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Startling thought on “entitlement programs”

July 31, 2011

My father, the Libertarian, has an interesting take on the debate over our entitlement programs like Social Security, Medicare, etc.

Why do they call them entitlement programs? I PAID for those benefits, I should get them.

That’s interesting, isn’t it? Although I’m pretty sure he got that from Fox News because he’s a White man pushing 80, so he gets most everything there…   still, I’m not sure he’s wrong.

The Republicans throw around the phrase “entitlement programs” in a derogatory way, implying under their breath that liberals — who want to break our budget impasse without cutting spending on these programs  — are somehow irresponsible, greedy and selfish.

But in reality, our elderly DID pay for these programs. My father worked full time for over 50 years of his life, and every paycheck had FICA and other tax deductions that were used to pay for his current Social Security income and Medicare health insurance plan.

If you’re employed like I am, then we’re both PAYING for entitlement programs. OK, it’s true that these programs are in trouble, largely because of our aging demographics and skyrocketing healthcare costs. So they need serious tweaking.

But we all are paying into these programs. We’re not selfish, or lazy, or greedy to expect some return from those payments, in our future lives when we’re elderly and/or disabled.

Maybe it’s time we started calling these programs Pre-Paid Social Insurance instead of entitlement programs.

6 Comments leave one →
  1. R L Baker permalink
    July 31, 2011 11:41 am

    Social Security trust fund would not have the difficulty it is now experiencing if every President from Lyndon Johnson to Obama had kept their greedy hands off of it. It was meant to be in trust, not as a slush fund for the general fund of government.

  2. R L Baker permalink
    July 31, 2011 11:48 am

    Another “Entitlement” that I have a problem with is that of the military retirement pay. Those members of the military that remained on the job for 20 plus years were under contract with the U S government which promised them a percentage of their (basic) pay to remain in service. Entitlement or contractual commitment? Personally I consider my retirement from the military to be just the overtime pay for a lot of long hours.
    The “entitlement” that I have the most difficulty understanding is that which is paid out to those members of society that have never served in the military, will not, or do not work, and yet expect their “entitlement”. They are entitled to NOTHING.

    • August 6, 2011 7:36 pm

      Hi R.L. Whether you call it overtime pay or a retirement package, the U.S. military offers a retirement package to their “lifers” the same as any other employer. That seems reasonable to me. And by the way, thank you for your service. My father was in the Navy in the Vietnam era and I believe he served 2 tours over there. Now he’s Army Reserve.

      On your other comment, I’m really unclear who you’re talking about (people who didn’t serve in the military and don’t work). Maybe you’re talking about SSI? The SSI program of the Social Security Administration makes payments to those who are permanently disabled, or disabled for a temporary long-term timeframe. These folks are eligible for these payments no matter who they are, or how they became disabled, and they must provide medical proof on an ongoing basis that their disability continues.

      Example : A foundry worker who breaks his back and is paralyzed for life gets SSI payments. But again I make the same point: entitlement is the wrong word for those SSI payments. The foundry worker PAID IN TO the SSI system when he WAS working before his accident. When he’s disabled he draws money out of the SSI system. That’s the definition of a “social safety net” and it’s what every industrialized nation in the world has. If we didn’t have SSI, that man would be reduced to begging on the street sitting in his wheelchair. Would you prefer that?

      If you’re talking about the unemployed, and trying to say they don’t deserve unemployment insurance payments while they look for work… well, I’m at a loss. I don’t even think I can have a rational discussion with someone who thinks the unemployed should be on their own, especially in an economy like we have at present. Please come back and prove me wrong.


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