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Robert J. Samuelson: What is an entitlement? Let's drop the label

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  • JoeBlow Far East USA, SC
    Oct. 22, 2013 4:42 a.m.

    "The budget problem is to match Americans' appetite for government benefits with a willingness to be taxed."

    The article in a nutshell.

    We like our government Stuff, but we hate paying for it.

    And I have yet to see groups begging govt to cut their benefit.
    (with the exception of the guy who said "get your govt hands off my Medicare")

  • UtahBlueDevil Durham, NC
    Oct. 22, 2013 5:33 a.m.

    I am sure it has already been noticed, but were talking Billions... not Millions, right.

    The problem isn't just the narrow 12 items Samuelson notes as "entitlements", but there are many many more items that people feel entitled to. A free education for their kids through high school. Subsidized college. Fire protection. Free and open access to our National Parks - and from what we have seen to be able to do what they want in our State Parks. Ranchers feel entitled to use public lands to graze their herds. Farmers feel entitled to certain farm subsidies. Corporate American feels entitled to tax breaks in they locate in certain localities. The list goes on and on.

    At my wife's school, we have parents who feel their kids are entitled to not just a free education, but that they should not only make the schools sports teams, but are entitled to certain playing time on the field. Young graduates from college feel entitled to jobs for which they have no experience... just book learning.

    We have an entitlement issue... but its not around social security. We have a generation that feels entitled, without a willingness to pay then bill.

  • george of the jungle goshen, UT
    Oct. 22, 2013 7:19 a.m.

    The word should be; owed. when you pay for ssi till you reach the age required. You deserve what you had payed for, owed.

  • Gildas LOGAN, UT
    Oct. 22, 2013 8:17 a.m.

    Samuelson? Ugh!! The Washington Post? Likewise. Wonderful how so many so-called "liberals" are so illiberal and so unjust. Likewise some alleged conservatives are seeking to default on the national debt for social security which has been paid for by individual creditors - the retired.

    Social Security is an actual entitlement. Those who paid into it ARE entitled to it no matter how ugly politicians seek to lump it in with welfare programs for which recipients have often not paid.

    I look forward to the time when the churl is no longer called 'liberal' and men will cease to deny the poor of their right. Thieves sit in their fine suits in Congress and pretend to be benefactors, while they prey on the poor for their gold plated 'benefits' and salaries. Those benefits are the debts they owe to the taxpayers. It is such 'benefits' as these that should cease inasmuch that they have not been earned. They should also stop sending people into foreign wars while they sit securely in DC.

  • andyjaggy American Fork, UT
    Oct. 22, 2013 8:29 a.m.

    I don't understand how a system I have paid into my whole life is an entitlement. If I had a choice I would absolutely skip paying social security and invest that money on my own, but since I have been forced to pay into it how is expecting something in return an entitlement?

    The problem is everyone thinks it's someone else that is the freeloader. I know a woman who's daughter is on medicaid, she is constantly talking about how all the freeloaders are mooching off the system. Of course she has never considered that her own daughter falls under that category. To her, her daughter's situation is different, she's trying and just hit a rough spot....... yeah just like most of the other people who are receiving government assistance. Sure there are some lifelong moochers, but unlike Mitt Romney, I refuse to believe that they are 47% of this country. Anyone who thinks that doesn't deserve to be in the white house.

  • procuradorfiscal Tooele, UT
    Oct. 22, 2013 8:39 a.m.

    Re: "Social Security is an actual entitlement. Those who paid into it ARE entitled . . . ."

    Thanks for bringing the problem into clearer focus.

    Rhetorical liberal sophistry notwithstanding, NO person is "entitled" to take money from another person.

    Today's social security recipients paid money into a plan, to be sure. But that money, along with that plan, are long gone. Stolen by reckless, feckless liberal politicians, used to buy off voters in desperate attempts to be re-elected.

    Money being paid out today was "harvested" yesterday, or worse yet, tomorrow. From someone else. Typically, from the earnings of a young family, often with earning below those of the social security recipient.

