As President Obama’s first year in office wraps up this week, it’s a good time to review where he stands on fulfilling some of the high-profile promises he made in the campaign and as president. During the campaign, Mr. Obama seemed purposefully vague on what he was actually going to DO as president except promising that he would bring “hope” and “change.” But he did make some notable promises, about 20% of which he seems to have fulfilled.
Here, in descending order is my list of President Obama’s top 10 campaign promises. Let’s start with the two major promises the president’s managed to keep
1. “Date Night.” The first husband promised to take his wife, Michelle out for a “date night” in New York City – and he did. But it came at huge taxpayer expense with Secret Service blanketing Broadway and stopping NYC traffic. An enjoyable, if expensive, time was had by all.
2. “Dog.” He promised to get his children a dog. Bo the Portuguese water dog and the first daughters apparently get along fine. Given the crowded state of animal shelters during the recession, Bo is one lucky pup. Not so the American people.
PROMISES NOT KEPT:
And here are the 8 remaining promises our president hasn't managed to keep:
3. Unemployment. We were told that if Congress approved the $787 billion stimulus package unemployment would fall from its then-high of 7.6%, (that number already being the highest rate America had seen since 1992) and never climb higher than 8 percent. It’s now at 10% and rising; if you include in that number the number of Americans who’ve given up looking for work, the real unemployment rate is over 17%. This was entirely predictable, because the stimulus bill simply *added* to the government’s debt and didn’t help small businesses to expand and hire new workers.
4. Stimulus Jobs. We were also promised that stimulus projects were “shovel ready” – all they would need would be federal funds, and presto, jobs would come. Not quite. In New Hampshire, by July of 2009, $416 million in stimulus funds had generated a grand total of 50 government jobs – and 34 of them were temporary positions. Sometimes, though, the “shovel” literal did come with the job, as when The New York Times reported that stimulus funds had been used to buy a riding lawnmower for a cemetery. The Obama administration recently claimed that 2 million jobs were saved or created by the stimulus in 2009 but the administration has provided scant evidence for this claim. On the other hand, Hillary Clinton’s pollster received $6 million in stimulus funds, which produced exactly three jobs.
5. Lobbying. Candidate Obama promised in 2007 that “When you walk into my administration, you will not be able to work on regulations or contracts directly related to your former employer for two years.” President Obama issued new ethics regulations, but the White House has already waived them 15 times so far, not least for the Deputy Secretary of Defense and the NASA Administrator. Perhaps he belatedly discovered that he needs to fill the government with experts – but then why make the promise?
6. Middle-class Taxes. On the campaign trail candidate Obama often promised that if you made less than $250,000, your taxes would not go up. Perhaps President Obama doesn’t think fees or other government-imposed costs count as “taxes”. To keep this promise, the president would have to veto both the House and Senate version of health care reform bills, each of which raises fees and costs on people in this financial bracket – in other words, most Americans. The Senate bill, for instance, includes a new marriage penalty and a tax on certain health plans, often employer-provided. Obamacare would also include an individual mandate to obtain health insurance – contrary to his repeated insistence during the campaign that “there is no mandate.”
7. Seniors’ Income Tax. In a related issue, Obama also promised to end the income tax for the 7,000,000 seniors making less than $50,000, “saving them an average of $1,400 a year.” That hasn’t happened; he needs the money to pay for Obamacare, which will actually cut funds for Medicare on which seniors depend.
8. Meeting with Dictators. During the Democratic YouTube debate, Obama famously--if rashly--promised that he would meet without any precondition with the leaders of countries like North Korea, Iran, Syria, Venezuela, and Cuba. Fortunately, other than a photo-op with Venezuelan dictator Hugo Chavez, this hasn’t happened, although Bill Clinton met with North Korean leader Kim Jong Il (or his stunt double).
9. “Card Check.” Obama promised union leaders that this attempt to overturn decades of secret ballot protections for union members would become “the law of the land” if he were elected.” Thankfully, Congress hasn’t obliged him--yet.
10. Swine Flu. In April, Obama said that the government was closely monitoring the H1N1 swine flu and promised appropriate precautions -- but in October HHS announced that there wouldn’t be enough supplies of vaccine for H1N1 flu as they had promised. Senators Joe Lieberman (I-CT) and Susan Collins (R-ME) have asked why the government “insisted on promoting a plan for which the federal government did not have anywhere near sufficient resources to implement.”
We should all be glad that Obama has put aside many of his campaign promises. But, after one year in the Oval Office, I think it’s fair to say that Mr. Obama’s supporters didn’t get the “change” that they were expecting.
Mallory Factor is the co-chairman and co-founder of the Monday Meeting, an influential meeting of economic conservatives, journalists and corporate leaders in New York City. Mr. Factor is a well-known merchant banker and speaks and writes frequently on economic and fiscal topics for news stations, leading newspapers and other print and online publications. Mr. Factor writes frequently for the Fox Forum and is seen regularly on Fox News Channel. Mr. Factor can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.