Promises Made, Promises Broken: All in a Day’s Work for U.S. Presidents, Part 1

Last Four Presidential Liars

In 1916, President Woodrow Wilson was running for re-election in what promised to be a very close call. Floundering around for a winning issue, he settled on a campaign slogan that he knew would appeal to peace-loving voters — ‘he kept us out of war.” It worked, he won by a slim majority. Seventy days later, Wilson plunged the U.S. into World War 1. Promise made, promise broken.

In his 1964 reelection campaign, President Lyndon Johnson promised Americans—”We are not about to send American boys 9 or 10,000 miles away from home to do what Asian boys ought to be doing for themselves.”  He won in a landslide. In 1965 he sent the first ground troops into Vietnam. In 1968 with the war going south, 37,000 dead Americans, an estimated one million dead Vietnam civilians, and an approval rating of 36%, he decided not to run for a second term. Promise made, promise broken.

In his 1968 presidential campaign, Richard Nixon promised he had a “secret plan” to end the Vietnam War. Seven years later, in 1975, the U.S. unceremoniously made for the exits with the North Vietnamese hot on their heels. 21,041 Americans died in Vietnam while Nixon was president. Promise made, promise broken.

On March 17, 2003, President George W. Bush solemnly promised — “The terrorist threat to America and the world will be diminished the moment that Saddam Hussein is disarmed.”  Three days later, March 20, Bush invaded Iraq. Best estimate of the death toll? 250,000. Results of the war? Iraq and its neighbors have become terrorist havens. Even America is not safe from the global reach of this terrorism network.  Promise made, promise broken.

Obama, winner of the Nobel peace prize, never tired of claiming he was a dedicated anti-interventionist peace-loving president — “…to say that we have an interest in pursuing peace and freedom beyond our borders is not to say that every problem has a military solution… in taking direct action we must uphold standards that reflect our values. That means taking strikes only when we face a continuing, imminent threat, and only where there is no certainty — there is near certainty of no civilian casualties.”  According to the Bureau of Investigative Journalism Obama ordered drone strikes on at least four Mideast countries in his first year more than Bush carried out during his entire presidency. Between 384 and 807 civilians were killed in those countries. Promise made, promise broken.

Sensing a trend here?

Promised Stimulus Checks

About 133 days in, President Joe Biden has pretty much cornered the market on breaking the promises he made as candidate Biden. A quick review before we delve into the details. How about those $2,000 checks that would start appearing in American bank accounts the moment he was elected? Or his promise to bump the minimum wage up to $15? Or his repeated promise to add the public option to the Affordable Care Act? Lest we forget he also promised to forgive some portion of student loan debt, lower the Medicare eligibility age and allow Medicare to negotiate drug prices with the drug syndicate.

Take if from Jeff Bezos’ Washington Post which has the inside track in the Biden White House — “White House Budget will NOT include key Biden campaign pledges — such as the public option, prescription drug reform or student debt relief…. Other ambitious Biden campaign pledges — from raising the estate tax… are also expected to be left out of his budget plan. [Jeff Stein, Washington Post economic reporter.]

“I’m going to start by reversing the tax cuts for the super-rich and corporations” [Biden on the campaign trail 10/28/2019]. That promise went into the ‘circular file’ on January 20, Inauguration Day. The euphemism for the omission — ‘Now is not the time’. Another one of Biden’s broken promises spares individuals making over $400,000 per year from a tax hike to pay for his Infrastructure Package— “Bipartisan Senate Group Rules out Tax Hikes on Infrastructure” [The Hill, 6/9/21]

While we’re on the subject how about those billionaire American piggies who don’t pay any federal taxes? In a bombshell report from Pro Publica, the tax-paying middle and working classes learned that between 2014 and 2018, the collective wealth of the 25 richest Americans jumped by more than $400 billion but they paid only 3.4% ($13 billion) in federal taxes on this ill-gotten gain. Let’s look at two of these monumental tax avoiders. Warren Buffet perennial scold of the unfairness of the U.S. tax system paid— get ready for it — a tax rate of 1% while amassing $24 billion in new wealth. Tax cheat extraordinaire Jeff Bezos, the world’s wealthiest and arguably greediest man, paid zero income taxes in 2007 and 2011. One year he received a $4,000 child tax credit! Between 2006 and 2018, he managed to squirrel away an extra $130 billion. His tax bill on the increased amount over those years — a mere 1%. All of which he is putting to good use — building a half-billion-dollar yacht.

Billionaires andTaxes

You can imagine how Joe Biden’s blood boiled over at this latest revelation of the super-rich getting away with murder. He was venting his outrage as far back as 2012 — “…it’s simply wrong to have a system that’s so riddled with loopholes and preferences that the wealthiest and most successful of all Americans often pay at a lower rate of their taxes than average middle-class people do.” [VP Joe Biden at a campaign event 4/12/2012]

His outrage carried over into his presidential campaign. On numerous stops candidate Biden vowed to right the wrongs in the tax system. The Pro Publica report gave him the perfect opportunity to propose new legislation to rein in the oligarchs.  Turns out that wasn’t what he was riled up about. Whistleblowers releasing embarrassing (to his major donors) information was “[Any unauthorized] disclosure of confidential government information by a person with access is illegal and we take this very seriously. The IRS commissioner said today that they are taking all appropriate measure, including referring the matter to investigators.” [Jen Psaki, reporting the Biden position] Another promise broken.

One of his most painful flip flops decimated the hopes of millions of Americans reeling from the effects of the pandemic on their pocketbooks. President Biden in a last-ditch effort to elect two democratic senators in Georgia, made this promise — “… Vote Blue and $2,000 Checks Will ‘Go Out the Door Immediately.’ [Forbes] Like all his other promises to the working people of America, after he became president modifications (evasions) were the order of the day. “The incoming president says the $1,400 payments will top off the second round of $600 checks which were guaranteed at the end of 2020, bringing the total to $2,000 per person he says.” [CNBC]

Overseas the lies keep coming. From his promises to uphold the values of human rights and the rule of law to his actions breaking that promise by supporting the murderous Israeli assault on Gaza to his promise to end the Saudi Arabia pillage of Yemen [“This war has to end. And to underscore our commitment, we’re ending all American support for offensive operations in the war in Yemen, including relevant arm sales”]. Another painful Biden lie. Under Biden’s “new” policy, U.S. Department of Defense contractors will continue providing Riyadh’s military jets “defensive” support which in effect enables the continuation of Saudi bombing of Yemen and the blockade of Yemen’s ports. The suffering and dying of the Yemeni people will continue.

Then there’s the matter of lying Joe’s moveable stance on immigration — First condemning the use of current U.S. immigration law “to intentionally separate children from their parents or legal guardians,” and promising to “protect family unity and ensure that children entering the United States are not separated from their families.”  If you’ve been paying attention, you know what comes next. This time it’s the vice-president’s turn to deliver the broken promise — “Do not come. Do not come. The United States will continue to enforce our laws and secure our borders…”If you come to our border, you will be turned back.”


Broken promises have become the trademark of this new administration. But all is not gloom and doom. Particularly in the board rooms of upper-class America. Never forget Joe Biden is a politician with a five-decades long career of serving this class [“…the wealthy are as patriotic as the poor,” delivered at a rally for Senator’s Doug Jones bid for a second term which he lost]. In case there was any doubt Biden laid it on the line in a swanky fundraiser aimed at Wall Street heavies “…no one’s standard of living will change, nothing would fundamentally change.”  That’s a promise he will keep. Count on it


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