Weekly Washington Words
Friday, December 14 2012
The Merriam-Webster’s dictionary has three definitions for the term entitlement:
- A.) the state or condition of being entitled
B.) a right to benefits specified especially by law or contract
- a government program providing benefits to members of a specified group; also : funds supporting or distributed by such a program
- belief that one is deserving of or entitled to certain privileges
As you see above, the term “entitlements” has been ingrained into the colloquial language of the country. People in Washington particularly like the term “entitlement” because it makes the program seem sacrosanct and allows them to demagogue whenever the idea of reform comes up. The better way to see these “entitlement” programs are as the social insurance programs they actually are.
These social insurance programs are funded through payroll taxes that are subtracted, which makes people believe they have fully paid for their benefits. This may be true in some cases, but on average, people receive slightly more than they contributed to the Old Age Survivors and Disability Insurance, or Social Security, and multiples of what they pay into the Medicare Program (See Graphic).
Next time you hear someone in Washington talk about “entitlements” think about this. Change works both ways, and no one ever complains when these programs are expanded (e.g. Medicare Part D), so if these so called “entitlements” can be increased then they should also have the capacity to be decreased when the country can no longer afford the burden it has saddled itself with.
I am not advocating for the gutting of these programs. I just want to remind everyone that these are social insurance programs that are not protected by the constitution and should be open to constructive reform before inaction leads to sudden and draconian measures in the future.