Wednesday, October 22nd, 2014

First 100 Days: Obama's Promises Broken

President Obama has earned six Promises Broken on our Obameter.
President Obama has earned six Promises Broken on our Obameter.

Editor's Note: Yesterday we examined Obama's Promises Kept . Today, we focus on the ones he's broken.

As the 100-day mark of his presidency approaches, President Barack Obama has broken six promises, according to a PolitiFact analysis. That's a small portion of the 514 promises we're tracking, but the six represent some of Obama's key campaign themes.

Three are about taxes, two about transparency and ethics, and one deals with international diplomacy. We asked the White House press office for comments on them, but they have only made a statement about one, on the comment period for pending legislation.

Here's a recap of the six broken promises and where they stand. You can find more details and sources by clicking each promise.

Transparency and ethics


No. 240: Tougher rules against revolving door for lobbyists and former officials . We realize Obama probably will argue that he kept this promise. Among his first acts in office, he signed an executive order banning former lobbyists from working on matters they had lobbied on during the previous two years. But the order also included a waiver clause that the administration could invoke whenever it deemed it necessary. There was also the less rigorous standard of "recusal," which the administration used to avoid issuing formal waivers. After looking at how waivers and recusals were handled over his first three months, we concluded the promise was broken.

No. 234: Allow five days of public comment before signing bills . Obama broke this promise on his 10th day in office when he signed his first piece of legislation, the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act. The law itself, which was intended to remedy some cases of pay discrimination, was retroactive, so there was no rush. But Obama still didn't wait five days to sign it. The White House said it intends to keep the promise after working out " implementation procedures." We're still waiting.

The tax promises


No. 24: End income tax for seniors making less than $50,000 . When Obama made this promise back in 2008, tax experts criticized it as poor policy. Seniors who rely primarily on Social Security already pay little or no taxes, they said, while other seniors have economic advantages — for example, pensions and paid-off homes — over younger Americans. This promise appears to have been quietly dropped. (We're poised to move the meter if it ever is revived.) We rated it Promise Broken after Obama failed to include it in either the economic stimulus or his 2010 budget outline. And Obama didn't mention it in his Tax Day speech.

No. 505: Create a $3,000 tax credit for companies that add jobs . Obama talked about this proposal late in the campaign as a remedy to the economic collapse, but it had little or no support in Congress. Lawmakers said the credit wasn't enough of an incentive, and tax policy analysts said it would be an administrative nightmare to implement. We rated it Promise Broken when it failed to make the economic stimulus package in February.

No. 508: Allow penalty-free hardship withdrawals from retirement accounts in 2008 and 2009 . This promise has gone nowhere. It has little or no support in Congress and it shows no signs of life. We rated it Promise Broken right before 2008 taxes came due.

The Armenian Genocide

No. 511: Recognize the Armenian genocide . Obama visited Turkey and was asked about the period between 1915 and 1923, when historians say the actions of the Ottoman Empire resulted in the deaths of 1.5 million Armenians. During the campaign, Obama said he considered that genocide and promised to recognize those events with that word. But when he got to Turkey, he declined to use the word, though in a bit of legalistic phrasing, he did say his views hadn't changed. We ruled that the essence of the promise was to use the word "genocide," and Obama took a pass. A few weeks later, he issued a proclamation on April 24, a day of memorial for the Armenian genocide. Again he said his views hadn't changed, but did not use the word "genocide." 

In addition to the six ratings of Promise Broken, we've rated another three promises Stalled. These promises don't seem to be going anywhere at the moment, but we have reasons to think they may not be completely dead. Those are No. 293, Call for repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy ; No. 407, Limit subsidies for agribusiness ; and No. 446, Enact windfall profits tax for oil companies . We'll be monitoring these to see if and when the ratings need to be moved. Stay tuned.

Finally, Obama has earned seven ratings of Compromise, which means he agreed to settle for a portion of what he'd promised to achieve. Mostly, these are for promises where he either had to accept smaller initiatives than he had proposed, or the deal he struck didn't meet all the criteria he set out in his promises. For example, he proposed a tax credit of $500 for workers (Promise No. 32), but Congress only went along for $400. Same with No. 257, the American Opportunity Tax Credit : He wanted a tax credit for college students worth $4,000, but only got $2,500. He also accepted compromises with Congress for No. 5, Expand the earned income tax credit , and No. 3, Eliminate capital gains taxes for small businesses and start-ups .

Among the other Compromise promises: