Has Obama Kept His Major Campaign Promises?

Barack Obama

Photo: AP

Politicians are notorious for promising one thing and then doing the very opposite. Has Barack Obama, who ran on the powerful rhetoric of “Hope and Change” in 2008 fallen into the same trap?PolitiFact has completed lengthy research on Obama’s campaign promises and the results are in. According to their analysis, 35 per cent of his promises have been kept while only 13 per cent have been officially broken. The remaining chunk of the President’s pledges fall into the murky categories of compromise, stalled or “in the works.”

Did the President keep his word surrounding important topics in health care, foreign policy, taxes, immigration and the environment? Check out our slideshow and found out!

Obama promised to work toward universal healthcare coverage

The crown legislative achievement of Obama's first term was a proposed large scale overhaul granting all American citizens the right to health care. It was a promise Obama had made to voters back in 2008 when he declared that he'd sign 'universal health care bill' into law as president.

The monumental piece known as the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act was signed by Obama on March 23, 2010. At its core, it states that, 'An applicable individual shall for each month beginning after 2013 ensure that the individual, and any dependent of the individual who is an applicable individual, is covered under minimum essential coverage for such month.'

'Obamacare,' as it's been deemed by many on the Right, has caused extreme polarization among the electorate. Although the final fate of the sweeping health care reform lies in the hands of the Supreme Court, one can't fault Obama for not staying true to his word on this one.

The verdict: PROMISE KEPT

He promised to prevent drug companies from blocking generic drugs

Back in 2008, Barack Obama pinky promised to 'prevent drug companies from blocking generic drugs from consumers.' The goal was to stop anti-competitive practices in legal settlements by established players in Big Pharma.

The solution, Obama insisted, was to carefully police patent lawsuits. As it stands, drug companies hold exclusive rights to a medication after they receive approval from the Food and Drug Administration. After a specified period, generic companies can move into the market, causing a drop in the price of the medication.

Although Obama has proposed the measure in each of his budgets to date, it has never made it past that point according to Generic Pharmaceutical Association spokesman David Belian. A proposed Senate bill to achieve similar outcomes for generics has stalled like C.C. Sabathia in a 5K race.

The verdict: BROKEN

Obama promised he would shutdown Guantanamo Bay.

Obama pulled a complete 180° from his original intent to close the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay. Keeping Gitmo open was a move that would foster support from the U.S. Military and Attorney General Eric Holder, who came the President's aid after he was blasted by various civil rights organisations.

In March, 2011, the President signed an executive order that would 'create a formal system of indefinite detention for those held at the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, who continue to pose a significant threat to national security,' commented The Washington Post. The executive order 'all but cements Guantanamo Bay's continuing role in U.S. counterterrorism policy,' the paper continued.

As The New York Times stated, the decision amounts to Obama 'admitting the failure of his pledge to close the prison camp.'

The verdict: BROKEN

Obama promised to end the practice of torture.

To his credit, Obama acted quickly on this matter. Only two days after entering office, he issued an executive order stating that prisoners 'shall in all circumstances be treated humanely and shall not be subjected to violence to life and person (including murder of all kinds, mutilation, cruel treatment, and torture), nor to outrages upon personal dignity (including humiliating and degrading treatment).'

Also included in the legalese were specific directions nullifying Bush-Cheney interpretations of federal law on interrogations following 9/11.

Although independent observers will not deny that abuse still exists, Obama's crackdown has garnered cheers from the ACLU and Human Rights Watch.

The verdict: PROMISE KEPT

Obama promised not to raise any taxes.

Such was the mantra Obama echoed in his 2008 run for president, when he promised that under his plan, 'no family making less than $250,000 a year will see any form of tax increase. Not your income tax, not your payroll tax, not your capital gains taxes, not any of your taxes.'

But since his inauguration, Obama has levied a cigarette tax. Plus, the President's health care overhaul includes a tax on indoor tanning that kicks into effect this year. As if that weren't enough, Obamacare's individual mandate includes a tax penalty for anyone who refuses to purchase health insurance. And so, Obama's tax promises have gone up in smoke.

The verdict: BROKEN

Obama promised to enact cap-and-trade to reduce carbon in the atmosphere.

While on the stump, Obama promised to establish a cap and trade program to reign in the carbon emissions responsible for global warming. In World Bank fashion, he set out targets for 2020, 2030 and 2040, with an ultimate goal of an 80 per cent reduction in carbon emissions by 2050.

How does it work? Under cap and trade, the government sets a maximum cap on the units of carbon dioxide that can be released into the atmosphere while providing permits to companies. The system would allow companies to buy and sell permits amongst themselves.

After successfully getting through the Democrat-controlled House in 2009, the Senate never took up the legislation. By the time the 2010 elections rolled around, House control was regained by Republicans, effectively killing any chance of passing the bill.