    Those are the cold, hard facts. And they need to be truthfully addressed.

    Any social security recipient that has other investment earnings or pension proceeds exceeding those of these hard-hit young families should burn with shame for stealing food from babies' mouths.

    Social security is welfare. Nothing more nor less. It should be acknowledged and administered as such, to benefit only the neediest among us.

  • Hutterite American Fork, UT
    Oct. 22, 2013 8:40 a.m.

    "entitlement" is just one of the many words that now have hyper inflammatory connotation attached to them; others include socialism, liberal, obamacare, leftist, and the list grows. It's a cheap tactic, but that's where we are today.

  • Kent C. DeForrest Provo, UT
    Oct. 22, 2013 9:17 a.m.

    This editorial is pretty funny. Samuelson starts out saying we should stop using the term "entitlement," then he goes on and on using the term throughout his editorial. Practice what you preach, Bob.

  • Ultra Bob Cottonwood Heights, UT
    Oct. 22, 2013 9:56 a.m.

    Just who owns America anyhow? And what is America supposed be?

    The founding documents seem to me to be saying that America is a singular entity made up of people. And ownership is acquired by just being born here or in many cases, just coming to live here legally or even illegally. Does a person actually have the right to life, liberty and pursuit of happiness just by being born?

    Or is America just a business operation where people are like cattle to be fed, nurtured and eventually slaughtered by their keepers? Do the rights of life, liberty and pursuit have to be earned according to the whims of men?

    Could our system be tweaked a little to allow all people to earn the rights that were alluded to in the founding documents? Perhaps we need to explore the other ways a person might earn his keep than just physical labor.

  • There You Go Again Saint George, UT
    Oct. 22, 2013 10:22 a.m.

    @pro...cal

    "...Social security is welfare. Nothing more nor less. It should be acknowledged and administered as such, to benefit only the neediest among us...".

    So...Romney voters on Social Security (aka WELFARE) were in fact part of the 47%.

    Furthermore...Romney voters who are a...

    "...social security recipient that has other investment earnings or pension proceeds exceeding those of these hard-hit young families should burn with shame for stealing food from babies' mouths...".

    Somehow...I don't see Romney voters buying any of this...

  • 2 bits Cottonwood Heights, UT
    Oct. 22, 2013 10:28 a.m.

    I'm OK if we drop the word "entitlement" if it makes some people uncomfortable.

    It's mainly used to point out that things we used to take care of ourselves that became critical government necessities we DEPEND on once Government decides we can't do it right and they need to do it for us.

    We used to take care of our parents when they got old (now the government does it for us). We used to let them live with us when they couldn't take care of themselves (now we expect the government to do it). We used to take care of our neighbors when they had a financial setback (now the government does it). We used to pay our own bills when we went to the doctor. We used to provide food for our families (even in tough times) now it's the government's job. We used to pay our own tuition (now we expect the Government to do it).

    These so called "Entitlements", or using the word "Entitlement", is done to point out that they are things we COULD do for ourselves... but we EXPECT the government to do for us.

  • Irony Guy Bountiful, Utah
    Oct. 22, 2013 10:58 a.m.

    2 Bits is wrong. Before the progressive movement, we DIDN'T used to take care of our parents when they got old. We put them in filthy county homes to die. We DIDN'T help the sick--we let them go bankrupt and die. We DIDN'T take care of our mentally ill. We stuck them in torture chambers called asylums. We DIDN'T take care of the education of our children... only since 1960 have most Americans gotten a high school diploma. The mark of a civilized nation is how it cares for its elderly, sick, and young -- the most vulnerable. As far as conservatives are concerned, "Let 'em die. It's not my problem."

  • a_voice_of_reason Woods Cross, UT
    Oct. 22, 2013 10:58 a.m.

    "The budget problem is to match Americans' appetite for government benefits with a willingness to be taxed."

