Skip to main content
Part of complete coverage on
 

Obama should be the fact checker in chief

By Van Jones, Special to CNN
updated 3:26 PM EDT, Tue October 16, 2012
Mitt Romney, left, and President Barack Obama face off in the first presidential debate on October 3.
Mitt Romney, left, and President Barack Obama face off in the first presidential debate on October 3.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Van Jones: Social Security is fully funded for the next two decades
  • Jones: President Obama should present the facts about Social Security and Medicare
  • He says the mindset that America is broke is sadly pervasive in Washington
  • Jones: Election Day presents two stark choices for our future

Editor's note: Van Jones is president and founder of RebuildTheDream.com, an online platform for political innovation focused on policy, economics and media. He was President Obama's green jobs adviser in 2009.

(CNN) -- On the heels of the rollicking debate between Vice President Joe Biden and Rep. Paul Ryan last week, Americans are rightly expecting President Obama to play the role of fact checker in chief Tuesday night.

Even Biden -- who didn't miss many opportunities to put fact-checkers out of work -- failed to push back on this doozy of a question from moderator Martha Raddatz on Social Security and Medicare:

"Let's talk about Medicare and entitlements. Both Medicare and Social Security are going broke and taking a larger share of the budget in the process. Will benefits for Americans under these programs have to change for the programs to survive?"

Van Jones
Van Jones

Obama's answer on Social Security two weeks ago left something to be desired. If he gets a similar question Tuesday night, I hope he one-ups his vice president and pushes back on this dangerous mindset.

The fact is: Social Security is not going broke.

The program is fully funded for the next two decades, and could pay out 75% of benefits after that. Medicare's death has also been greatly exaggerated -- the program will still be able to meet 88% of its obligations until 2085.

Become a fan of CNNOpinion
Stay up to date on the latest opinion, analysis and conversations through social media. Join us at Facebook/CNNOpinion and follow us @CNNOpinion on Twitter. We welcome your ideas and comments.



Now, I don't want to pick on Raddatz. She was firm but fair and kept the heat on the candidates without assuming center stage. It's not just her. This mindset -- that America is broke, that we can't afford to take care of our own -- is sadly pervasive throughout Washington and could have grave consequences, no matter who wins in November.

Let's take a closer look.

First, we need to stop talking about "entitlements." The folks getting health care and cashing Social Security checks contributed to those programs their entire lives. They aren't "entitled"; they earned it. Medicare and Social Security are a sacred trust, a partnership between generations to sustain an America where one can retire with dignity, not into poverty.

Secondly, after running up two wars on a credit card and giving trillions in tax handouts to billionaires while struggling through a global economic downturn, can our political elites please stop pretending we have a deficit because we've spent too much on sick kids, teachers and medicine for seniors?

Most importantly, we need to realize that we aren't stuck with "more debt" or "more cuts" as our only options. America is not broke. We're still one of the richest nations on the planet -- we're just being robbed by a handful of elites that have rigged the system against middle-class families, have hoarded gilded-age levels of wealth, and are demanding that we shred the social contract.

It doesn't seem to matter that even the International Monetary Fund says major cuts will tank the economy. Our leaders are stuck on cutting home-front investments and trashing Medicare like a bad habit.

In the first presidential debate, GOP nominee Mitt Romney said he'd ask whether investing in our future is worth borrowing from China. The real question is: Is our future worth asking millionaires like him to chip in more than 14% in taxes?

If we simply eliminated the cap on Social Security taxes -- so that the wealthy paid those taxes on all of their income, the same way poor and middle-income folks do -- Social Security would be fully funded for 75 years. That's a tweak I fully support!

As for Medicare, the answer isn't replacing the program with coupons for seniors to buy coverage; it's to make the program more efficient while bringing down health care costs throughout the system. Guess what? That's exactly what Obamacare is supposed to do. Now let's end the giveaway to drug companies and let Medicare negotiate bulk discounts.

