In separate conversations, two of my very smart friends who regularly criticize Donald Trump have pronounced that they give him credit for keeping his campaign promises. These mirror signs at Trump rallies: “Promises Made: Promises Kept.” My reaction has been “Really!”
I remember him whipping up his campaign crowds with four major pledges: To build a border wall that Mexico would pay for; to repeal Obamacare and replace it with a better system where all would have health insurance at lower premiums; to bring back manufacturing jobs; and a tax plan where everyone would have a tax cut and businesses would be taxed at a 15% rate. And, of course, in addition to these biggies, Trump made a slew of other promises.
I went to look for a more objective source than my memory of how the President was doing in keeping his myriad promises. I turned to Politifact.com, a fact-checking website that has been awarded a Pulitzer Prize. Politifact had kept score on Obama’s promises and concluded that he had broken about a quarter of them. That website now has a Trump-O-Meter which tracks 102 promises made by Donald Trump. Its summary states the President has kept twelve promises and broken eight. It concludes that seven have been “compromised,” thirty-three are “stalled” and the other forty-two are “in the works.” The Trump-O-Meter makes interesting reading, and I urge my friends and everyone else to look at it.
You can argue with some of Politifact’s assessments. Take the tax cut. By most analyses, everyone does get a tax cut for a while, but taxes will increase on many people in a few years, and the business rate is 21%, not 15%. Politifact places the tax cut promise in the “compromise” category, a defensible categorization, but others might conclude that a compromised promise is a broken promise.
The “stalled” category contains promises that conceivably might someday be fulfilled, but for many of them, the President could have taken action but has not. Thus, Trump said he would propose a constitutional amendment to impose term limits for all members of Congress; impose a hiring freeze on federal employees; and appoint a special Hillary Clinton prosecutor. Presumably such promises can be categorized as “stalled,” not “broken,” until his last day in office because there is a chance they will be kept one day. On the other hand, the chances that some stalled promises will be kept seem so slim as to be really non-existent. What odds would you lay that, as Trump promised, the federal debt will be eliminated in eight years or that the federal budget will be balanced “fairly quickly”?
The Obamacare promises are rated “in the works.” The plural is used because Trump’s pledges on the topic varied. As a candidate, he sometimes said Obamacare would be repealed and replaced “immediately.” I would say that promise has been broken. Other times he left out immediately but said that Obamacare would be replaced “with a great, great plan” with premiums at a “fraction” of existing ones. Other times he promised that all would continue to have their present doctor. Sometimes he promised more complete coverage than under Obamacare. Other times he would just promise to “repeal and replace Obamacare” without further elucidation. Congress, of course, considered repealing Obamacare, but the effort failed. While actions have been taken to undermine Obamacare, I am not aware that Trump ever proposed any replacement plan that was “great,” that had extensive coverage, allowing all to keep their doctors, and paying only a fraction of existing premiums. If the President is working on such a replacement plan now, he is uncharacteristically quiet about it. But Politifact categorizes the Obamacare promises as “in the works” as they do many other promises, including ones that I was hoping for, his pledges on improving our infrastructure.
(continued on August15)