What Change Can We Really Believe In?

Keep Track of President Obama’s Promises He Made During His Campaign 2008:

Over the years of the Obama presidency, it may become progressively difficult to keep track of the promises Mr. Obama made during his 2008 campaign. Since the Obama Web pages are subject to change without prior notice, we took the liberty to download some of the campaign documents and keep them for safe storage. Furthermore, we listed some of the key campaign promises. This way, interested voters can keep track of Mr. Obama’s progress in keeping his election promises.

The table contains a list of selected promises with a focus on economics, each of them marked with one of these symbols:

Pending Pending promise. Not yet kept.
Kept Promise kept.
Failure watch High probability of a failure to keep promise.
Failed Failed to keep promise.

This page was last updated: 04-06-2010 with the following changes:

  • Failure to reduce health care costs for the average family (Reference)
  • Failure to cut taxes for 95% of workers and families in the context of ObamaCare (see reference above and this article)
  • Failure to maintain so-called “net neutrality” (Reference)

Before that, this page was updated 10-01-2010 (Massive tax hikes for the middle class). See commentary here: The New Year Brings Tax Chaos – Wall Street Journal, 01-07-10. Related to this tax chaos is the suspension of the R & D tax credit, another failed promise.

Promises for Change in Energy Policy

Promise Ref. Status Comment
Implement an economy-wide cap-and-trade program to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 80 percent by 2050 1 Pending It will be interesting to observe the economic consequences, particularly in light of continuously declining consensus on anthropogenic climate change.
Invest $150 billion over next 10 years into private enterprises developing clean energy sources 1 Pending A long-term goal that will be hard to assess unless Obama goes for a 10-year presidency
… and in the process create 5 million jobs 1 Failed Although the investment value of government stimulus is debatable, it is clear from the current unemployment rate that Obama’s Keynesian policies failed to create any jobs, let alone sustainable green jobs. In fact, the Obama Administration seems to be taken by surprise, too.
Put one million plug-in hybrid cars on the road by 2015 1 Pending
Ensure 10% of our electricity comes from renewable energy sources by 2012 1 Pending
Impose windfall profit tax on oil companies 1 Pending Obama failed to keep this promise even before he took office. All the better for the economy as taxes lead deeper into a recession, not out of it.
… and, from that revenue, provide an immediate $500 relief to individuals and $1000 to married couples 1 Failed We assumed that immediate means: within the first 100 days. As of May 2009, these 100 days have passed, and we have to consider this promise failed.
Regulate energy speculation 1 Pending
Provide US automakers with $4 billion in tax credits and loans to build fuel efficient cars in the US 1 Pending
Mandate all new vehicles to be Flexible Fuel or Biofuel Vehicles 1 Pending
Develop and deploy clean coal technology 1 Pending
Develop safe and secure nuclear technology 1 Pending
Reduce federal energy consumption by 15% by 2015 1 Pending

Promises for Change in Tax Policy

Promise Ref. Status Comment
Cut taxes for 95% of workers and families and (quote:) “no family making less than $250,000 will see their taxes increase.” 2 Failed We did not consider the new tobaccto tax (see WSJ commentary, local copy and Breitbart commentary, local copy) a real tax hike, because smoking is a voluntary act. However, in 2010 taxes really went up. See details in the Wall Street Journal article The New Year Brings Tax Chaos (local copy). Here are a few examples how your taxes will go up: Alternative Minimum Tax, expiration of homebuyer tax credit, expiration of the federal tax deduction for college tuition, expiration of research tax credit and write-off for small businesses for capital purchases. Note that many small businesses are family businesses, so these tax increases hit individuals. In fact these tax increases hit tax filers who are school teachers, construction workers and bus drivers. Although the media does not publicize these tax hikes in an election year, Mr. Obama has completely failed to keep this promise. And the consequence?

What no one in Congress seems to understand is that there is a very real economic cost to constantly tinkering with the tax laws. Uncertainty is the enemy of investment. Do businesses want to make major investment decisions based on congressional promises of a future tax break? Likely not. So right now millions of businesses and tens of millions of individual tax filers are stranded in a tax purgatory.

…and, we might continue, there are now millions of businesses who rather wait than employ.

Lastly, we need to consider ObamaCare as a source of massive tax increases. See here. The “Cadillac plan tax” alone affects many unionized lower-income families. This is a tax increase.

Provide a $500 tax cut for workers and $1000 for working couples 1, 2 Pending
Pay a refundable $4,000 American Opportunity Tax Credit for college 2 Pending
Provide a Universal 10% mortgage interest tax credit 2 Pending
Eliminate Income Taxes for seniors making less than $50,000 2 Pending
Introduce health care tax credits 2 Pending
Expand the Earned Income Tax Credit 2 Pending
Increase benefits for child care 2 Pending
Simplify the tax system 2 Pending
Eliminate capital gains taxes on entrepreneurs and investors in small businesses 2 Pending See this article (local copy)
Cut corporate tax rates for companies creating jobs in US 2 Pending
Offer a small business health care tax credit 2 Pending
Make the R&D tax credit permanent 2 Failed The research tax credit has been suspended as of January 01, 2010. See details in the Wall Street Journal article The New Year Brings Tax Chaos (local copy). Mr. Obama failed to keep this promise.
Make international tax havens less accessible 2 Pending
Broaden the corporate tax base and eliminate special preferences 2 Pending
Generally increase income taxes from the 2008 tax brackets of 33% and 35% to 36% and 39.6%, respectively, by letting the Bush tax cuts expire 2 Pending
Increase capital gains tax to 20% for families making more than $250,000 2 Pending

