The Debate Between Obama's Promises and His Record

Phil Kerpen

10/17/2012 12:01:00 AM - Phil Kerpen
The usual spin from both sides declaring victory in the vice presidential debate underscores just how stunning and unusual Romney's blowout win in the first presidential debate was. That win up-ended the race and catapulted Romney into the lead in most national polls. President Obama, in turn, has reacted by shifting his campaign's central theme from the implausible claim that Romney is an extreme conservative to an accusation that he's a flip-flopper. But it is Obama who has a head-spinning record of, on issue after issue, doing the opposite of what he promised on the campaign trail in 2008.

Start with his signature domestic policy achievement: a law requiring all Americans to purchase government-defined health insurance or pay a penalty tax. In 2008, Obama said: "The main difference between my plan and Senator Clinton's plan is that she'd require the government to force you to buy health insurance and she said she'd 'go after' your wages if you don't." He said it over and over again, beating Hillary Clinton on his opposition to the mandate tax in the primary debates and using it against her in attack ads. Then as president he signed into law precisely what he won the election opposing.

This stunning reversal means millions of Americans will be forced to buy a product from giant private insurance companies, who presumably supported the bill for that reason. But it's hard to tell which special interests supported or opposed the health care bill, because contrary to the president's famous 2008 promise that "these negotiations will be on C-SPAN, and so the public will be part of the conversation," the health care bill was the product of corrupt backroom deals.

The mandate tax also broke Obama's famous campaign promise that "Under my 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 tax, not any of your taxes." But that promise was already broken in Obama's first week in office, when he signed a $1 per pack cigarette tax hike - a tax paid overwhelmingly by people making less than $250,000.

In 2008 Obama also promised to eliminate capital gains taxes on investments in smaller businesses - instead he has slated capital gains taxes for investments in all businesses to jump from 15 percent this year to 23.8 percent on January 1.

In 2008 Obama promised to put Americans to work with "shovel-ready projects, rebuilding our roads, our bridges." Yet President Obama later acknowledged that "Shovel-ready was not as... uh... shovel-ready as we expected."

In 2008 Obama told us he opposed corporate welfare. He said we need to "cut back" a program called "the Export-Import Bank," or Ex-Im Bank, that he said had "become little more than a fund for corporate welfare." When Congress instead increased its funding by $40 billion, Obama signed the bill and said "congratulations on reauthorizing Ex-Im Bank to continue upon its extraordinary mission." Under Obama, that mission including a $2 billion loan guarantee to Brazilian oil giant Petrobras to drill off the coast of Brazil.

Offshore drilling here in America might be Obama's flippiest flop of all. He started the 2008 campaign against drilling, but flipped when the public outrage was crystallized during the summer's "Drill Here! Drill Now!" protests. Then he flopped back to opposing drilling, and his Interior Department set-aside an already-approved leasing plan immediately upon Obama taking office. Then he flipped again, in March 2010 announcing an offshore drilling plan. The New York Times headline was "Obama to Open Offshore Areas to Oil Drilling for the First Time." That plan never was implemented, and by December 2010 the New York Times ran the headline: "White House rescinds plan to expand drilling." Virginians were especially outraged, because the canceled lease sale off the Virginia coast would have created 10,000 jobs and had strong bipartisan support in the state.

There are many more examples and my team is cataloging them at www.ObamaDoubleSpeak.com. But the bottom line is that a candidate who promised hope and change - and an awful lot of specifics - has failed to deliver on promises big and small. In the debate between Obama's promises and his record, the winner is Mitt Romney.