Sunday, April 22, 2018

Two different connotations of the word "entitlement" confuse the discussion about things like Medicare and Social Security

Seems like there are two connotations for the word entitlement. One definition is something that one is entitled to; like if you deposit money in a bank, you are entitled to your money. The other connotation is the attitude of entitlement. That's more like someone being spoiled having an attitude of entitlement or the stereotype of the ugly American.

The word entitlement is big in today's news. People, on the left, don't like that word being used to describe benefits promised by our government such as Medicare and Social Security. Based on the first definition of entitlement, these things actually are entitlements as they are things people are entitled to. Promises the government has made to its people.

Someone can earn an entitlement by paying into the program, such as Social Security, but also an entitlement can be there based on a promise made by the government, such as for people considered disabled. This can be confusing as well, but they are both promises made by our government. Promises made to maintain civil society; rather than turning our backs on folks unable, for various reasons, to work enough to pay for the benefit. It's like insurance.

I think interest on the national debt can be called an entitlement as well. When people loan money to the government, they are entitled to the principal and interest that was agreed upon.

Due to economic circumstances, tax cuts and the large deficit, it may be hard for the government to meet all the entitlements it has promised. Scary.

The other part of the budget that isn't entitlements is called discretionary spending. The military is the biggest item in discretionary spending. It keeps expanding also. Other things the government decides to do like road improvements, new parks, science, or whatever, are also part of discretionary spending. Many of these things are vital, as well, to keep the country going and improving.

On the military side, I think veterans benefits are more "entitlement" than "discretionary" spending because they are a promise that has been made to people.

The attitude of entitlement (second connotation) complicates this issue as people on both the left and the right get these ideas confused. It's easy to have an emotional battle over this as the so called "spoiled" attitude of entitlement is very different from the idea that someone is truly entitled to something.

Since it is hard to keep all these promises, people may end up loosing things that they are truly entitled to. This becomes fertile ground for conflict and misunderstanding as the second connotation of entitlement; meaning spoiled, haunts the discussion.

Spoiled or not, we may not get everything we've bargained for. Hopefully we can still survive and even thrive with a quality of life. Let's hope society remains intact.

Our attitudes will have a lot to do with this. Less of the second connotation of entitlement meaning "ugly American."

I'm not saying that people should lay down and take being robbed, so to speak. Voting against ill conceived tax cuts and bad economic policy will help.

Still, in spite of our intentions, we may not get all that we bargained for. The numbers look ominous. I hear 10,000 Americans are becoming eligible for Social Security each day. Yikes. The Baby Boom generation, which I admit I am part of. It's a scary big number, but this is also a big country.

It's just money folks. Maybe we shouldn't take money too seriously. Live more for intangible qualities of life. New generations may be better at figuring this out. They can rise to the occasion.

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