Flashback Montage: 140 Unfulfilled Obama Promises from Past SOTU Addresses

From curing cancer in our time to colonizing space, the president always uses the State of the Union to dream big
By Grabien Staff

[Originally published January, 2016]

Tonight President Obama will deliver his final State of the Union address, which the White House says will refrain from the usual "laundry list" of new proposals. That's probably a smart strategy, based on how successfully he's delivered on past State of the Union promises.

Looking back, the numbers aren't pretty. From 2009 through 2015, Grabien counts 140 promises that remain unfulfilled. 

We should note that many of these promises are duplicated from one year to another. For example, almost every year he has pledged to pass comprehensive immigration reform, overhaul corporate taxes, reduce regulations, and close Guantanamo Bay. 

Don’t have time to read all 140? Here are some of the most notable:

  • Curing cancer (promised 2009, 2010, 2015)
  • Freezing government spending for three years (2010) and five years (2011)
  • Colonizing outer space (2015)
  • Going “line by line” through the budget, eliminating needless programs (2009, 2010)
  • Inventing “material thinner than paper but stronger than steel” (2014)
  • Passing health reform that will let Americans keep their insurance (2010)
  • Converting sunlight into liquid fuel (2015)
  • Passing comprehensive immigration reform (2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014)
  • Closing Gitmo (2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015)
  • Ending the Israeli-Palestinian conflict (2014)
  • Passing a law that will prevent mass shootings (2014)
  • Keeping earlier promises he’s already made (2013)

The full list is below. Montage above. Did we miss anything? Let us know in the comments.


1. The stimulus bill will create 3.5 million jobs over the next few years, 90 percent of which will be in the private sector.

2. Create program that will enable Americans facing foreclosure to lower their mortgage payments and save their homes.

3. Double the supply of renewable energy within the next three years. 

4. The “largest ever” federal spending program on science will yield breakthroughs in energy, medicine, science, and technology.

5. Lay down 1,000s of miles of power lines to connect Americans’ homes to these new sources of energy.

6. Reduce Americans’ energy bills by “billions of dollars.”

7. Cure cancer “in our time.”

8. Use stimulus funds to spend on preventive health care, which will get federal health spending “under control.”

9. Use the savings that result from the stimulus’ reform of health-care to reduce the deficit. 

10. Cut the deficit in half by the end of his first term in office.

11. Go “line by line” through the federal budget to eliminate wasteful and ineffective programs – saving $2 trillion over the next 10 years.

12. Never raise taxes “a single dime” on any family earning less than $250,000.   

13. Stop the growing cost of Medicare and Social Security.

14. Make Social Security sustainable.

15. Create tax-free savings accounts for all Americans.

16. Close the detention center at Guantanamo Bay.


17. Use stimulus funds to build a high-speed railway in Florida.  

18. Research funds from the previous year’s stimulus will cure cancer, lead to “the cheapest solar cells.”

19. Building a new generation of nuclear energy plants.

20. Passing a climate-change law that will make clean energy profitable

21. Passing health-reform that lets Americans keep their doctors and their plans.

22. The health-reform law will reduce costs for “millions” of families and businesses

23. The health-reform law will bring down the deficit $1 trillion over the next 20 years.

24. Starting in 2011, government spending “will be frozen for three years.”

25. Cut programs we don’t need to maintain a balanced budget.

26. Veto spending bills that don’t adhere to balanced budgeting.

27. Go through budget “line by line” to eliminate programs that we can’t afford and don’t work.

28. Create a bipartisan fiscal commission; the recommendations of which he’ll enact.

29. Restore the pay-as-you-go budgeting rules.

30. Create a website that publishes every lawmakers’ earmark requests.

31. Never give up “trying to change the tone of our politics.”

32. Pass a comprehensive immigration reform bill.

33. Secure America’s borders.

34. Enforce existing immigration laws

35. Create pathway to citizenship


36. More nuclear power, more natural gas, more wind and solar.

37. Pass comprehensive immigration reform.

38. Secure America’s borders.

39. Enforce existing immigration laws.

40. Create pathway to citizenship.

41. Reduce unemployment by increasing the number of people working on infrastructure projects – ensuring these projects are “fully paid for.”

42. Recruit private sector financing to assist these infrastructure projects.

43. Projects will be prioritized by importance, not by politics.

44. Give 85 percent of Americans access to high-speed rail within 25 years.

45. Within the next three years, enable 98 percent of Americans to receive high-speed wireless Internet.

46. Lower the corporate tax rate and eliminate loopholes.

47. Reduce business regulations restraining growth and investment.

48. Starting this year, freeze domestic spending for the next five years.

49. ObamaCare will slow rising costs of health-insurance premiums.

50. Enact medical malpractice tort reform.

51. Consolidate various federal departments to streamline federal bureaucracy and ensure it’s “more competent and more efficient.”

52. Create website that lists all federal spending.

53. Veto every bill that contains earmarks.


54. Reduce corporate income taxes. 

55. Consolidate federal jobs-training programs – creating a single website that makes all information about these programs available in one place.

