s skippy the bush kangaroo: first up in entitlement reform: reform the words "entitlement reform"

skippy the bush kangaroo

Wednesday, January 02, 2013

first up in entitlement reform: reform the words "entitlement reform"

a few years ago, upon hearing the word "entitlement" to refer to social security and medicare, skippy was perplexed. the definition of "entitlement" that he learned in school seemed to have the 100% opposite meaning of how it was being used currently; ie, being "entitled" to something implies that one does not have to prove one's self worthy to be able to enjoy that something, eg, an inheritance.

social security and medicare, as skippy understood it, were programs that one paid into one's entire working life, and therefore one had earned the right to participate in those programs upon retirement.

therefore, social security is no more an "entitlement" than a paycheck; who would insist that someone who performed work for a contractually-agreed-upon salary was "entitled"? try telling the 1% that their dividends on their investments are "entitlements" and see how far you get.

to use the word "entitlement" to describe something which is expected, due or warranted by convention or legal means dilutes the entire meaning of the word. everything in life that we are not legally enjoined from is an entitlement: all that we need is the air that we are entitled to breath and to love you.

skippy even looked up the word "entitlement" in the dictionary back then, and found the definition to include the concept of inheritance, but nothing about earnings. but this was 7 to 8 years ago.

now if you look up that word, somehow the conventional wisdom has included social security and medicare:

3. the right to guaranteed benefits under a government program, as social security or unemployment compensation.
we have not researched any proof of our following theory, but we feel that this orwellian twisting of word meaning is part of the lee atwater/karl rove "war is peace slavery is freedom" bending of semantics to help change perception and eventually therefore policy. notice the use of "entitlement" to describe a very specific contractually-earned return on investment appeared about the same time as "democrat party" and "death tax" (to replace "inheritance tax," the true entitlement).

and this word-dance is a thing of beauty. now, who wouldn't want to "reform" (read: cut) "entitlements"? who needs entitlements, anyway? who do those senior middle class retirees think they are, being entitled to money from the government? no, this re-defining of the english language is a move worthy of goebbels, or at least humpty dumpty.

we ourselves wanted to call ss and medicare something more along the lines of "retirement benefits," because, after all, that is more descriptive and less inflammatory. but we admit, that's a bit of a mouthful compared to the succinct and visceral "entitlements."

so we are happy to jump on board the "earned benefits" wagon:

social security and medicare are not “entitlements” – except in the sense that everyone should be entitled to the money (including interest) that they deposit in a bank account.

our grandparents, parents and now you and i pay into these programs with every check we receive. pull out your paystub and look. you will see deductions for fica and for medicare. why are these programs being included in conversations surrounding the “fiscal cliff”?

for decades now, right-wing think tanks like the heritage foundation have been telling us we must “replace the culture of entitlements with one of mutual responsibility.” but workers have always been responsible. the only irresponsibility here belongs to congress, who started borrowing from our fund beginning in the reagan years…

politicians should be protecting – not sacrificing – these programs that employees have paid into, all these decades.

it is up to all of us as american workers to ensure these programs will be there when we need them. this begins with changing the conversation – and in particular, the wording. social security and medicare are not entitlements but earned benefits. our politicians must understand we will not give up on what is rightfully ours.
-- nh labor news
so, it was encouraging, while traveling through the jungle of facebook, to come across someone who proudly proclaimed that social security was based on "earned benefits, not entitlements."

after all, "entitlements" best describe what the wealthy and their political advocates believe is due them; the "entitlement" to inherit as much money as possible and to make off with as big a slice of america's economic pie as possible. to argue that you deserve to be gluttonously wealthy because your mommy or daddy made a fortune selling short in the stock market, now that's an "entitlement."

but for 99 percent of the citizens in the united states, we work for our retirement income. we earn the benefits of social security; we don't inherit them.
the "ponzi scheme" took place on wall street, not main street.
-- mark karlin, editor of buzzflash
in a comment to an earlier post, commenter sailor1031 raised a point that has also been bugging me but which i had done nothing about, and that is the use of the word ‘entitlements’ to cover social security and medicare.
the oligarchy loves the word entitlement because it has largely negative connotations. while one use of the word is of something that is rightly due to a person, that the person is thus entitled to, more often the word is used in the context of people who ‘have a sense of entitlement’, by which we mean that they feel that the world owes them something that they have not earned and that they are living off the work of others. it is precisely this kind of thinking that lay behind mitt romney’s infamous pre-election 47% comments and his and bill o’reilly’s equally infamous post-election comments that the people who voted to re-elect president obama did so because he gave them ‘gifts’ and promised them even more. they see people who get these benefits as moochers.

but as sailor1031 pointed out, social security and medicare are things that people have contributed to all their working lives as part of the social compact that when they can no longer work, it will be there so that they can live the twilight of their lives in dignity. while one can debate the actuarial issues of whether they get more less than they put in, there is no question that it is largely a debt that society is repaying to its elderly, not an act of charity.

i think a much better term than ‘entitlements’ would be ‘earned benefits’ and that is what i will use in the future unless someone comes up with something even better.
-- mano singham, free thought blogs
you know that social security and medicare are in jeopardy when even democrats refer to them as entitlements. "entitlement" has a negative sound in colloquial english: somebody who is "entitled" selfishly claims something he doesn't really deserve. why not call them "earned benefits," which is what they are because we all contribute payroll taxes to fund them?
-- mike lofgren, truthout
so one of our resolutions for 2013 will be to work hard to get the term "entitlements" replaced with "earned benefits." it's the exact same number of syllables, easy to remember, and very much to the point as to what the programs actually are.

and, we hope, this will be your resolution as well.
posted by skippy at 2:05 PM |


Back in I think the late '70s or early '80s, someone in my extended circle mentioned reluctance to apply for unemployment.

And the details vary by state, but generally money is deducted from one's paycheck and it's called "insurance" and there are specific circumstances that must be met before one gets the money.

So I went off on a rant (paper rant. Much less inflammatory) on the subject. I wasn't expecting to have to do that thirty years later, but "Earned benefits" it is. Earned benefits that I (among the rest of the working population) have paid into all my working life.

The '30s were no fun; I've seen the movies.
commented by Blogger D., 3:20 PM PST  

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