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.