Introducing the Change-o-Meter

A daily evaluation of the Obama administration’s efforts to change Washington.

Chris Wilson chatted live with readers about the Change-o-Meter. Read the transcript.

Every new president promises to change the way Washington works, but few have made that pledge as central to their message as Barack Obama. With that in mind, Slate introduces the Change-o-Meter, a quasi-objective measure of the Obama administration’s efforts to resculpt the federal government on any given day. Points will be awarded for substantive progress on substantive initiatives, whether they come in the form of new legislation, federal rules, executive orders, or anything else. By the same token, the meter will punish superfluous changes, broken promises, or legislative goals that flop in Congress. The White House on the handy meter below will slide back and forth to display the scores.


For the Change-o-Meter’s first installment, we’re starting Obama at 25 percent. In all fairness, as of this writing he’s been president for only about six hours. Still, he has not yet issued any executive orders, which would not have required any approval from Congress or anyone else. (He’s expected to order the closure of the naval prison in Guantanamo Bay sometime this week.) While his inaugural address contained familiar themes of renewed leadership in America, the tone was conventional, and he did not make any major departures from tradition.

Obama still has about 35,000 hours left in his four-year term, so there’s plenty of time for him to bring on some change. Each day, we’ll post a rundown of what he’s done (or hasn’t done) and adjust the Change-o-Meter accordingly. There’s a lot to cover, so we want to hear your thoughts on what the Change-o-Meter should be taking into account. No detail is too small or wonky—the only requirement is that it matter.