A few days ago, I posted the graphic above about Social Security. My purpose, of course, was to defend Social Security as an excellent government program that has worked exactly as it was supposed to (keeping millions of elderly Americans from slipping into poverty after their retirement).
But one of my readers called me out on part of what the graphic says -- that Social Security is not an entitlement. The reader said there is nothing wrong with the word "entitlement", and we should stop allowing the right-wing to demonize and redefine words -- making them sound dirty. After giving the matter some thought, I have to say that he is right. There is nothing wrong with feeling entitled to a check from Social Security after paying into the program for most of a person's life.
Here is how that reader, Jayhawk, puts it on his own blog called On My Mind (which I highly recommend):
Liberals (or ?progressives?) have espoused a variation of this image, one which goes on to talk about privatization, which is a different subject altogether. At any rate, they are vigorously denying that the Social Security program is an?entitlement.?
One definition of ?entitlement? is ?a government program providing benefits to members of a specified group,? but there is nothing inherently ?dirty? about that, really. In any case, that is a secondary definition, established by common usage fairly recently in historical context and the primary definition is ?a right to benefits specified especially by law or contract.? Which is why Social Security absolutelyis an entitlement.
Beneficiaries of the Social Security entered into a contract that for all of their working lives they would pay money into a trust fund and that once they were no longer working they would receive that money back in the form of a retirement stipend. Having upheld their end of the contract, workers are entitled by contract to receive those benefits, and the government is bound by contract to honor their side of the deal and pay the stipend to which the contractees are entitled.
The second statement on that image, about the ?problem? of government borrowing from the fund, is a canard. In fact, the trust fund has invested its surplus in the safest place possible anywhere in the world; in US Treasuries. That is not a problem by anyone?s definition of problem, since the investment with the absolute lowest risk of loss world wide is US government debt. No one has ever lost one cent by investing in US Treasuries, so how is that a ?problem,?pray tell?
I never can understand why liberals allow the other side not only to define the argument for them, but even to distort the meanings of individual words, and not push back.
Liberals should be standing up and asserting that ?entitlement? is not a dirty word; that an entitlement represents an obligation on the part of the US government no less binding than monetary debt. We should be shouting that in making the claims that they do about entitlements, conservatives are demanding the this nation default on its debt as surely as if it were to refuse to pay on bonds due for redemption; that they are demanding that the government refuse to honor contracts made in good faith.
Instead, we accept the premise of the big lie made by conservatives and hunker down in a defensive crouch, whimpering that ?Social Security is not an entitlement.?
I don't disagree at all with this. I have paid into the Social Security program since the mid-sixties. I did so because of an agreement with the federal government -- that if I would pay a percentage of my income throughout my working life, then they would provide me with a check during my retirement years. I kept my part of the bargain, and I have the right to expect the government to keep their part of the bargain. I am "entitled" to that.
As Jayhawk says, "entitlement" is not a dirty word. It is just the expectation that a contract will be honored.
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