Four years ago, President Obama made history, taking the stage in Washington D.C. to be sworn in as the 44th President of the United States. With more than one million people on the scene—and millions more watching on televisions around the world—the fresh-faced pol made several pledges on the economy, healthcare, education, the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and more.
“Today I say to you that the challenges we face are real. They are serious and they are many. They will not be met easily or in a short span of time. But know this, America—they will be met,” declared Obama.
So which pledges were met and which were not? Let’s take a look:
Fixing the economy:
What Obama said at his 2009 inauguration: “The state of the economy calls for action, bold and swift, and we will act—not only to create new jobs, but to lay a new foundation for growth”
Verdict: Obama did indeed take bold action, signing off on the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (otherwise known as ‘The Stimulus’). The program pumped more than $800 billion toward creating jobs and providing relief programs for those impacted by the recession. The unemployment rate is the same as it was in January 2009, holding at 7.8%. But the Obama administration has created 3.88 million jobs overall, and 4.44 million private-sector jobs.
What Obama said at his 2009 inauguration: We will “wield technology’s wonders to raise health care’s quality and lower its cost”
Verdict: Obama’s signature achievement may be the Affordable Care Act of 2010. Its goal is to decrease the number of uninsured Americans and lower the cost of health care via mandates, subsidies and tax credits. The individual mandate controversially requires all Americans not covered by an employer or Medicaid or Medicare to secure a private insurance policy or pay a penalty; it allows children to remain on their parents insurance plan until the age of 26. It also covers all applicants regardless of pre-existing conditions.
According to census data, the number of Americans without health insurance has decreased under Obama. In 2009, 49 million Americans were without health insurance compared to 48.6 in 2011—the most recent data available. Once Obamacare’s main provisions take effect in 2014, this number is expected to decrease significantly. Republicans argue the legislation increases the deficit and unfairly infringes on the rights of ordinary Americans.
What Obama said at his 2009 inauguration: “And we will transform our schools and colleges and universities to meet the demands of a new age”
Verdict: According to PolitiFact, Obama has kept 54% of the education promises he made when he ran for president in 2008. But, according to NBC News, 212,000 teacher jobs were cut between 2009 and 2011.
Still, the The New York Times gives the president an A- grading on his education initiative, citing Race to the Top and Obama’s push for Pell grants to make college more affordable for students. It’s likely that Obama will focus on early childhood education in his second term.
On changing the country’s politics
What Obama said at his 2009 inauguration: “On this day, we come to proclaim an end to the petty grievances and false promises, the recriminations and worn out dogmas, that for far too long have strangled our politics”
Verdict: No progress here. Petty politics still get in the way, demonstrated by Susan Rice’s squelched nomination, the debt-ceiling showdown, the fiscal-cliff battle, and Washington’s failure to get nearly anything done in the 112th and 113th Congresses.
What Obama said at his 2009 inauguration: “We will begin to responsibly leave Iraq to its people, and forge a hard-earned peace in Afghanistan”
Verdict: Success! In 2009, there were 139,500 troops in Iraq compared to just 200 now. And in Afghanistan, the drawdown is speeding up. Obama announced this month that U.S. troops will end most combat operations by spring. The timeline was previously in the middle of 2013. There are currently 66,000 American troops in Afghanistan and the majority are expected to leave by 2014.
On a nuclear threat:
What Obama said at his 2009 inauguration: “With old friends and former foes, we will work tirelessly to lessen the nuclear threat”
The Verdict: If anything, the situation may have intensified. This is most recently demonstrated by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s dramatic speech in the fall, in which he begged the international community to draw a “clear red line” over Iran’s nuclear program and claimed the country would have enough enriched uranium to make a bomb by next summer. Obama has wanted to hold off on Israeli military action, but said America would “do what we must” to prevent Iran from attaining a nuclear weapon.
What Obama said at his 2009 inauguration: “We will harness the sun and the winds and the soil to fuel our cars and run our factories.”
Verdict: Money in the stimulus was slated for such projects. But Republicans frequently pointed to Solyndra, the Silicon Valley startup that collapsed due to unease in the solar panel market. Obama had once praised the company, giving it $535 million in federally-backed stimulus act loans.
Still, he’s had some achievements, including signing off on new regulations that will force automakers to nearly double the average gas mileage of all new vehicles they sell by 2025. Obama also authorized off-shore drilling (although there was a brief moratorium following the BP oil spill in 2010).
On the Muslim World:
What Obama said at his 2009 inauguration: “To the Muslim world, we seek a new way forward, based on mutual interest and mutual respect”
Verdict: It was a dramatic few years in the Muslim world thanks to the Arab Spring, a series of demonstrations and protests that resulted in rulers being forced out of power in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and Yemen. Whether those countries are better off is still to be determined. There were also some major flareups that hurt America’s standing in that part of the world. That includes Pastor Terry Jones—who gained international notoriety over his plan to burn Qurans. And there’s also an anti-Islam video—in which the Prophet Mohammad was depicted as a womanizer and fraud—produced by a U.S. filmmaker. The film sparked deadly, international protests. And then there’s Obama’s failed promise to close Gitmo, the controversial detention facility at Guantanamo Bay that holds several terror suspects. Obama has repeatedly argued it’s unfair to hold prisoners without charge. Critics say his failure to close the detention camp has hurt U.S standing in the Islamic world.
Fixing the country’s infrastructure:
What Obama said at his 2009 inauguration: “We will build the roads and bridges, the electric grids and digital lines that feed our commerce and bind us together”
Verdict: Depends on who you ask. Obama greenlighted $105.3 billion in infrastructure investment in the stimulus plan. But it’s probably too soon to tell what effect that money had. Obama has been pushing for more infrastructure investment during last month’s fiscal cliff negotiations and has said that infrastructure investment will be a priority during his second term.