The language arts may not command strict reverence among ordinary folk using colloquial American dialect, and that’s OK, but when our elected representatives fail to grasp the meaning of the word “entitlement,” the rights of those so legitimately entitled become beset by a slow-acting poison.
With Republicans now controlling both chambers of U.S. Congress, and a president obsessed with bipartisanship clearing his throat about “entitlement reform,” the poison is reaching late stage cerebral edema.
Little things like the right to a dignified retirement, health care in old age, and the commonwealth’s social safety net, get placed by self-anointed “prime movers” under the “takers” guillotine as the rubes buy into a simple bastardization of the English language.
While your crotchety old neighbor waves his quad cane at the kids these days and their “sense of entitlement,” what he is criticizing is a perceived unjustified expectation for an unearned right. That is to say, a false sense of entitlement.
An “entitlement” precisely means: the fact of having a right to something. Only a “false sense of entitlement” would imply the right was unearned. As much as conservatives sneer at “entitlement” programs, as though it’s a dirty word, as though it’s pejorative, they are in fact sneering at, by definition, perfectly justified and legitimate rights of the people.
A dimwit may support rolling back entitlement programs with the misunderstanding that this will prevent freeloaders from freeloading, but in fact rolling back an “entitlement” is stealing away earned benefits.
Traipsing along comes Mark Halperin to tell us that if the Grand Old Party wants to do what’s “good for their party and good for the country” they will have to take risks such as “dealing with the president” and “being the party who are for fundamental restructuring of entitlement programs.”
Social Security is one major right earned by the American people (see also: an entitlement) about which Republicans really haven’t been shy about advocating “fundamental restructuring” (see also: the gutting of).
To cover our bases, the federal government does not fund Social Security, American workers fund Social Security. And Social Security is not insolvent, the federal government owes trillions of dollars to Social Security after decades of looting from it starting with Reagan and Greenspan in the 1980s.
This has created a future insolvency, in 2038. The easiest way to deal with that future insolvency would be to (a) stop looting the Social Security Trust Fund to pay for other shit, and (b) raise the cap.
But those are not the solutions the Grand Old Party sees as being “good for their party and good for the country.” Plenty of conservative Big Thinkers have made it perfectly clear they’d like nothing better than to deal a death blow to this key pillar of “New Deal Machiavellianism,” as Douthat would have it. And the “moderate” conservative fix is to punish American workers who have earned their entitlement through a lifetime of labor by raising the retirement age.
Work a little longer, work a little harder, ya bums. It’s time to take back what’s “good for their party and good for the country” by taking back from those greedy old fogies expecting to be paid what they’ve earned, to the tune of 5 years more work at stagnant wages. And what with American life expectancy rising as it is, why stop at 70, or 75, or 80?
As long as cheap sophism equates “entitlements” with freeloading, it may take people a minute or two to notice that the program that eliminated abject elderly poverty in America has been sabotaged. But when the time comes that you witness one octogenarian serving another the Early Bird at Denny’s, remember babies, tip well.
David DeWitt is a journalist and universal minister based out of Athens, Ohio. He has also written for Government Executive online, the National Journal’s Hotline, and The New York Observer’s Politicker.com. He can be found on Twitter @TheRevDeWitt.
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