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Who Is Entitled to Entitlements?

CHICAGO, IL – DECEMBER 06: Protestors call for an increase of taxes on the wealthy and voice opposition to cuts in Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid during a demonstration in the Federal Building Plaza on December 6, 2012 in Chicago, Illinois. About 300 protestors participated in the demonstration which resulted in three arrests. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

According to Wikipedia, “The term “entitlement” refers to a notion or belief that one (or oneself) is deserving of some particular reward or benefit—if given without deeper legal or principled cause, the term is often given with pejorative connotation (e.g. a “sense of entitlement”).”

Declaration of Independence

Part of the Declaration of Independence states, We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

The Declaration of Independence says it all in the title. Independence! Not dependent on others. The pursuit of happiness, in my opinion, simply means that I can pursue my legal goals and dreams without the interference of government. That I am free to trade my skills and knowledge for their worth to another. And if I have not yet acquired those needed skills, I have the freedom to realize them by my own efforts.

Rights vs. Entitlements

What’s the difference? Social Security and Medicare are examples of two entitlements that people may take advantage of when they reach a specified age. People receiving these two “benefits” feel a “sense of entitlement” because they have paid into those systems.

People receiving food stamps have not been paying into a specific food stamp program, but a case could be made that since taxes pay for all programs, we all pay into all programs.

The Federal Government has 126 poverty programs that are overseen by eight government departments. Does that seem a little like overkill? Yet with all these programs to help the poor the poverty level has barely budged over the past 40 years.

Entitlements Are Not All Things To All People

Social Security was never intended to be a total retirement program. It was designed to supplement your life savings and your other investments. Financial planners will tell you that when you retire you will need at least 70% of your current income to come from someplace other than Social Security. The average social security payment received by seniors today $1,270 or $15,240 a year — before taxes.

Medicare was never intended to be your one size fits all medical insurance. Most people need one or more supplemental insurance backups to pay what Medicare fails to cover.

Some Final Thoughts

When does a safety net become a hammock? When does dependency on the US Government stifle self-reliance and personal responsibility? How does 99 weeks of unemployment help when technology is passing you by?

Why couldn’t food stamps be payments for online classes or training? Welfare for home tutoring to help parents help their children with homework. It’s so much easier to throw money at any social problem and pat ourselves on the back that we are somehow making a difference. Pass the caviar.

It would be great if all government programs worked as designed. But the past 50 years leave no doubt that they don’t. Just as an oil spill upsets the ecosystem of a body of water; government upsets the natural desire within us all to succeed on our own.

Why is it so hard to understand that if you give a man a fish you feed him for a day; if you teach a man to fish you feed him for a lifetime. Why fish if the truck shows up every day? And where will you be if the truck stops showing up? Guess I’ll go play some golf and worry about that later. What’s your day look like? Is that a truck coming down the street?

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