President Barack Obama’s reelection campaign is circulating a video of promises the then-candidate made during an Iowa caucus victory speech in January 2008, claiming he kept the promises he made that night. Not quite.
To be sure, the president signed a major health care law, ended the long war in Iraq and signed multiple “middle-class” tax cuts, just as his campaign boasts.
But the health care law isn’t expected to make insurance “affordable and available to every single American,” as Obama promised. And though he pledged to be a president who “brings our troops home” from Iraq, thousands of those U.S. troops are now stationed in neighboring Kuwait. Most glaringly, he has failed at “bringing Democrats and Republicans together” as he so optimistically promised four years ago.
Here’s a partial transcript of Obama’s 2008 speech, courtesy of the New York Times.
Obama, Jan. 3, 2008: The time has come for a president who will be honest about the choices and the challenges we face, who will listen to you and learn from you, even when we disagree, who won’t just tell you what you want to hear, but what you need to know.
And in New Hampshire, if you give me the same chance that Iowa did tonight, I will be that president for America. (APPLAUSE)
I’ll be a president who finally makes health care affordable and available to every single American, the same way I expanded health care in Illinois, by… (APPLAUSE)
… by bringing Democrats and Republicans together to get the job done. I’ll be a president who ends the tax breaks for companies that ship our jobs overseas and put a middle-class tax cut into the pockets of working Americans who deserve it. (APPLAUSE)
I’ll be a president who harnesses the ingenuity of farmers and scientists and entrepreneurs to free this nation from the tyranny of oil once and for all. (APPLAUSE)
And I’ll be a president who ends this war in Iraq and finally brings our troops home… (APPLAUSE)
… who restores our moral standing, who understands that 9/11 is not a way to scare up votes but a challenge that should unite America and the world against the common threats of the 21st century.
‘Bringing Democrats and Republicans Together’
During his victory speech in 2008, Obama said: “I’ll be a president who finally makes health care affordable and available to every single American, the same way I expanded health care in Illinois, by bringing Democrats and Republicans together to get the job done.”
To be sure, the president did sign the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act into law in 2010, but it wasn’t enacted by “bringing Democrats and Republicans together.” The bill passed the Senate on Dec. 24, 2009, by a vote of 60-39, without any Republicans voting for it. And when the House passed its version of the bill almost three months later, by a vote of 219-212, it too garnered no support from Republicans. We won’t offer any opinion about whether one side is more to blame than the other for that, but it’s simply a fact that the president failed at “bringing Democrats and Republicans together.”
‘Every Single American’
Furthermore, the law falls short of making health care “affordable and available to every single American,” as promised. The law provides subsidies to help some Americans buy insurance, expands Medicaid and doesn’t allow insurance companies to exclude persons with preexisting conditions. But still, the director of the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office projected 23 million persons will remain uninsured — some because they can’t afford coverage.
About one-third of those 23 million will be unauthorized immigrants, and not “Americans” in the sense that Obama meant. And another one-quarter will have health care “available” in the form of Medicaid, but will fail to sign up, CBO projects. But that still leaves several million Americans who won’t be covered because they are “ineligible for subsidies, are exempt from the individual mandate, choose not to comply with the mandate, or have some combination of those characteristics,” CBO said. As the nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation noted, at least a portion of the uninsured would include “people who are exempt from the mandate, in most cases because they do not have access to affordable coverage.” For instance, some individuals may earn too much to receive subsidies but not enough to afford insurance plans available to them.
At the moment, the new law is making health care slightly less affordable. Independent health care experts say the law has caused some insurance premiums to rise. As we wrote in October, the new law has caused about a 1 percent to 3 percent increase in health insurance premiums for employer-sponsored family plans because of requirements for increased benefits. Last year’s premium increases cast even more doubt on another promise the president has made — that the health care law would “lower premiums by up to $2,500 for a typical family per year.”
Bringing Our Troops Home
Obama has largely kept his promise to “be a president who ends this war in Iraq and finally brings our troops home.” In a speech back in October, Obama announced that the U.S. was ending its nine-year war in Iraq, and that “as promised, the rest of our troops in Iraq will come home by the end of the year.” While the majority of the 40,000 troops still stationed in Iraq were brought home in time for the holidays, not all were. As Stars and Stripes reported, some 4,000 members of the 1st Cavalry Division’s 1st Brigade were reassigned from Iraq to Kuwait to complete the second half of the brigade’s tour.
Middle-Class Tax Cut
Obama kept his promise to “put a middle-class tax cut into the pockets of working Americans who deserve it.” The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act that Obama signed into law in February 2009 provided up to a $400 tax credit for working singles and an $800 tax credit for working couples. Obama also signed a bill in 2010 that cut payroll taxes paid by American workers by 2 percentage points. That has been extended for the first two months of 2012 at least, and both the president and Republican leaders say they want to extend it for the entire year.
In 2010, the Department of Transportation and the Environmental Protection Agency put in place new fuel efficiency standards for vehicles in model years 2012 to 2016. Officials expect the new standards to save about 1.8 billion barrels of oil over the life of the program. That’s certainly progress toward Obama’s promise to “be a president who harnesses the ingenuity of farmers and scientists and entrepreneurs to free this nation from the tyranny of oil once and for all.”
Also, domestic oil production has increased under Obama, despite Republican claims that the administration is opposed to drilling. The U.S. was producing 6.9 million barrels of oil per day in January 2009, when Obama became president. That was up to 8.1 million barrels per day in November 2011, according to the Energy Information Administration’s most recent estimates. And U.S. dependence on foreign oil has declined under Obama as well, going from 58.9 percent of oil consumption in January 2009 to 44 percent in November 2011, according to EIA estimates.
However, the U.S. is still a long way from being free of the “tyranny of oil once and for all,” as Obama said.
— D’Angelo Gore