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Promises Obama kept, promises he broke


We decided to go back and check what President Obama has achieved since last year’s State of the Union address.

In that 2010 speech, Obama made a lot of promises, and he fulfilled many of them -- with high-profile, hard-fought successes like the passage of health-care reform, a jobs bill, the New START treaty with Russia, and the repeal of "Don’t Ask Don’t Tell." He also saw the last combat troops leave Iraq, cut out the middlemen from college loans, championed credit for small businesses, and established protections for consumers.

But he also had some failures, mostly due to bills stalling in the Senate. Those included bills to combat climate change, require more campaign-finance disclosure, and fine banks that were bailed out. And compromising with the GOP on the Bush tax cuts meant that while he kept his promise to extend middle-class tax cuts, he also extended cuts for those making over $250,0000.

The legislative branch wasn’t the only thing beyond his control -- the economy was, too. But given the sluggish economy, he didn’t fare too badly. The president promised last year to add 1.5 million jobs. But he fell a little short, with 1.1 million jobs created in 2010. And although it’s too soon to tell if he’ll meet his goal to double exports in five years, top trade officials said in July that things were looking promising.

Beyond policy, Obama also promised to change the tone in Washington, and to hold monthly meetings with both parties’ leadership, joking, “I know you can’t wait.” Turns out, they could wait -- the meetings were sporadic at best, and, of course, the rhetoric remained heated for most of the year.

Here's a list of the promises Obama kept, broke, or achieved mixed results:


Promises kept (16)
Promise: Pass jobs legislation
What Obama said: "That is why jobs must be our No. 1 focus in 2010, and that's why I'm calling for a new jobs bill tonight"
Result: Congress passed at least two jobs bills, one in March and another in August

Promise: Give small businesses credit, using $30 billion paid by banks
What Obama said: "So tonight, I'm proposing that we take $30 billion of the money Wall Street banks have repaid and use it to help community banks give small businesses the credit they need to stay afloat"
Result: The Small Business Lending Fund was passed as part of the fall's Small Business Jobs Act of 2010.

Promise: Create small business tax credit for more than 1 million businesses
What Obama said: "I'm also proposing a new small business tax credit -- one that will go to over one million small businesses who hire new workers or raise wages"
Result: Passed as part of the Hiring Incentives to Restore Employment (HIRE) Act in March

Promise: Give tax incentives to businesses investing in new plants and equipment
What Obama said: "... provide a tax incentive for all large businesses and all small businesses to invest in new plants and equipment"
Result: Passed as part of the bipartisan tax-cut deal

Promise: Invest in infrastructure
What Obama said: "Next, we can put Americans to work today building the infrastructure of tomorrow"
Result: The two-year Recovery Act did this, as did $50 billion more on Labor Day

Promise: Give consumers protection at banks
What Obama said: "We need to make sure consumers and middle-class families have the information they need to make financial decisions"
Result: The Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act signed into law in July

Promise: Freeze discretionary spending for three years
What Obama said: "Starting in 2011, we are prepared to freeze government spending for three years"
Result: Spending is currently frozen -- but by a continuing resolution

Promise: Launch a deficit-reduction commission
What Obama said: "That's why I've called for a bipartisan fiscal commission..."
Result: By executive order, Obama created this commission, co-chaired by Democrat Erskine Bowles and Republican Alan Simpson

Promise: Invest in science and tech innovation
What Obama said: "Next, we need to encourage American innovation. Last year, we made the largest investment in basic research funding in history... And no area is more ripe for such innovation than energy"
Result: The American COMPETES Act of 2010 was reauthorized in May. In July, the Obama administration awarded nearly $2 billion in conditional grants to a pair of solar energy companies that have pledged to build plants in the U.S.

