Obama 2008 Economic Promises and Platform

Has Obama Kept His Promises?

Barack Obama 2008 promises
Barack Obama campaigned on the promise of change. Source: Joe Raedle/Getty Images

While running for office in 2008, Barack Obama made many promises about fixing the economy. He pledged to end the Great Recession and change the policies that had caused it. The candidate also promised to solve many long-term economic problems, like the high cost of health care, U.S. dependence on foreign oil, and stimulating more technology and innovation. He kept many, but certainly not all, of them.

Here are the most important promises, and how well he fulfilled them as president.

Promises Kept

Fix Wall Street - Candidate Obama said he would streamline regulatory agencies. He would focus on those banks that used funds from the Troubled Asset Relief Program. He promised to establish a financial market advisory group, improve transparency for financial disclosure, and crack down on trading activities that could manipulate markets.  The Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform Act addressed them all.

On his first day in office, Obama signed an executive order prohibiting government aides from working on issues related to a former employer for two years, It also prevented them from lobbying after they left office. He made progress in putting meetings between governmental agencies and lobbyists online for the public to review. (Source: "Obama Strikes Back on Economic Reform," Greenbay Press Gazette, September 23, 2008.

"The Promise Audit," The National Journal.)

End the Recession - Obama's Economic Stimulus Package ended the recession in July 2009. Here's a list of most of the promises, and how the package fulfilled them:

  • $25 billion for health, education, housing, and heating assistance. He spent $128 billion on health, $112 billion on education and $22 billion on housing and heating.
  • $25 billion in public works projects. He spent $83 billion.
  • Tax credits of $500 per person /$1,000 per family. They got $400/$800 through reduction of withholding.
  • Eliminate income tax for seniors making less than $50,000 per year. Social Security recipients got a check for $250.
  • He fulfilled promises to eliminate capital gains taxes for small business investors and extend write-offs for small business equipment purchases.

But Obama did not fulfill his promise to enact a windfall profits tax on oil companies. That would have given families a $1,000 rebate. For more, see ARRA. (Source for promises: "Economic Stimulus Plan," BarackObama.com.)

Health Care Reform. Obama promised to offer health care coverage similar to that used by Congress. He said he would:

  • Require that all children have health care coverage.
  • Create a National Health Coverage Exchange to monitor and provide information.
  • Spend $10 billion to move health care providers to an all-electronic system. (Source:  "Issues and Healthcare," BarackObama.com.) 

The 2010 Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act addressed all these pledges but one. Private companies provide health insurance instead of the federal government. You can thank Congress for that.

For details, see Obama and Healthcare Reform

The Eight Planks of Obama's Economic Platform. Obama's 2008 platform centered around the following eight economic issues. Here's the promises, and how he's performed.

1. Tax Relief:

  • Expand the Earned Income Tax Credit and Child Tax Credit for low-income workers. The Tax Relief and Job Creation Act increased the EITC through the 2012 tax years.
  • Reduce self-employment tax. Done temporarily as part of the 2010 tax cuts.

2. Technology, Innovation and Creating Jobs:

  • Reduce oil consumption by 10 million barrels of oil by 2030. How? Double fuel economy standards within 18 years. The DOE's goal was to cut oil consumption by 2 million barrels per day by 2025.
  • Make all new buildings carbon neutral, or produce zero emissions, by 2030. Improve new building efficiency by 50 percent in 10 years. Improve existing building efficiency by 25 percent in 10 years. The DOE's goal is to cut oil imports in half by 2020 and double energy productivity by 2030.
  • Eliminate special interest business deductions, such as for the oil and gas industry. Not fulfilled.
  • Double federal funding for basic research. Obama included $80 billion in R&D tax cuts in 2010. In his 2013 SOTU, he promised to return R&D spending to 1960s levels.
  • Raise the minimum wage and index it to inflation. Obama proposed raising the minimum wage to $9.00 an hour in his SOTU addresses. Congress didn't agree.

3. Address Predatory Credit Card Practices and Reform Bankruptcy Laws:

  • Establish a credit card rating system to educate consumers on risk. Create a Credit Card Bill of Rights to protect consumers from unfair practices, such as interest charges on fees and unilateral changes. Obama fulfilled these two promises with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
  • Reform bankruptcy laws for families facing a medical crisis. Obama didn't change the bankruptcy laws, but he provided assistance with medical costs through the PPACA.
  • Cap payday loans at 35 percent. The CFPB was looking into this.
  • Encourage banks to make microloans. Ban executive bonuses for bankrupt companies. Require disclosure of all pension investments. Unfulfilled.

4. Protect Homeownership and 5. Crack Down on Mortgage Fraud:

  • Provide 10 percent tax credit for the 10 million mortgage-holders who do not itemize. Unfulfilled.
  • Create a fund to help homeowners in foreclosure to either refinance or sell their home. Fulfilled through Making Home Affordable.

6. Work / Family Balance:

  • Double funding for after-school programs. Obama created the 21st Century After School Program, which extends the school day itself.
  • Expand the Family Medical Leave Act. Obama expanded it to flight attendants, crewmembers and military families.
  • Provide low-income families with a refundable tax credit to help with their child-care expenses. Fulfilled.
  • Encourage flexible work schedules. Obama verbally supported it.

7. Protect Labor and 8. Promote Free Trade:

  • More actively enforce and provide better labor protection for trade agreements. He never fulfilled his promised to update NAFTA. He did include better labor protection in trade agreements he has signed with Colombia, South Korea, and Panama.
  • End tax breaks for companies that outsource jobs overseas. Obama asked Congress to pass these tax breaks. For more on Obama's trade promises, read Obama and Trade. (Source for promises: BarackObama.com, "Issues and the Economy")

Promises Not Kept

Energy - Obama fulfilled his promises to invest $150 billion in clean technologies, and increase fuel economy standards. He has repeated his 2008 pledge to eliminate oil and gas business deductions, and double federal funding for basic research. 

Review NAFTA - Obama promised to review NAFTA and other free trade agreements to protect labor and the environment. He included those safeguards in agreements with Korea, Colombia, and Panama, but has not yet tackled NAFTA. He repeated his promise in the 2012 campaign to end tax breaks for outsourcing. For more, see Obama and Trade.

Reform Bankruptcy Laws - Obama promised to repeal the 2005 Bankruptcy Prevention Act. The Act made it harder to declare bankruptcy. Many experts now think this helped cause the 2008 financial crisis. That's because homeowners drained the equity in their homes to pay bills because the couldn't declare bankruptcy on their personal debt. For more, see How 2005 Bankruptcy Act Led to Recession.

Reform Minimum Wage - Obama promised to index the minimum wage to inflation. That would help low-income wage earners, the so-called working poor, to earn a decent standard of living. Congress ignored his request to raise the U.S. minimum wage to a living wage. Obama did sign an executive order that requires all government contractors to raise their minimum wage to $10.10 an hour.