The word "entitlement" means "the act of giving (a person or thing) a title, right, or claim to something; furnish with grounds for laying claim: His executive position entitled him to certain courtesies rarely accorded others."
These are NOT entitlements that are "given" to Americans.
These programs are INSURANCE programs mandated by the Federal and State Governments that our grandparents, parents, we and our children are PAYING PREMIUMS on to ensure that when we get old, sick, or lose our jobs, we have the financial means to continue to live in our homes, stay alive with decent medical care and live a life of dignity after tragedy.
As a society, 50+ years ago, we made a collective decision to ask our government to pool a small portion of our collective wages to allow us to have that security, the security of basic human dignity in the face of tragedy, no matter our financial position in life when that tragedy hit.
We PAY THE PREMIUMS on this insurance. Now the government is talking about changing the terms of the policy after our premiums were paid...
The wealthy have LOTS of insurance. They have 401K's, stocks and bonds, life and health insurance, disability insurance plans, critical illness insurance and long term care insurance plans, and years of financial stability tied up in financial instruments should they lose their job. These programs are for them as well because anyone can face tragedy at any time in their lives, but they are most effective and critically needed:
- for the workers who are downsized and whose jobs go overseas,
- for the mother who chooses to give birth to or suffers the tragedy of an injured or sick child and cannot afford the medical care or time off of work to care for that child without financial help and medical insurance,
- for the elderly person who worked all their lives at a low wage job, hard work, with little or no retirement benefits and must retire due to illness or just the inability to work, or their pension was canceled by the closing of their plant or just never had the opportunity to live more than one paycheck from disaster let alone buy insurance or save money for their later years,
- for the 20 year old who dives into a swimming pool the wrong way and can never walk again,
- for ALL of us to be able to afford some SMALL measure of security in our worst and weakest moments of our lives.
It's ludicrous to call them "entitlements" and we need to rethink how we think about and discuss these programs because the wealthy may not think they need them, but they may someday. And you may not think you need these programs, but you may someday, and the Federal government does not subsidize these programs. They are ALL SOLVENT. Just like an insurance company, when the disaster happens or the annuity comes due for payment, the government MUST make the payments on the policies. If the government has borrowed against that income we gave them or not invested it wisely in the 50 years of working and making payments we each will make in our lifetimes, then the government needs to pony up and pay it's debt to us PERIOD and we need to elect representatives who will promise not to change our insurance policies, but to stop borrowing from them to pay for random wars of aggression and choice.
To discuss changing these programs in ANY way is a default on our contract with our insurance company and anyone who says otherwise is just being dishonest.
When the wealthy buy an insurance policy, the terms are set for the life of the policy and cannot be changed except under the terms set out in advance in the policy. They get exactly what they pay for and pay for exactly what they get. As Americans we should expect no less from the medicare insurance, disability insurance, unemployment insurance and social security insurance policies we have purchased from our government throughout our working lives.
The government needs to quit whining about the expense and pay the insurance contracts we have with them without question. The options to pay are numerous. They could just print more money. They could repeal the pre-Bush tax holiday for the wealthy. They could cut military spending in half (who are we fighting anyway?). They could invest in our education and in research and technology to grow the worker base and increase revenues that way. They could eliminate the corporate tax loopholes and subsidies that give Murdoch $4.8 billion in tax rebates over the last 4 years and allow the energy companies to take home trillions in profit quarterly. Our leaders are so mired in their own ideology and in the language of defeat, they no longer can have a civil intelligent conversation with each other and sit down and do the work to fix these problems.
Here's a few ideas:
- Energy companies ONLY get tax incentives for investment in clean energy technology and for job growth IN the United States.
- Corporations ONLY get tax incentives for new jobs and research and development activities created on American soil.
- Universal single payer health care (Medicare for all) would remove the burden of health care from the corporations and with the savings allow them to reinvest that money for those new jobs and research and development on American soil. It would also provide Medicare with a more diverse risk pool and lower the costs for us all without lowering the quality of services. When a company has to consider paying $20,000 that increases 18% annually on top of the employee's salary for health insurance, it makes a huge difference in that hiring decision. If instead it was an increase in the Medicare tax of even 7.6% of wages (way higher than estimates), the costs remain fixed to wages and the burden is removed from the company's bottom line. I currently pay more than 20% of my pre-tax wages for health insurance and my company pays another 50% of my wages for health insurance (you'd think employers would be all over this, but for ideological reasons, they are working against their own self interest). It's obvious that changing that to 15% and 15% would spur some job growth and fuel a healthy economy.
- Divest from the military industrial complex and invest in diplomacy and assistance to the global citizenry on a massive scale to raise the standards of living globally. Less desperation = less war.
- Privatization = profit margins for a few, higher costs and lowered services for us all. The citizens of this nation 30 years ago paid for the cost of their energy, children's education and the social safety net of aid to families with dependent children AT COST of those services. NOW the citizens are increasingly paying for those services with a profit margin attached to them. Why should our tax dollars go to the bottom line of corporations for critical services? It's the MOST inefficient use of our dollars possible to pay a CEO some exorbitant unregulated salary to educate our children or hand out piddling amounts of money to the poorest in our society.
- Finally, this is for my stoner friends... Legalize and tax marijuana. This would empty the prisons and gut the prison industrial complex throwing trillions of dollars back into governments at all levels. It would raise trillions of dollars and could fill our governmental coffers making all of these discussion moot. The real "reefer madness" is the criminalization of this non-lethal and powerfully useful medical substance that makes people happy, hungry and sleepy...
STOP calling them "entitlements" and start calling them something else, I suggest "guaranteed insurance policies" or "insurance for everyone". I call on my readers, the media pundits, politicians, all Americans and most especially my colleagues in this discussion to think of some other interesting or fun ways to reframe how we discuss these programs in a genuine light instead of the disingenuous terms everyone has bought into of something the government is handing out for free.