WASHINGTON — A clip package featured at the Republican National Convention featured President Donald Trump proclaiming, “I didn’t back down from my promises — and I’ve kept every single one.”
“Promises made, promises kept” was a theme of the four-day event, which aimed to drive home a message that the president has been fearless in pursuit of delivering on his pledges — that his pugnacious tweets may rub people the wrong way, but they signify a rare fighting spirit on behalf of regular Americans.
The reality isn’t quite that simple.
Trump made good on promises like deregulation, picking conservative judges, renegotiating NAFTA and moving the U.S. embassy of Israel to Jerusalem. As he ticked off those items in his speech Thursday, he said, “I did what our political establishment never expected and could never forgive, breaking the cardinal rule of Washington politics: I kept my promise.”
But Trump made other promises that he broke — and in some cases, he did the opposite of what he’d vowed.
As a candidate, he promised to expand the economic safety net and depart from unpopular Republican policies to cut benefit programs. The promises, borrowed from progressives, were designed to make him palatable to swing voters in need of economic help.
Here are five of those promises, involving economic or pocketbook issues, where he failed to deliver.
Universal health coverage
CLAIM: Speaking to CBS’ “60 Minutes” in September 2015, Trump vowed to deliver universal health care.
“I am going to take care of everybody. I don’t care if it costs me votes or not,” he said, adding that people who are uninsured were “going to be taken care of” and “the government’s gonna pay for it.” He did not say how he planned to achieve this goal.
REALITY: Trump did the opposite. He championed Republican-led legislation in 2017 that would have undone Obamacare and left an estimated 23 million more people uninsured.
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The bill failed in the Senate, but the president has kept up his fight to repeal the Affordable Care Act: His administration is currently supporting a Republican-led lawsuit to wipe the law off the books and has not offered a replacement plan in case it succeeds.
No tax cuts for the rich
CLAIM: Candidate Trump said in 2015 he wanted to cut taxes for the middle class and raise them on rich people like himself.
“I do very well, I don’t mind paying some taxes,” he told Bloomberg. He vowed to end the carried interest break that benefits hedge fund managers, who he said were “getting away with murder” by not paying their share of taxes.
REALITY: His 2017 tax law lowered tax bills for most middle incomes, but it disproportionately benefited higher-earners. If fully implemented over a decade, about 83 percent of the benefits in 2027 would go to the highest-earning 1 percent of households, the Tax Policy Center found.
And the carried interest break was largely preserved, with a modest limitation for some deals.
Pay off the national debt
CLAIM: Trump told the Washington Post in March 2016, “We’ve got to get rid of the $19 trillion in debt,” adding that he could do it “fairly quickly” and “over a period of eight years” as president.
(His other proposals and even some of his rhetoric during the campaign contradicted this promise.)
REALITY: Experts called it an absurd promise even under a massive austerity regime. But Trump went in the opposite direction, with tax cuts and spending hikes that sent the national debt soaring to unprecedented heights.
It was $19.9 trillion when he took office and topped $23 trillion by the beginning of 2020 before the pandemic hit. This week it was $26.6 trillion.
$1 trillion infrastructure boost
CLAIM: When Democrat Hillary Clinton released a $500 billion infrastructure spending plan, Trump doubled it and proposed to spend as much as $1 trillion.
“We’ll get a fund, make a phenomenal deal with low interest rates and rebuild our infrastructure,” he told Fox Business Network in August 2016.
REALITY: Nothing of the sort has happened. The push stalled early amid opposition from Republicans, but an opportunity presented itself in 2019 when Democrats, who share Trump’s goal of rebuilding highways and bridges, took over the House.
After tentatively agreeing that April to pursue a $2 trillion package, Trump torpedoed talks the next month and refused to work with Democrats until they ended investigations of his administration that he called “phony.”
Six weeks paid leave for all moms
CLAIM: With his daughter Ivanka by his side, Trump said at a Pennsylvania speech in September 2016 that he will push to “provide six weeks of paid maternity leave to any mother with a newborn child whose employer does not provide the benefit.”
REALITY: This has not occurred. Trump did sign legislation in December 2019 that granted 12 weeks paid parental leave to the estimated 2.1 million federal employees. This was a Democratic priority first introduced by Rep. Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y., 19 years earlier.
The policy is limited in reach and does not guarantee maternity leave to a vast majority of working women. Nevertheless, Ivanka Trump heralded the new law as government leading by example.
Ben Tulchin, a Democratic pollster who worked on Bernie Sanders’ two presidential bids, said it was “laughable” for Trump to be running on a promises-kept platform after “all those claims he made to appeal to moderate voters” that he didn’t follow through on.
Tulchin said voters won’t fall for it again in 2020, but that “the onus is on the [Joe] Biden campaign to make that point.”