We face a stark choice. What happens on November 6 will determine if our nation continues moving forward or falls behind. And the months that follow will determine whether we stay true to the principles that made our economy the envy of the world, or slash and cut until we're another forgotten superpower.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Van Jones.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 2:49 PM EDT, Tue April 15, 2014
Kathleen Blee says the KKK and white power or neo-Nazi groups give haters the purpose and urgency to use violence.
updated 7:46 AM EDT, Tue April 15, 2014
Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse and Rep. Henry Waxman say read deep, and you'll see the federal Keystone pipeline report spells out the pipeline is bad news
updated 1:43 PM EDT, Tue April 15, 2014
Frida Ghitis says President Obama needs to stop making empty threats against Russia and consider other options
updated 5:29 PM EDT, Tue April 15, 2014
Peter Bergen and David Sterman say the Kansas Jewish Center killings are part of a string of lethal violence in the U.S. that outstrips al Qaeda-influenced attacks. Why don't we pay more attention?
updated 12:41 PM EDT, Tue April 15, 2014
Danny Cevallos says families of the passengers on Malaysian Airlines Flight 370 need legal counsel
updated 11:23 AM EDT, Mon April 14, 2014
David Frum says Russia is on a rampage of mischief while Western leaders and Western alliances charged with keeping the peace hem and haw
updated 7:56 AM EDT, Mon April 14, 2014
Most adults make the mistakes of hitting the snooze button and of checking emails first thing in the morning, writes Mel Robbins
updated 1:54 PM EDT, Mon April 14, 2014
David Wheeler says as middle-class careers continue to disappear, we need a monthly cash payment to everyone
updated 7:55 AM EDT, Mon April 14, 2014
Democrats need to show more political spine when it comes to the issue of taxes.
updated 11:55 AM EDT, Mon April 14, 2014
Donna Brazile recalls the 50th Anniversary of the Civil Rights Act as four presidents honored the heroes of the movement and Lyndon Johnson, who signed the law
updated 9:17 AM EDT, Mon April 14, 2014
Elmer Smith remembers Chuck Stone, the legendary journalist from Philadelphia who was known as a thorn in the side of police and an advocate for the little guy
updated 2:56 PM EDT, Sun April 13, 2014
Al Franken says Comcast, the nation's largest cable provider, wants to acquire Time Warner Cable, the nation's second-largest cable provider. Should we be concerned?
updated 11:22 AM EDT, Fri April 11, 2014
Philip Cook and Kristin Goss says the Pennsylvania stabbing attack, which caused grave injury -- but not death, carries a lesson on guns for policymakers
updated 3:06 PM EDT, Fri April 11, 2014
Wikipedia lists 105 football movies, but all too many of them are forgettable, writes Mike Downey
updated 10:32 AM EDT, Fri April 11, 2014
John Sutter and hundreds of iReporters set out to run marathons after the bombings -- and learned a lot about the culture of running
updated 12:49 PM EDT, Fri April 11, 2014
Timothy Stanley says it was cowardly to withdraw the offer of an honorary degree to Ayaan Hirsi Ali. The university should have done its homework on her narrow views and not made the offer
updated 10:16 AM EDT, Fri April 11, 2014
Al Awlaki
Almost three years after his death in a 2011 CIA drone strike in Yemen, Anwar al-Awlaki continues to inspire violent jihadist extremists in the U.S, writes Peter Bergen
updated 9:21 PM EDT, Fri April 11, 2014
David Bianculli says Colbert is a smart, funny interviewer, but ditching his blowhard persona to take over the mainstream late-night role may cost him fans
updated 1:31 PM EDT, Thu April 10, 2014
Rep. Paul Ryan says the Republican budget places its trust in the people, not in Washington
updated 5:28 PM EDT, Thu April 10, 2014
Aaron David Miller says Obama isn't to blame for Kerry's lack of progress in resolving Mideast talks
updated 11:22 AM EDT, Mon April 14, 2014
David Weinberger says beyond focusing on the horrors of the attack a year ago, it's worth remembering the lessons it taught about strength, the dangers of idle speculation and Boston's solidarity
updated 12:32 PM EDT, Thu April 10, 2014
Katherine Newman says the motive for the school stabbing attack in Pennsylvania is not yet known, but research on such rampages turns up similarities in suspects and circumstances
updated 7:03 AM EDT, Fri April 11, 2014
Simon Tisdall: Has John Kerry's recent track record left Russia's wily leader ever more convinced of U.S. weakness?
updated 12:40 PM EDT, Thu April 10, 2014
Mel Robbins says Nate Scimio deserves credit for acting bravely in a frightening attack and shouldn't be criticized for posting a selfie afterward
updated 2:39 PM EDT, Wed April 9, 2014
Wendy Townsend says the Rattlesnake Roundup -- where thousands of pounds of snakes are killed and tormented -- is barbaric
updated 9:45 AM EDT, Thu April 10, 2014
Dr. Mary Mulcahy says doctors who tell their patients the truth risk getting bad ratings from them
updated 9:28 AM EDT, Wed April 9, 2014
Peggy Drexler says the married Rep. McAllister, caught on video making out with a staffer, won't get a pass from voters who elected him as a Christian conservative with family values
updated 7:43 AM EDT, Wed April 9, 2014
David Frum says the president has failed to react strongly to crises in Iran, Syria, Ukraine and Venezuela, encouraging others to act out
updated 4:57 PM EDT, Wed April 9, 2014
Eric Liu says Paul Ryan gets it very wrong: The U.S.'s problem is not a culture of poverty, it is a culture of wealth that is destroying the American value linking work and reward
updated 7:51 AM EDT, Wed April 9, 2014
Frida Ghitis writes: "We are still seeing the world mostly through men's eyes. We are still hearing it explained to us mostly by men."
updated 10:08 AM EDT, Thu April 10, 2014
Chester Wisniewski says the Heartbleed bug shows how we're all tangled together, relying on each other for Internet security
updated 3:26 PM EDT, Wed April 9, 2014
Danny Cevallos says an Ohio school that suspended a little kid for pointing his finger at another kid and pretending to shoot shows the growth in "zero tolerance" policies at school run amok
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT