Obama: Promises Broken, Promises Kept

President Obama has broken many of his promises aimed at the general public and jobless Americans, but he has kept promises to his left-wing base that involved divisive wedge issues.

He promised to create 7 million new jobs on seven different occasions in 2008. But these jobs have not materialized: “just 16 states have seen job growth since President Obama took office,” overwhelmingly conservative states like Texas that have rejected liberal economic policies. “The remaining states have lost a combined 1.4 million jobs since January 2009.” Unemployment has risen, despite the fact that many people have given up looking for a job, concealing increases in joblessness. (The broadest measure of real unemployment is 15.6 percent.)

President Obama promised to cut the deficit at least six times. He also promised a “net spending cut.” These promises were swiftly broken. In 2009, the president broke them in a big way with his very first proposed budget. It mandated such large increases in spending that budget deficits would rise by $4.8 trillion under it to $9.3 trillion, according to the Congressional Budget Office.

He has broken at least ten other campaign promises, including seven promises in signing the $800 billion stimulus package (which will shrink the economy in the “long run”), and one promise in signing the Lilly Ledbetter law and the SCHIP tax increase.

On the other hand, President Obama kept his pledge to federalize hate crimes, which were already prohibited by state laws, by signing into law a broad federal hate crimes law in 2009. (Obama promised to “place the weight of (his) administration behind the enactment of the Matthew Shepard Act to (federally) outlaw hate crimes.”) Since violent crimes were already prohibited by state law, and most states already had laws increasing penalties for crimes motivated by race or sexual orientation, the principal effect of the 2009 federal hate crimes law was to allow federal prosecutors to reprosecute people had previously been acquitted and found not guilty of a crime in state court, or were never prosecuted in state court because state prosecutors viewed the evidence against them as weak.

And, indeed, one of the purposes of the federal hate crimes law was to take advantage of a loophole in constitutional protections against double jeopardy. As interpreted by the Supreme Court, constitutional protections against double jeopardy prevent a state from reprosecuting a person who has been found not guilty in state court, but do not, owing to the loophole, prevent federal prosecutors from reprosecuting someone after they have been found innocent of the same crime in state court. This loophole is known as the “dual sovereignty” doctrine. The Obama administration may make use of this loophole in a recent high-profile, racially-charged case in Florida. The specter of such reprosecutions led the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights and civil-libertarians like Nat Hentoff to oppose the federal hate-crimes law.