56. Convert federal unemployment insurance into a system that focuses on finding the unemployed jobs.

57. Enact comprehensive immigration reform.

58. Force all high schools to require students to stay in school until they graduate or turn 18.

59. Open more than 75 percent of offshore U.S. territory to drilling.

60. Go “all out” on every type of energy.

61. Take “every possible action” to expand natural gas production.

62. Ordering “every federal agency to eliminate rules that don’t make sense.”

63. Create “financial crimes unit” to crack down on white-collar crime.

64. Work with Congress to procure power to consolidate federal bureaucracy.

65. “End the notion that political parties must be engaged in a perpetual campaign of mutual destruction.”


66. Reform Medicare and Medicaid to save as much as was proposed by the Simpson-Bowles Commission.

67. “Reduce taxpayer subsidies to prescription drug companies.”

68. Raise taxes on the wealthiest seniors.

69. Bring down health-care costs by changing the way the federal government pays for Medicare.

70. Eliminate loopholes and deductions for the “well off.”

71. Enact comprehensive tax reform that brings down the deficit and encourages job growth.

72. Cut “red tape and speed up new oil and gas permits.”

73. Create an “energy security trust.”

74. Create a “fix it first” program that will direct the unemployed to the highest priority programs.

75. Make “high quality” preschool available to every child in America.

76. Require that aid to colleges be distributed according to the value they impart upon students.

77. Pass comprehensive immigration reform.

78. Raise the minimum wage to $9/hour.

79. Create a tax incentive for companies to hire the long-term unemployed.

80. Create a program to put people back to work by rebuilding vacant homes in rundown neighborhoods.

81. Enact new tax credits for businesses that hire and invest.

82. Eliminate the marriage penalty for low-income couples.

83. Encourage fatherhood through tax policy adjustments.

84. By the end of 2014, end the war in Afghanistan.

85. Never make promises the government can’t actually keep.

86. Keep the promises already made.


87. Lower corporate income taxes, close loopholes.

88. Use the money saved from corporate tax reform to finance new infrastructure spending.

89. Slash bureaucracy through executive orders.

90. Create an additional six “high tech manufacturing hubs” in 2014.     

91. “Do more” to help entrepreneurs and small business owners.

92. Use government research funds to create entirely new industries – like vaccines that adapt to evolving bacteria, and inventing material thinner than paper but stronger than steel.

93. Pass a patent reform bill.

94. Use executive orders to cut red tape to enable factories to be built that are powered by natural gas.

95. Reform taxes so that fossil fuel companies are taxed more and “fuels of the future” are taxed less.

96. Enact new fuel-efficiency standards for trucks.

97. Pass comprehensive immigration reform.

98. Consolidate federal jobs training programs, helping match people with skills to jobs they can fill.

99. Reform unemployment insurance to encourage Americans to return to the workforce faster.

100. Assemble a coalition to help more kids access pre-K education.

101. Pass the “Equal Pay Act” for women.

102. Raise the minimum wage to $10.10

103. Expand the Earned Income Tax Credit

104. Reform the tax code to help lower-class Americans save

105. Give every American access to “an automatic IRA on the job.”

106. Ensure Americans never have to wait more than a half hour to vote.

107. Pass legislation that will prevent mass shooting tragedies.

108. End the Afghan war by the end of 2014.

109. Close Guantanamo Bay Prison in 2014.

110. End the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

111. Ensure the Iran will stop installing advanced centrifuges.

112. Be the “first” to call for more sanctions if Iran doesn’t abandon nuclear program.

113. Reform Veterans Affairs so that vets no longer have to deal with backlogs and instead receive the health care that they need. 


114. Cutting taxes for working families

115.  Make child-care affordable through $3,000 tax credits per child, per year.

116. Work with states to pass paid-leave laws.

117. Pass “Equal Pay Act.”

118. Make two years of community college “as free and universal” as high school.

119. Make sure students can afford student loan payments.

120. Pass a bipartisan infrastructure plan.

121. Cure cancer.

122. Cure diabetes.

123. Give all Americans access to personalized health recommendations.

124. Put high-speed Internet in every classroom.

125. Put high-speed Internet in every community.

126. Build the fastest networks on Earth.

127. Convert sunlight into liquid fuel.

128. Create “revolutionary prosthetics so that a disabled veteran can play catch with his kid again.”

129. Colonize outer space.

130. Close loopholes that reward companies for creating jobs abroad and reward them for creating jobs in America.

131. Using savings from closed loopholes to rebuild infrastructure.

132. Lower repatriation tax

133.  Simplify tax code so small business owners pay based on “what’s on her bank statement, instead of the number of accountants she can afford.”

134. Close loophole that lets people avoid paying taxes on “accumulated wealth”.

135. Use money from closed loopholes to send kids to college, pay for health care.

136. Destroy ISIS

137. Prevent foreign nations, hackers from stealing data from accessing our networks and stealing trade secrets and invading our privacy

138. Close Gitmo

139. Enact criminal justice reform

140. Seek out Republican ideas to make America strong

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