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The Over-Promiser-In-Chief

President Barack Obama is known as a great orator.  One would think that this skill would serve him well during the State of the Union tomorrow, yet his public speaking is fast becoming his biggest liability.  It is because the American people look at many of his biggest promises skeptically.

The AP reports in a story titled, “At Obama’s Midpoint, an Altered State of the Union” that the President has a record of promises kept and promises broken. 

All in all, Obama made an astonishing array of promises in his campaign and rededicated himself to them in the early days of his presidency. They ranged from small-bore ones such as his pledge to open American cultural centers in Islamic cities abroad (a promise being kept) to his vow to repeal the Bush-era tax cuts for the wealthy (a promise broken).

If one reads the President’s prior State of the Union Addresses (SOTU), it is an indication that you can expect some more empty promises.  The President has a mixed record of promised kept and broken, yet there is strong evidence that the American people are rejecting the Obama Agenda.  Furthermore, his left wing base should not put too much trust in his promises. 

The election results in 2010 were a rejection of the Obama Agenda.  Early reports indicate that the President is preparing to roll out an “investment agenda” paired with spending cuts.  The Obama loving pundits are calling it a new moderate agenda and a “move to the center.”  Nobody is going to believe a claim that the President can inject another trillion of your tax dollars into the government managed economy without exploding the deficit.  Government funded job creation is a failure, yet the President is expected to double down on his failed “Stimulus” plan of 2009.

I characterized the President in the AP story as the “Over-Promiser-In-Chief,” because I believe his greatest weakness to be a politician who promises much more than he can deliver.  Especially on the big issues.  The President does so on a regular basis.  In the AP story I concluded that the “American people will look at his statements skeptically” during the State of the Union.

Check out the President’s broken promises from 2009 and 2010 to get a flavor of what you might hear tomorrow.

On February 24, 2009, the President gave his first address to the Congress.  The first promise the President made to Congress and the American people was the following:

And tonight, I am grateful that this Congress delivered, and pleased to say that the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act is now law. Over the next two years, this plan will save or create 3.5 million jobs.  More than 90% of these jobs will be in the private sector – jobs rebuilding our roads and bridges; constructing wind turbines and solar panels; laying broadband and expanding mass transit.

Unemployed Americans are acutely aware that this promise was empty.  The nation is carrying 9.4% unemployment rate. Many argue that the use of the phrase jobs “saved or created” was intended to mislead the American public.

William McGurn wrote in the Wall Street Journalon June 10, 2009 that Tony Fratto of the Bush Administration would have been held by the media to a higher standard if the President claimed jobs “saved or created.”  Most pundits would have never allowed President Bush to make a similar claim.

Mr. Fratto sees a double standard at play. “We would never have used a formula like ‘save or create,'” he tells me. “To begin with, the number is pure fiction — the administration has no way to measure how many jobs are actually being ‘saved.’ And if we had tried to use something this flimsy, the press would never have let us get away with it.”

The WSJ further quoted Harvard economist and former Bush economic adviser Greg Mankiw calling this statistic “non-measurable metric.”  For arguments sake, let’s call the President’s 2009 claim a promise that was intentionally misleading. 

The President admitted as much in another statement in his 2009 Address.

I know there are some in this chamber and watching at home who are skeptical of whether this plan will work.  I understand that skepticism.  Here in Washington, we’ve all seen how quickly good intentions can turn into broken promises and wasteful spending.  And with a plan of this scale comes enormous responsibility to get it right.

They didn’t get it right and they have yet to admit so.  Now we hear that the President is going to push his chips all in on his “saved or created” method of claiming economic growth.  The American people will look skeptically on any claim by President Obama that he can “save or create” new jobs with another warmed over stimulus plan in the name of investment.

The President also promised to cut the deficit in half by the end of his first term in office.

