I can not stand the idea of entitlements.
An entitlement is something that a person believes they deserve without any questions or limitations. An entitlement is something a person receives because they believe it is owed them, because they assume it is their right, and they accept without thanks, because no thanks are needed for an entitlement.
An entitlement is expected. It is taken for granted and awarded whether the recipient needs it or not. To be a benefactor of entitlement one must have that easy self-assurance and confident air that you have no cares in the world, because you are provided for by nature, by law, and by birthright. Your automatic rewards are practically the will of God if you are among the fortunate, the blessed, the anointed, the entitled.
Hopefully you can see where I'm going with this. Becase my point is that it is absolutely absurd for us to call the social safety net an "entitlement". This is a slander that was devised by enemies of the social safety-net, it was propogated and broadcast by those who wanted intentionally to smear the reputation of the safety-net, by those who wanted to poison the minds of the American public against the idea, by those who wanted to tear it down and leave the unfortunate one's who fall or fail or stumble to plummet to the earth and to their demise.
Social Security and Medicare and Medicaid are good programs that improve the quality of life in America. Who does not have parents or grandparents whose lives without Medicare might become brutal struggles for survival, under constant threat of homelessness, having to decide whether to buy needed medicine or essential food, who might have suffered a death that could have easily been prevented by proper care to grant additional years of quality living?
A social safety net should be based on need, on inability to fend for one's self. It should catch those who have stumbled and are falling, it should arrest their fall and if they have the health, the strength, the youth to recover, it should give them a second chance to get back on their own two feet again. This is not an entitlement; it is security to survive and to recover from the natural calamities that could fall upon any one of us at any time.
The social safety net should not be a poverty alleviation plan; it is a poverty and misery prevention plan. We can provide other targeted programs of education and job training to help provide a hand to those in poverty struggling to help themselves but who could use a boost. This is not an entitlement either, it is an intelligent effort by those with adequate means to share success and prosperity, to not pull the ladder up behind you but to offer an open pathway to those willing and able to take it.
We need to keep these things clear in our minds, and we need to understand who the real entitlement class is in America. The entitlement class is a new aristocracy, pampered and privileged and confident that they rule and control the world. The entitlement class is Mitt Romney and his 15% capital gains tax rate and the carried interest exception that enables him to exploit tax rates lower than the average wage earner pays. The entitlement class are oil industry owners and executives who receive subsidies they don't need, and whose profit margin is dearer than the lives of thousands of soldiers sent into battle to protect their interests. The entitlement class attends Ivy League schools and their living is guaranteed by a generous inherited trust fund. The entitlement class sends armies of lobbyists to Washington to bend the rules in their favor, while they sip cocktails on the deck of a hundred foot yacht, or sink a put on an island golf paradise, or whoosh through the skies on a private jet. The entitlement class no longer needs to roll up their sleeves and get their hands dirty when faced with a task; they call their lawyer, their assistant, their maid, their cook, or their gardner. And these are the people who have the nerve to sneeringly attach the label of entitlement to the meager essential life sustaining aid that enables the sick, the injured, the disabled, the under-educated and the under-priveleged to retain a shred of dignity and to be spared the misery and demoralization of solitary destitution.
So how dare the nation allow the word "entitlement" to become the standard term for essential and humane public policies that help to alleviate hunger and illness and poverty and misery. How dare the press uncritically adopt and repeat this obscenity. And how dare liberals capitulate to this manipulation and passively accept this ugly frame.
When we say the word entitlement to refer to Social Security or Medicare or Head Start or SCHIP or Medicaid or TANF or SNAP or school lunch programs or any other program that is designed to help those truly in need, we are effectively drinking the poisoned Kool-Aid handed us by the enemies of decency and compassion. The champions of greed and self-interest and cruel law of the jungle social Darwinism are laughing behind their teeth every time you repeat this rude incantation.
Part of what I'm saying here is that the term "entitlement" is inaccurate with regard to the intention behind the safety net. But in fact the accusation made by conservatives that "entitlements" encourage dependency has some truth. But planting the idea in everyone's minds that these things are "entitlements" could have as much of a dependency effect as the existance of a social safety net.
What I mean to say is that the purpose of a social safety net should be similar to the net used by a trapeze artist: it catches you, but then you get up again. And liberals should keep in mind that we must strive to ensure that the safety net is understood to be just that, and not a system of dependency creating entitlements. We should stop calling them entitlements, and we should make sure that recipients don't think of them as entitlements, and we should examine the structure of the net, and wherever it actually has the effect 0f creating dependency we should try to fix it so that it is not abused as an entitlement but rather encourages and helps those in need to bounce back to independence.
So let's all remember: if you value the social safety net please take care to never ever repeat this awful insulting dishonest abomination "entitlements", unless you are referring to the kickbacks and tax breaks and incentives and subsidies and inherited privileges enjoyed by the new American Aristocracy, the true entitlement class.