Promise: Build nuclear power plants
What Obama said: "And that means building a new generation of safe, clean nuclear power plants in this country:
Result: In February, Obama supported plans for two new nuclear reactors in Georgia, the first since the 1970s

Promise: Make college, especially community college and vocational training, more affordable
What Obama said: "That's why I urge the Senate to follow the House and pass a bill that will revitalize our community colleges"
Result: The reconciliation legislation from March cut out the banks to give direct loans; it expanded the Pell Grant program; and it capped loan repayments at 10%

Promise: Pass health-care reform
What Obama said: "Here's what I ask Congress, though: Don't walk away from reform. Not now. Not when we are so close. Let us find a way to come together and finish the job for the American people"
Result: The health reform passed in March

Promise: End combat operations in Iraq
What Obama said: "As a candidate, I promised I would end this war, and that is what I am doing as president. We will have all of our combat troops out of Iraq by the end of his August"
Result: The last combat troops left in mid-August, though thousand of U.S. troops (for security and training) remain

Promise: Reduce nuclear stockpile
What Obama said: "To reduce our stockpiles and launchers, while ensuring our deterrent, the United States and Russia are completing negotiations on the farthest-reaching arms control treaty in nearly two decades. And at April's Nuclear Security Summit, we will bring 44 nations together here in Washington, D.C., behind a clear goal: securing all vulnerable nuclear materials around the world in four years, so that they never fall into the hands of terrorists"
Result: The Senate ratified the New START treaty with Russia in December; the leaders at the summit adopted his goal and created a work plan to be reviewed in 2012

Promise: Invest in the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs
What Obama said: "That's why we're building a 21st Century VA..."
Result: In April, the president secured the biggest increase in VA spending in 30 years

Promise: Repeal "Don't Ask, Don't Tell"
What Obama said: "This year, I will work with Congress and our military to finally repeal the law that denies gay Americans the right to serve the country they love because of who they are"
Result: In December, Obama signed into law legislation repealing the policy

Mixed (3)
Promise: Add 1.5 million jobs to the U.S. economy
What Obama said: "And we're on track to add another one-and-a-half million jobs to this total by the end of the year"
Result: 1.1 million jobs were added in 2010, according to Bureau on Labor Statistics

Promise: Eliminate capital-gains taxes on small business development
What Obama said: "While we're at it, let's also eliminate all capital-gains taxes on small business investment"
Result: They'll stay at 0% until the end of the year, when they revert to a previous level of 50%

Promise: Double exports in five years
What Obama said: "So tonight, we set a new goal: We will double our exports over the next five years"
Result: Too soon to tell. Exports increased by 17.7% in the first five months of 2010

Failed (6)
Promise: Continue middle-class tax cuts and end others
What Obama said: "To help working families. we'll extend our middle-class tax cuts. But a time of record deficits, we will not continue tax cuts for oil companies, for investment-fund managers, and for those making over $250,000 a year. We just can't afford it"
Result: In December, Obama signed legislation into law extending tax cuts for all income levels, including those who make more than $250,000 per year.

Promise: Propose a fee on banks
What Obama said: "To recover the rest, I've proposed a fee on the biggest banks. Now, I know Wall Street isn't keen on this idea. But if these firms can afford to hand out big bonuses again, they can afford a modest fee to pay back the taxpayers who rescued them in their time of need"
Result: The "Financial Crisis Responsibility Fee" never got off the ground

Promise: End tax breaks to companies that outsource
What Obama said: "It is time to finally slash the tax breaks for companies that ship our jobs overseas, and give those tax breaks to companies that create jobs right here in the United States of America"
Result: Bill stalled in the Senate

Promise: Pass a comprehensive energy/climate bill
What Obama said: "And, yes, it means passing a comprehensive energy and climate bill with incentives that will finally make clean energy the profitable kind of energy in America"
Result: While the House passed such legislation in 2009, the Senate was unable to advance a bill

Promise: Require more campaign-finance disclosure after the Supreme Court's Citizens United decision
What Obama said: "I don't think American elections should be bankrolled by America's most powerful interests, or worse, by foreign entities. They should be decided by the American people. And I'd urge Democrats and Republicans to pass a bill that helps to correct some of these problems"
Result: The DISCLOSE Act failed to advance in the Senate

Promise: Change the tone in Washington; hold monthly meetings with both parties' leadership
What Obama said: "So, no, I will not give up on trying to change the tone of our politics... I'd like to begin monthly meetings with both Democratic and Republican leadership. I know you can't wait"
Result: Throughout most of 2010, the tone in DC remained harsh. As for the meetings, a few took place, but they were described as "sporadic" and didn't accomplish much