The Fact Checker

The Washington Post Sunday - - POLITICS & THE NATION - GLENN KESSLER Ex­cerpt from wash­ing­ton­

Ev­ery pres­i­dent an­nounces a slew of ini­tia­tives in his State of the Union ad­dress, and Pres­i­dent Obama last year was no ex­cep­tion. Here, in or­der of de­liv­ery, is a sum­mary of the key pro­pos­als, pledges or pri­or­i­ties an­nounced by Obama a year ago— and what hap­pened to them. Over­all, he did rather well in get­ting his ideas en­acted by Congress, the clear ben­e­fit of hav­ing com­mand­ing ma­jori­ties in both houses of Congress. With the prospect of di­vided govern­ment in the com­ing year, his bat­ting av­er­age in 2011 is sure to fall.

Obama: “So tonight, I’m propos­ing that we take $30 bil­lion of the money Wall Street banks have re­paid and use it to help com­mu­nity banks give small busi­nesses the credit they need to stay afloat.”

The Fact Checker: The pro­posal was con­tained in a small busi­ness law that won fi­nal pas­sage by Congress in Septem­ber.

Obama: “It is time to fi­nally slash the tax breaks for com­pa­nies that ship our jobs over­seas, and give those tax breaks to com­pa­nies that cre­ate jobs right here in theUnited States of Amer­ica.”

The Fact Checker: This has long been an Obama ap­plause line, but there has been lit­tle en­thu­si­asm for this idea in Congress and it has gone nowhere.

Obama: “ The House has al­ready passed fi­nan­cial re­form. . . . And if the bill that ends up on my desk does not meet the test of real re­form, I will send it back un­til we get it right.”

The Fact Checker: In July, Obama signed into law a sweep­ing bank­ing and con­sumer pro­tec­tion bill.

Obama: “It means pass­ing a com­pre­hen­sive en­ergy and cli­mate bill with in­cen­tives that will fi­nally make clean en­ergy the profitable kind of en­ergy in Amer­ica.”

The Fact Checker: The en­ergy bill failed in the Se­nate, and many Democrats in the House were pun­ished at the polls for their votes in fa­vor of it.

Obama: “So tonight, we set a new goal: We will dou­ble our ex­ports over the next five years, an in­crease that will sup­port 2 mil­lion jobs in Amer­ica.”

The Fact Checker: In Septem­ber, the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion un­veiled a strat­egy for reach­ing this goal. In the first 11 months of 2010, U.S. goods and ser­vices ex­ports are up nearly 17 per­cent com­pared with the same pe­riod in 2009, ac­cord­ing to the Com­merce Depart­ment.

Obama: “Here’s what I ask Congress, though: Don’t walk away from [health-care] re­form. Not now. Not when we are so close. Let us find a way to come to­gether and fin­ish the job for the Amer­i­can peo­ple.”

The Fact Checker: De­spite the loss of a fil­i­buster-proof ma­jor­ity in the Se­nate, Democrats reached a com­pro­mise that re­sulted in fi­nal pas­sage of Obama’s chief leg­isla­tive ini­tia­tive.

Obama: “Start­ing in 2011, we are pre­pared to freeze govern­ment spend­ing for three years. Spend­ing re­lated to our na­tional se­cu­rity, Medi­care, Med­i­caid and So­cial Se­cu­rity will not be af­fected. But all other dis­cre­tionary govern­ment pro­grams will.”

The Fact Checker: Obama’s bud­get pro­posal ful­filled this pledge, but Congress never fin­ished its work on the bud­get, so the out­come is un­cer­tain. Spend­ing has con­tin­ued at 2010 lev­els, and Repub­li­cans want to cut fur­ther.

“But at a time of record deficits, we will not con­tinue tax cuts for . . . those mak­ing over $250,000 a year. We just can’t af­ford it.”

The Fact Checker: Obama’s vow to end Ge­orge W. Bush-era tax cuts on mar­ried cou­ples with in­come over $250,000 in the name of fis­cal re­spon­si­bil­ity was aban­doned as part of a com­pro­mise with Repub­li­cans to ex­tend the tax cuts for two more years.

Obama: “I’d like to be­gin monthly meet­ings with both Demo­cratic and Repub­li­can lead­er­ship. I know you can’t wait.”

The Fact Checker: Sched­ul­ing such meet­ings is com­pletely within the pres­i­dent’s power, but ac­cord­ing to House and Se­nate GOP of­fi­cials, there were only five such bi­par­ti­san, bi­cam­eral meet­ings last year— on Feb. 9, April 14, June 10, July 27 and Nov. 30. A White House spokesman did not re­spond to a query about why monthly meet­ings were not sched­uled.

Obama: “We will have all of our com­bat troops out of Iraq by the end of this Au­gust.”

The Fact Checker: Mis­sion ac­com­plished.

Obama: “ To re­duce our stock­piles and launch­ers, while en­sur­ing our de­ter­rent, theUnited States and Rus­sia are com­plet­ing ne­go­ti­a­tions on the far­thest-reach­ing arms con­trol treaty in nearly two decades.”

The Fact Checker: The ne­go­ti­a­tions were com­pleted in April, and de­spite some de­ter­mined GOP op­po­si­tion, the Se­nate ap­proved the treaty, 71 to 26, in De­cem­ber dur­ing Congress’s lame-duck ses­sion.

Obama: “ This year, I will work with Congress and our mil­i­tary to fi­nally re­peal the law that de­nies gay Amer­i­cans the right to serve the coun­try they love be­cause of who they are. It’s the right thing to do.”

The Fact Checker: The “don’t ask, don’t tell” lawwas re­pealed in


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