    So true! Unfortunately the only recent change in our tax code came from a president who represented a large segment of democrats who said my appetite is more government benefits for me (the poor to middle-class) and demanding more willingness to be taxed from others (the rich). Interesting that 54% of households receive benefits from one or more "entitlement" programs, and over 50% of households pay no federal income tax. Why are the people receiving not pitching in? I wouldn't suggest a flat tax-rate - our economy would take too long to adjust salaries and it would cause substantial suffering. However, why don't we expect every working American to contribute something to the pool? I am not rich, but I make a reasonable living. I budget carefully so I can have what I need and the things I want most. I have enough to pay some taxes. Yet, in the past 3 years I have received well over $10,000 more in refunds than I paid in. The government is paying me? Does anybody wonder why we're drowning in debt?

  • procuradorfiscal Tooele, UT
    Oct. 22, 2013 11:01 a.m.

    Re: "Somehow...I don't see Romney voters buying any of this..."

    Yeah, me neither. But it's a crying shame.

    Social security benefits were fraudulently sold to America as an investment of one's own money, that would be paid back, with interest, in later years.

    Roosevelt NEVER intended it that way, and almost immediately began to raid the "trust" fund to buy votes. Of course, truth is, there was never an actual trust.

    EVERY generation of Americans since then has been complicit in perpetrating and perpetuating the fraud, but it's WAY past time we owned up to it and fixed it.

    Romney liberals may, indeed, have to step aside, if they can't get aboard. But social security [and its associated side frauds, including Obamacare] are the number-one threat to long-term American solvency.

    A saying [perhaps incorrectly] attributed to Ben Franklin sums it up: "When the people find that they can vote themselves money, that will herald the end of the republic."

    People found out, but, if we've got any sense, we'll quit doing it.

  • UtahBlueDevil Durham, NC
    Oct. 22, 2013 11:52 a.m.

    "These so called "Entitlements", or using the word "Entitlement", is done to point out that they are things we COULD do for ourselves... but we EXPECT the government to do for us."

    And here in lies the difference. There are those out there that somehow believe that the position they have in life is of their own making, that credit is all to themselves. As Christians, we should no better. And we should also no better what the stewardship that comes with blessings.

    The government is the people acting on behalf the people.... not just individuals. It is to do things that at an individual level, we could not do. To presume that a poor person who spends their lives working the fields, or in some deep hole extracting coal and minimal wages, and wasn't able to save... it is their fault they don't have a war chest saved at the end of life, what a damning attitude..

    When we do it to the least of these.... or something along those lines. If your mantra is about me, my or mine..... you have lost the vision of why we are here, and what we profess to believe.

  • JoeBlow Far East USA, SC
    Oct. 22, 2013 12:11 p.m.

    "Stolen by reckless, feckless liberal politicians, used to buy off voters in desperate attempts to be re-elected."

    Yup. Those R and D politicians who could pay for things they wanted to give away without raising a dime in taxes.

    Those are the ones.

  • procuradorfiscal Tooele, UT
    Oct. 22, 2013 12:34 p.m.

    Re: "Yup. Those R and D politicians who could pay for things they wanted to give away without raising a dime in taxes."

    Hear, hear!

    Best course of action? Don't let politicians buy votes by giving away tax money.

    Next best? Make them personally and publicly fess-up every time they do, and pay for all their self-interested, vote-buying bribes strictly out of current revenues.

    America is beginning to wake up and carefully examine the liberal lie that free lunches exist, and can be doled out to them without consequence by dishonest, free-spending liberal politicians -- of both political parties.

  • 2 bits Cottonwood Heights, UT
    Oct. 22, 2013 12:42 p.m.

    UtahBlueDevil

    Re: "As Christians, we should no better. And we should also no better what the stewardship that comes with blessings"...

    I didn't say we have no christian duty to help our neighbors and family. If you can find anywhere I said that... please post it. Otherwise it's a strawman.