It was around that time in November 2010 that President Obama himself publicly expressed the fact that the odds of establishing a cap and trade program were lower than the chance of catching Keith Olbermann in a good mood.

The verdict: BROKEN

Obama promised to restrict the influence of lobbyists.

Barack Obama's 2008 position on revolving door lobbyists was as clear as his ears are big: 'No political appointees in an Obama-Biden administration will be permitted to work on regulations or contracts directly and substantially related to their prior employer for two years. And no political appointee will be able to lobby the executive branch after leaving government service during the remainder of the administration.'

But as PolitiFact reported in 2009, 'the administration has granted waivers to several former lobbyists, allowing them to serve. The administration also allows recusals, where former lobbyists simply recuse themselves from discussions concerning whatever interest it is for which they used to lobby. The recusals have not been made public, and we don't know how many have been issued.'

The biggest known name involved in Obama's backtrack on lobbyists serving in the administration was William Lynn. Despite Lynn's years as a lobbyist for Raytheon, a defence contractor, the administration appointed him as Deputy Secretary of defence.

The verdict: BROKEN

He promised to end the war in Iraq.

Barack Obama promised that American combat troops would be removed from Iraq within 16 months of taking office.

It took nearly 24 months, but on Aug. 2, 2010, the President declared that the U.S. would 'maintain a transitional force until we remove all our troops from Iraq by the end of next year.'

On Dec. 15, 2011, Obama officially announced that the last combat troops had left the country, keeping his promise.

It should be noted that although Obama kept his word regarding combat troops, about 50,000 troops remain in Iraq, acting as a transitional force.

The verdict: PROMISE KEPT

Obama promised to let the Bush-tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans expire.

The Bush-era tax cuts signed into effect in 2003 were set to expire by 2011. By then, the President had planned to let the taxes for high earners creep back up to 39 per cent. In addition, taxes on capital gains and dividends were set to go up from 15 to 20 per cent.

But House Republicans were unwavering in their effort to politicize the issue of extending unemployment benefits in the weeks before the expiration of the tax cuts. The result was a compromise: Obama got an extra year of unemployment benefits and a one-year reduction of Social Security taxes.

The President would not walk away empty handed, but without a House majority on his side, his attempt to impose taxes on the wealthy at pre-Bush levels ultimately failed.

The verdict: BROKEN

Obama promised to make employers automatically enroll employees in 401(k) and IRA investments.

This proposal should ring a bell for anybody who has read Nudge. The book, written by Obama's University of Chicago brethren Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein, discusses the importance of manipulating defaults toward long-term savings for employees. One of their methods: automatic enrollment in 401(k) and individual retirement accont (IRA) plans.

President Obama attempted to encourage folks to save for retirement by requiring companies to enroll employers in 401(k)s and IRAs by default, rather than making workers have to take time themselves to fill out the lame paperwork.

Both the plans for automatic 401(k) and IRA enrollment made it onto Obama's budget outline for 2010, but like Doug E. Fresh at the Fresh Festival, they haven't budged.

Heritage Foundation specialist David John was among the crowd that originated the idea. He claims that Obamacare sidetracked the idea, which previously had received bipartisan support. Other bills introduced in the House to achieve similar outcomes have also stalled. Call it a Hindenburg cause this promise crashed and burned.

The verdict: BROKEN

Obama promised to reform our immigration laws.

There are two facets to Obama's proposed immigration reform and neither has been a smash.

First on the plate is the DREAM Act, which offered a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants who arrived to the U.S. as minors. Although it moved through the Democrat-controlled House in 2010, it stalled in the Senate because of procedural problems and was never voted on.

The current Republican control of the House has made the prospect of passing a similar bill even more unlikely. Obama has said that he plans to attempt to light a spark behind the politically polarising issue sometime down the line, but don't count on it anytime soon.

The second half of immigration reform deals with border security. On the outset, this may seem like a kept promise. After all, from FY 2004 to FY 2010, the budget for U.S.-Mexico border security has increased from $5.9 billion to $11.9 billion. At the same time, U.S. Customs and Border Protection has patted itself on the back highlighting a 36 per cent decline in apprehensions from 2008 to 2010 due to fewer people attempting to cross the border.

But don't believe the hype.

Experts on the issue point to the economic recession which has resulted in a decreasing rate of Mexican immigration to the U.S. As of 2012, it's estimated that the number of illegal immigrants in the country has actually declined by over 1 million people to a total of 11 million.

In addition, half of the illegal immigrants in the U.S. actually entered legally, and simply refused to leave after the expiration of their short-term visas. 'Border enforcement does little to slow this flow,' comments Louis DeSipio of the University of California-Irvine.

At best, these facts render Obama's record on border security a tossup. A failure to ease legal immigration into the States and questionable efficiency in border enforcement hardly produce a kept promise, however.

The verdict: BROKEN

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