST TERM
The drama of Operation Desert Storm may dominate George Bush's presidency. But he has assembled a string of achievements on various other fronts. Some are missions he has set out to accomplish. Some are world events he has managed successfully. The pattern of his agenda has not always been easy to discern. But the record is more mixed and moderate than conservative and revolutionary. Administration Had Successes
PRESIDENT Bush achieved his major domestic milestones in his first two years as President.Skip to next paragraph
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* Environmentalists have many deep differences with the Bush administration. One is the minimal way it is implementing the Clean Air Act. But most still credit President Bush for leading a sweeping rewrite of the nation's air-pollution laws - a rewrite that had been deadlocked for a decade.
The upshot is that the Clean Air Act is already "in the process of making a pretty substantial difference," says Joseph Goffman, senior attorney at the Environmental Defense Fund.
Twenty years or so from now, says William Becker, who runs a national association of state air-pollution officials, the Clean Air Act will have made a "tremendous difference in air quality."
The act brings a significant innovation into the field of controlling pollution - reducing acid rain through a market-based approach that sets an overall limit on key pollutants in entire air basins, so that companies can trade pollution allowances.
The theory is that a market for pollution allowances will reduce emissions in the most economically efficient way. Some environmentalists were skeptical of the system, but this is turning out to be the toughest part of the Clean Air Act to cheat on.
* President Bush wins considerable credit for a far-reaching anti-discrimination law that includes workplace protections for blacks, women, and people with disabilities.
The administration estimates that 43 million Americans have disabilities covered by the act. How much it will change their lives, how many more it will pull into the workplace or better jobs, is not yet clear.
Ann Elizabeth Reesman, an employers' attorney with the law firm McGinnis and Williams, says, "I think we're going to see a surge" of people entering the workforce as the act gives them greater confidence and forces forward the technology to assist them.
On the other hand, the law's requirements could make it more expensive to hire someone severely disabled, argues Carolyn Weaver, an economist at the American Enterprise Institute.
The law establishes that a disability does not disqualify someone for a job if they can perform the essential functions with "reasonable accommodation."
One example: Telephone companies are required to have relay services for people using telecommunications devices for the deaf.
* Bush signed a bill late in 1990 that will subsidize $31 billion of the child-care costs of low-income families over five years. Each family receives up to nearly $100 a month in a tax credit, or paid out as a refund. In 1994, the credit is scheduled to rise to nearly $170 a month.
Bush considers it a philosophical victory because the subsidy goes to families to spend where they choose, not directly to child-care centers or bureaucracies. Their choices can include church-sponsored child care programs.
* The first accomplishment Bush named in a recent magazine interview, when asked what he was most proud of, was what he called "an extraordinarily ethical administration."
"I would agree with that characterization," says Calvin MacKenzie, a Colby College political scientist who studies presidential staff and ethical questions. Very early, he says, Bush established the toughest set of standards of any administration in history.