Obama has proposed $36 billion for Pell Grants in 2013. Yet those grants now cover less than one-third of the cost of a four-year public college. In 1980, they covered 69 percent of the costs.
The promise: Cut oil imports by half by 2020.
Prospects: He could well deliver on this promise. New drilling technologies have unlocked enormous domestic reserves of crude oil and natural gas. Policies that mandate increasing use of renewable fuels and better vehicle fuel economy have helped slash demand. That has translated into a dramatic reduction in oil imports and increase in diesel and gasoline exports.
But oil and gasoline are global commodities. If Mideast turmoil disrupts oil production there, prices worldwide will rise, even if the U.S. gets little or no oil from that region. The U.S. economy won’t ever be free from the effect of high oil prices. It just may be able to get much less oil from abroad.
The promise: No cuts in Social Security cost-of-living increases. Protect Medicare from Republican proposals to turn it into a voucher-like program.
Prospects: Obama is ready to break his Social Security pledge from the 2008 campaign. He favors a new measure of inflation that would gradually trim benefit increases in Social Security, Medicare and other programs. The change, if adopted, eventually would cut Social Security benefits $560 a year for an average 75-year-old, $136 for a 65-year-old.
His approach to Medicare savings is different from one proposed by House Republicans to transform the program. He'd cut Medicare payments to service providers and is proposing that a growing share of seniors pay higher premiums over time, based on their incomes. Such Medicare changes were foreseen before the 2012 election. Meantime, Washington is expanding Medicaid to bring in more of the low-income uninsured.
For years, budget hawks have insisted that huge entitlements must be on the table for true fiscal discipline to be achieved. They’re on the table now.
The promise: Be a ‘‘fierce advocate’’ for gay rights. Obama endorsed gay marriage in 2012.
?Prospects: The course for gay marriage will be shaped by the Supreme Court, expected to rule on the matter in June. It’s allowed in 10 states and the District of Columbia; many other states seem unlikely to follow suit unless forced by Congress or the court. But cultural attitudes are changing, as did Obama’s views. His administration argued in favor of gay marriage rights to the court.
It seems unlikely the court will order gay marriage to be legalized in all states but its ruling could help same-sex married couples on estate taxes, Social Security benefits and other tangible matters. In his first term Obama lifted the ban on gays serving openly in the armed forces.
The promise: ‘‘Continue to reduce the carbon pollution that is heating our planet.’’
Prospects: Obama probably will take more steps to reduce the pollution blamed for climate change, but they are unlikely to be of the scale needed to help much in slowing the heating of the planet. Any policy to reduce heat-trapping pollution will target coal burned by power plants and oil refined for automobiles; those industries have powerful protectors in both parties.
Obama has acted on his own, to increase mileage standards and impose pollution control on future power plants. More such executive action is likely; a law is not.
The promise: Ban assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines, expand background checks, and more, a postelection pledge made after the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.
Prospects: Obama said he would ‘‘put everything I've got into this.’’ His everything wasn’t enough. Entrenched support for gun rights and a powerful campaign by the National Rifle Association blocked efforts to pass a single aspect of Obama’s package, the first attempt to significantly change the nation’s gun laws in over two decades.
Polling found as many as 90 percent of those questioned supported expanded background checks, but even that fell short in the Democratic-controlled Senate.
The promise: Ensure access to affordable insurance for all and no gutting of Medicare or Medicaid.
Prospects: Obama is likely to achieve his goal of extending coverage to the uninsured. Affordability is another question. Costs are expected to go up, not down, contrary to what Obama promised in his first term.
Some Medicare cuts Obama is willing to enact would hit beneficiaries. Well-to-do seniors and growing numbers of upper middle-class retirees could face higher monthly premiums.Continued...