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Promises, promises: President Obama curbs ambition this time

By Calvin Woodward

Associated Press

Published: Thursday, Jan. 17 2013 8:16 a.m. MST

On another key promise, deficits have shot up, not dropped by half as he pledged in his 2008 campaign and again as president when the recession was raging. That inherited recession, the halting recovery and his heavy spending to spur growth yielded four straight years of trillion-dollar deficits.

Ahead? A far leaner list, but still a tough one to achieve.

In the 2012 campaign, Obama counted "comprehensive immigration reform" as the first thing he would do this year after the fiscal-cliff deal. Dormant for years, gun control is back as an issue because of the deadly rampage at Sandy Hook Elementary, and took top priority outside fiscal matters. But a push on immigration is coming.

Among other promises from the campaign:

Make higher education affordable for everyone. Obama said he'll ensure by the end of the decade that the U.S. has more people with college degrees than any other country, recruit 100,000 math and science teachers in 10 years, help 2 million workers attend community college and seek to restrain the growth in college tuition by half over 10 years.

Put government on a path to cutting deficits by $4 trillion over 10 years. That's off to a rocky start. The fiscal-cliff deal represented a failure to settle on a plan to reduce the national debt, instead increasing both spending and taxes while putting off decisions on the big budget cuts that will be essential to bringing down trillion-dollar deficits.

Cut imports of foreign oil by half by 2020. Once a pipe dream of a succession of presidents, a path toward energy self-sufficiency has become more conceivable thanks to a boom in domestic production.

End subsidies to the oil industry. A failed promise from the first term, it's given low odds of succeeding this time.

Prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. Obama has left open the possibility of military action if that's what it takes to stop Iranian nuclear development. Meantime, he's imposed stiff economic penalties on Iran to persuade it to cease uranium enrichment activity, so far without apparent success.

"Continue to reduce the carbon pollution that is heating our planet — because climate change is not a hoax." When Obama secured the primary victories needed for the 2008 Democratic nomination, he pledged that future generations would look back on that very night as "the moment when the rise of the oceans began to slow and our planet began to heal." At the heart of that was a pledge for strong action on climate change in his first term.

But legislation to cap emissions failed, without Obama leading a charge to pass it, and he all but stopped talking about the issue afterward.

Still, his administration began treating carbon dioxide as a pollutant under the law and steered billions of dollars into cleaner energy. The initiative could be revived in his new term, as an "obligation to ourselves and to future generations," as he now puts it.

Help factories double their exports, creating 1 million manufacturing jobs. It's a tall order because manufacturing jobs have been declining steadily for nearly two decades.

Consolidate a "whole bunch" of federal agencies dealing with business issues into one new department led by a secretary of business.

Altogether, it's a more restrained to-do list than Obama produced for his first four years, when PolitiFact.com counted more than 500 Obama promises and found that 46 percent were kept, 23 percent broken and 25 percent ended in a compromise, with a smattering still in the works or stalled.

The sage grouse lucked out, gaining a Sage Grouse Initiative to give the species more grass cover for nesting. As promised.

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