How Obama followed through on last year's State of the Union promises

Ten major pledges that President Obama made in his 2012 address, and what actually happened with each.

Last January, facing re-election in the coming year, President Barack Obama stood at the congressional podium and declared a set of promises to Americans. They were hopeful, firm and spoken with conviction.

As the president prepares to deliver the first State of the Union address of his second term, here's how he's followed through on 10 of those promises.

1. Halting outsourcing

Pledge: Last year, Obama praised the auto industry for restructuring, growing and bringing jobs back to America. He asked other industries to do the same. To that end, he pledged to end tax deductions for companies that ship jobs overseas and transfer them to firms that keep jobs in the U.S.

Result: Last summer, Obama's "Bring Jobs Home Act," which ended tax deductions for outsourcing-related expenses and gave a credit for costs associated with bringing a business back to the U.S., was shot down in the Senate. Republicans argued that the total cost of the outsourcing expense deductions are too insignificant.

2. Leveling the playing field for U.S. companies

Pledge: Obama complained last year that the playing field was uneven for U.S. companies. There were, he said, too many foreign countries pouring counterfeit goods into the United States. He set up the Trade Enforcement Unit to stop this.

Result: In September, the U.S. requested dispute settlement consultations with China after a major investigation found the country guilty of illegally subsidizing parts of its auto industry. The U.S. has also pushed the World Trade Organization to establish dispute panels with China and prevailed in challenges against market restrictions to electronic payment systems in the country.

3. Keeping college tuition down and extending tuition tax credits

Pledge: Obama declared that he was putting universities on notice — if they couldn't keep tuition from rising, they'd receive less taxpayer money. He also promised to extend the tuition tax credit he started that saves middle class families thousands of dollars.

Result: While he has yet to withdraw federal funds from universities, the president's charged rhetoric has convinced many private universities to cut costs and freeze tuition. He's also extended the American Opportunity Tax Credit, which offers $2,500 a year in tax savings for each eligible student.

4. Keeping hardworking, non-citizen students in the U.S.

Pledge: Obama pledged to stop expelling non-citizen students who have ideas and want to start businesses and create a path towards citizenship for them.

Result: Late last month, the president announced a comprehensive, bipartisan immigration reform plan that includes a provision to provide non-citizen students a green card if they graduate with a degree in science, technology, engineering or math.

5. Expanding tax relief to small businesses that raise wages and create jobs

Pledge: To reward small companies that create and keep jobs in America, Obama promised to make it easier for small businesses to gain financing and earn tax credits.

Result: In the 2013 budget, the president increased small businesses' access to credit and aimed to eliminate capital gains taxes on large companies that invest in small businesses.  In July, the Small Business Jobs and Tax Relief Act, which offers tax credits and deductions from equipment costs, moved forward in the Senate.

6. Passing clean energy tax credits

Pledge: To reward companies that manufacture clean energy by granting them tax credits and creating a market for energy innovation.

Result: After Obama called on Congress to support American manufacturers that create clean energy, House Democrats proposed a bill in July that would expand and uncap tax credits for American companies who do just that.

7. Giving homeowners the chance to refinance at a lower mortgage rate

Pledge: Obama said he would send Congress a plan that allows Americans to save $3,000 a year on their mortgages by allowing them to refinance at historically low interest rates.

Result: The president has moved to expand on the Home Affordability Refinance Program (HARP) and create the third installation of it. HARP 3.0 is expected to pass. It will make more Americans with underwater mortgages eligible for refinancing plans.

8. Cracking down on large-scale investment fraud

Pledge: The president vowed to establish a Financial Crimes Unit that employs highly trained investigators to protect investments and target large-scale fraud.

Result: The 55-person unit was folded into the larger Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force, which was established in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis to investigate mortgage fraud and wrongful foreclosures. The FCU's main purpose was to target banks that packaged bad mortgages into securities. Together with the FCU, the FFETF convicts hundreds every year of insider trading, mortgage fraud, securities fraud and loan modification schemes.

9. Passing the payroll tax cut without delay

Pledge: Obama said his most immediate priority was to stop a tax hike on millions of working Americans. He said, unequivocally, that he wanted to pass the payroll tax cut immediately without delay.

Result: As part of the "fiscal cliff" deal, Obama actually allowed payroll tax cuts to expire. The rate rose from 4.2 percent to 6.2 percent. Allowing the cuts to expire was part of a compromise that will prevent another middle-class tax hike, Obama said.

10. Ensuring the wealthy pay their fair share of taxes

Pledge: Obama said that he wanted the U.S. to follow the "Buffet Rule" — that if you make more than $1 million a year, you should not pay less than 30 percent of that in taxes. He also said millionaires shouldn’t receive tax deductions, and that those making under $250,000 shouldn’t have their taxes go up.

Result: Under the "fiscal cliff" tax deal, taxes on incomes of $400,000 for individuals and $450,000 for couples would increase by 4.6 percent. According to the Tax Policy Center, homes making between $500,000 and $1 million would see an average tax increase of $14,812 in 2013. Still, Obama was unable to stop a temporary reduction in the payroll tax from expiring. For workers making $50,000 per year, that means $1,000 extra in taxes.


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