What Is an Entitlement?

There is a lot of talk about the amount of money that entitlements to American citizens are costing the federal government. It seems that all this money is making a serious dent in the amounts that Republicans can give to rich people; apparently this is presenting them with a real fiscal problem. Hence the talk that entitlements should be reduced or eliminated so as to direct more money to billionaires, so that they will not suffer the indignity of falling downwards into the class of millionaires and lose status.

Social Security is constantly referred to as an entitlement that ought to be reduced or eliminated, so let’s look at that. What, again, is an entitlement? It is something that you get because you either merit it, as in a prize, or you are eligible to receive it, such as a scholarship. Let us say that the state university funds a scholarship for students of Chinese descent. I would not be “entitled” to apply for that scholarship because I am not of Chinese descent. So on the topic of Social Seciruty, how am I “entitled” to receive it?

Well, like most Americans I happen to have Social Security card right here, and look at this: there is a number on it. I’ll bet it is not the same number that you will find on your Social Security card. What does that mean? It means that there is an account somewhere in cyberspace that has my name and my Social Security identity on it. And that account has a certain monetary value, because I am actually receiving an amount of money every month from Social Security directly.

Where does that money come from? Is it being given to me through the generosity of Uncle Sam? I don’t think so! I, like most Americans, have been putting deposits into my Social Security account ever since I started working. I once heard a Republican congressman say that there is no account with your name on it in Social Security, and he was either mistaken or lying. There is such an account, for you and for me.

There is a legal possibility that the government could “buy out” my Social Security account by figuring out how much money I could possibly receive if I live to be 90, or some other arbitrary age, and then to cut me a check in that amount so that I no longer am eligible to receive money from Social Security. But my money as a working American is “fully vested” in the Social Security system and the money that I receive (or would receive either way) is not money that I am entitled to. It is money that I earned, and then put aside in a savings account for my old age. That is what Social Security is: a savings account. It is not a free gift.

A stupid Congressman said in front of a microphone this week that he thought Social Security was a bad idea. If it is, then so is the money we are paid to do work. Social Security is your money. It is not a benevolent fund that is given to those who deserve it. Republicans have been advancing the dangerous idea of cutting elderly Americans off from a source of income, and leaving them to starve in the streets, for years now and they are seldom called to account about it. This alone, in my opinion, is reason enough to throw each and every one of them out of office. There are no extenuating circumstances and no good Republicans fighting against the current.

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