Yesterday, I held a fiscal summit where I pledged to cut the deficit in half by the end of my first term in office.  My administration has also begun to go line by line through the federal budget in order to eliminate wasteful and ineffective programs.  As you can imagine, this is a process that will take some time.  But we’re starting with the biggest lines.  We have already identified two trillion dollars in savings over the next decade.

Just to be clear, the deficit is the annual difference between the amount the Government takes in versus spends.  This is the annual number and different from the number you hear every day, the $14 trillion national debt, which is the accumulated debt of the nation as a whole.  The deficit was $459 billion in 2008 according to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO).  For the President to complete this promise he needs to get the annual deficit for 2012 to $229 billion.  This is going to be tough when you look at trends.  According to CBO the debt in 2009 was $1.4 trillion and 2010 was $1.3 trillion.  Furthermore, the American people are still waiting for the President to eliminate wasteful programs.

The President broke two promise to his liberal base that will come back to haunt him.

  1. “In order to save our children from a future of debt, we will also end the tax breaks for the wealthiest 2% of Americans.” 
  2. “That is why I have ordered the closing of the detention center at Guantanamo Bay, and will seek swift and certain justice for captured terrorists – because living our values doesn’t make us weaker, it makes us safer and it makes us stronger.”

The President did complete some of his 2009 promises to pass ObamaCare and his promise to draw down troops in Iraq.  The problem with measuring the President’s proclivity to break promises is that his promises on the economy have greater weight that all other promises.  The economic promises of the President are not completed.  The American people want to see the federal budget reduced and the economy spurred — on these two subjects the President did not keep his promises.

Fast forward to the President’s State of the Union on January 27, 2010.  The President promised a freeze on all government spending excluding national security and the big three entitlement programs.  This promise will be assessed when the President puts out his 2011 budget.  We shall see if the President will freeze discretionary government spending (exempting national security spending) for 3 years.   

Starting in 2011, we are prepared to freeze government spending for three years.  (Applause.)  Spending related to our national security, Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security will not be affected.  But all other discretionary government programs will.  Like any cash-strapped family, we will work within a budget to invest in what we need and sacrifice what we don’t.  And if I have to enforce this discipline by veto, I will.  (Applause.)  

The President in 2010 repeated his promise to let taxes increase on those individuals making over $250K/yr.

We will continue to go through the budget, line by line, page by page, to eliminate programs that we can’t afford and don’t work.  We’ve already identified $20 billion in savings for next year.  To help working families, we’ll extend our middle-class tax cuts.  But at 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.  (Applause.) 

I will be interesting to see how President Obama explains away this broken promise to his liberal base.  They are still angry at him that he broke this explicit promise to left wingers who wanted to punish job creators with higher taxes. 

The President talked about his intent to “change the tone” in Washington and he promised to hold monthly meetings with the leaders of both parties.

This week, I’ll be addressing a meeting of the House Republicans.  I’d like to begin monthly meetings with both Democratic and Republican leadership.  I know you can’t wait.  (Laughter.)

This clearly never happened.  The President did complete his promise to get the New START Treaty ratified by the Senate and he did pull “combat” troops out of Iraq. 

The President did try and hedge on some of his promises last year when he pleaded with the American people to stick with him.

I campaigned on the promise of change –- change we can believe in, the slogan went.  And right now, I know there are many Americans who aren’t sure if they still believe we can change –- or that I can deliver it. But remember this –- I never suggested that change would be easy, or that I could do it alone.  Democracy in a nation of 300 million people can be noisy and messy and complicated.  And when you try to do big things and make big changes, it stirs passions and controversy.  That’s just how it is.

The results on Election Day 2010 (63 new Republican House seats and 6 new Republican Senate seats) indicate that the American people have rejected the President and are unwilling to give him any slack.  He did complete promises, yet his big promises on creating jobs and stopping tax relief for job creators clearly are promises broken.  It will be interesting to see what promises are rolled out tomorrow by The Over-Promiser-In-Chief.

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