Opinion: Columnists

Obama overpromised and underdelivered

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Opinion,Philip Klein,Columnists,Campaign 2012,Politics Digest

CHARLOTTE, N.C. - When President Obama addresses the Democratic National Convention on Thursday, he'll no doubt make the case that he inherited a severe set of problems that he took steps to improve.

If Obama can convince Americans to judge him on this basis, he could win re-election. But if, instead, voters judge him on the basis of whether he lived up to his promises, he's more likely to be a one-termer.

During the campaign, Obama promised Americans that he wouldn't raise taxes on anybody making less than $250,000 a year. He broke that pledge weeks after taking office, when he signed an increase in cigarette taxes, which fall disproportionately on those with lower incomes.

His health care law included a litany of tax increases, including the individual mandate -- which the Obama administration argued successfully before the Supreme Court represented a tax on those who don't purchase health insurance. The mandate penalty does not exempt those making less than $250,000.

Lest some readers argue that Obama merely meant he wouldn't raise income taxes, here's what he actually said as a candidate in Dover, N.H., on Sept. 12, 2008: "I can make a firm pledge: 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 taxes, not any of your taxes."

Weeks before Obama took office, his economic team issued a report projecting that if his recovery plan were adopted, unemployment would be about 5.5 percent in the third quarter of 2012. In a February 5, 2009, op-ed for the Washington Post, Obama warned that if Congress didn't act on his plan, "Unemployment will approach double digits." The plan passed, the unemployment rate reached double digits anyway in October 2009, and it remains at a stubbornly high 8.3 percent today.

Speaking at the White House Fiscal Responsibility Summit on February 23, 2009, Obama stated, "Today I'm pledging to cut the deficit we inherited in half by the end of my first term in office." He reiterated this at a July 20, 2010, press availability, saying, "We are on the path to cutting our deficits in half." The deficit stood at $1.4 trillion in fiscal year 2009, according to the Congressional Budget Office. It is projected to be $1.1 trillion this fiscal year (which ends later this month).

In an appearance in Chester, Va., on August 21, 2008, candidate Obama spoke of his approach to passing health care this way: "I'm going to have all the negotiations around a big table. We'll have doctors and nurses and hospital administrators. Insurance companies, drug companies -- they'll get a seat at the table, they just won't be able to buy every chair. But what we will do is, we'll have the negotiations televised on C-SPAN, so that people can see who is making arguments on behalf of their constituents, and who are making arguments on behalf of the drug companies or the insurance companies."

Once in office, the Obama administration held closed-door negotiations with lobbyists for hospitals, drug companies and insurers without broadcasting them on C-SPAN. As part of a secret deal with the drug industry lobbying group PhRMA, the Obama administration agreed to keep out of legislation the idea of allowing Americans to reimport drugs from Canada. That also constituted a violation of Obama's campaign promise to allow drug reimportation.

Whatever disagreements people have about the deck Obama was dealt when he was sworn into office, it's hard to argue with the fact that he overpromised and underdelivered as president.

Philip Klein (pklein@washingtonexaminer.com) is a senior editorial writer for The Washington Examiner. Follow him on Twitter at @philipaklein.

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