Promises for Better Fiscal Discipline

This part does not look good. Massive spending that is not offset by cuts elsewhere; spending that has poor promise of stimulating the economy or creating jobs, all of this in a package that contains massive amounts of pork-barrel projects (see links below). The consequences of this poor fiscal discipline are likely to be:

  1. Massive increase in debt that will take generations (and high inflation) to reduce to reasonable levels;
  2. Government immobility under the burden of the debt;
  3. Loss of jobs and emigration of industries because of higher tax burden needed to pay the debt;
  4. High inflation and consequently high interest rates;
  5. An extended economical downturn

This stimulus bill has passed, creating a massive trillion-dollar debt. Among the stimulus items:

  • A $246 million tax break for Hollywood movie producers to buy motion picture film.
  • $650 million for the digital television converter box coupon program.
  • $448 million for constructing the Department of Homeland Security headquarters.
  • $1 billion for the 2010 Census, which has a projected cost overrun of $3 billion.
  • $10 million to inspect canals in urban areas.
  • $650 million for wildland fire management on forest service lands.
  • $1.2 billion for “youth activities,” including youth summer job programs.
  • $850 million for Amtrak.
  • $100 million for reducing the hazard of lead-based paint.

Please tell me, Mr. Obama: these items are going to stimulate the economy exactly how?

Promise Ref. Status Comment
Reinstate pay-as-you-go budgeting rules (i.e., new spending has to be offset with other spending cuts) 3 Pending Is there any indication that the stimulus spending would be offset by spending cuts in other places?
Cut pork barrel spending 3 Failed See related articles here, here, here, here, here, and here. (local copies here, here, here, here, here, and here).
A picture emerges in which the Obama administration packs a so-called stimulus package with pork-barrel liberal pet projects. Mr. Obama cleanly failed this promise.
Make government spending more accountable and efficient 3 Failed We have put this item on watch for some time, but with 7 percent of government funds lost to fraud and abuse, government spending cannot be called accountable, nor efficient. To quote: Devaney said data has shown that about 7 percent of all government funds are lost to fraud and abuse. If that holds up for the $787 billion Recovery Act, more than $55 billion would be wasted. “We just can’t allow that to happen,” said Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, the committee’s ranking member. “That’s just an unacceptable percentage.” Honestly, this does not come as a surprise.

Other Promises

Promise Ref. Status Comment
Health care: Lower health care costs by $2,500 for a typical family 4 Failed After ramming ObamaCare through Congress and signing it into law, costs for the average family will increase in a number of ways. Unfortunately, Obama did not lower health care costs for a typical family, but rather raise health care costs. Read this article to find out how.
Internet: Protect the openness of the Internet by defending network neturality 5 Failed Obama is about to default on this promise, too. The The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia ruled against the government concept of net neutrality. See also Wall Street Journal article and commentary. Note that the failure to keep this promise is probably good for us. After all, the Internet is maintained and expanded by private companies. If the government over-regulates (as it is wont to do), companies wil invest less, and the Internet development will slow down.
As of 2014, the courts stuck down “net neutrality”, and we can state that Obama failed to keep this promise. For more info, see here. Good riddance, by the way.
Second Amendment: protect the constitutional right of Americans
to keep and bear arms (“He will protect the right of hunters and
other law-abiding Americans to purchase, transport, own, and use guns”
6 Failed This is a tricky one. Apart from the “bitter clingers” comment, Obama did not touch gun control during his first term — maybe with the exception of the Fast and Furious scandal. His call for a renewed “assault” weapons ban in October 2012 speaks volumes, though. His Rose Garden rant after Congress rejected the gun control bill in 2013 was pretty revealing, too. Probably worst of all was his signing of the UN arms trade treaty, with which he signed away some of our sovereignity and has that treaty now ready for future signature by a more freedom-adverse Congress. Here is some more info, as a starting point. We believe that this is enough evidence, though circumstantial, that Obama failed this promise.
Troop withdrawal from Iraq: Phased withdrawal of 1-2 brigades per month leading to full withdrawal by Summer of 2010. 7 Failed It is now 2011, and the administration promises troop withdrawal by the end of the year (see this article in the Wall Street Journal, (local copy)). Summer 2010 (promise) to end of 2011 is a significant delay, and we need to consider this promise broken.


  1. http://my.barackobama.com/page/content/newenergy or a local copy, accessed 12/2008.
  2. http://origin.barackobama.com/taxes/ or a local copy and the final tax plan, accessed 11/2008.
  3. http://www.barackobama.com/issues/fiscal/ or a local copy, accessed 11/2008.
  4. http://www.barackobama.com/issues/healthcare or a local copy, accessed 12/2008.
  5. http://www.barackobama.com/issues/technology or a local copy, accessed 12/2008.
  6. http://www.barackobama.com/issues/additional/ and click on Read the full plan under the Sportsmen caption or download a local copy, accessed 12/2008.
  7. http://origin.barackobama.com/issues/iraq/ or a local copy, accessed 01/2009.