    ---

    I think quite to the contrary I pointed out that we SHOULD take care of our neighbors, family, the poor, etc, (as we did in the olden days). But that's what charitable contributions, Fast Offerings, contributing to scholarship funds, giving directly to the poor, or contributing to churches and other charitable organizations involved in helping the poor... are for.

    Are you saying our taxes are charitable contributions? That we should see those as our christian duty to our neighbors?

    I don't think so. Those are my contributions to Caesar (meaning the government). Not the limit of my obligation to my neighbors and the poor in my neighborhood, or my elderly parents.

    It's precisely your attitude that brings the stereotype of liberals thinking they don't need to give to charity or take care of their neighbors... because they already paid their taxes.

  • 2 bits Cottonwood Heights, UT
    Oct. 22, 2013 1:56 p.m.

    Irony,
    Speak for yourself, not for me.

    My parents didn't leave their parents in a county home to die. I remember them coming to live with us. I remember my wife's parents taking care of their parents (building them a home nearby, paying their utilities, being in their home every day, etc). So no.. not everybody did what you did. Some took care of their parents. And their neighbors, and the poor.

    ---

    I agree The mark of a civilized nation is how it cares for its elderly, sick, and young. But I feel it's MY job to do it (not the government's). Just saying "I don't have to do it... the government will do it", isn't enough. If it is for you..fine, but don't foist YOUR attitudes on me.

    ---

    And as for your tired old stereotype that "As far as conservatives are concerned, "Let 'em die".... we don't really believe that. We believe it's OUR responsibility to take care of them (not the Governments).

    ---

    Last comment, so if you put more words I didn't say into my mouth I won't be able to reply. have fun.

  • UtahBlueDevil Durham, NC
    Oct. 22, 2013 1:56 p.m.

    2 bits - what we say, and what we do... matters. It says what we believe, or at least profess to believe. Its just that simple.

  • Ultra Bob Cottonwood Heights, UT
    Oct. 22, 2013 2:17 p.m.

    It is really hard for me to understand people who believe that the money they pay for government services buys them nothing. It is as if they can’t taste it, see it, hear it or feel it, then it has no value.

    The most important thing in our lives is survival and the most important agent for survival is protection from things and people that harm us. If the protection can occur before we are harmed we are well served.

    If you want to help the poor, do you wait until they become poor to do anything? That’s what private charities do. Would it be better if you could do something to keep the poor from being poor, and would you do it?

    Many of the government programs referred to as entitlements are attempts to protect and avoid the problem ahead of the problem rather that after the damage is done.

  • JoeBlow Far East USA, SC
    Oct. 22, 2013 2:24 p.m.

    "Best course of action? Don't let politicians buy votes by giving away tax money."

    Second best? Dont let unions and corporations buy politicians by giving them money.

  • 2 bits Cottonwood Heights, UT
    Oct. 22, 2013 4:24 p.m.

    Irony Guy,
    Part of the problem is your assumption that I'm just talking about what we did before the Progressive Movement. I'm not. I'm talking about what we've done going all the way back.

    For generations and generations we have taken care of our elderly parents (not expecting the government to do it).

    I think the slacking off came before the Progressive Movement. Maybe the Progressive Movement was in reaction to this slacking that happened.

  • David Centerville, UT
    Oct. 22, 2013 6:01 p.m.

    I agree with Samuelson, put everything on the table. We need a major overhaul of taxation, spending, and budgets. Of course, under this administration, we have yet to see a budget that has passed either the Senate or the House. And the Senate has never even presented a budget until this year, but Reid refused to go to conference over the differences between the Senate budget and the House's.

    It's a circus in DC and the biggest clowns are running the show.

  • Oldcoach Hurricane, 00
    Oct. 22, 2013 6:09 p.m.

    Congressional Republicans insisting on "Entitilement Reform" is like addicts ruling on doing away with drugs. When Congress gives up its entitlements, I will consider some kind of reform. They get their salary for life and have the best health care the taxpayers can buy. They also have limo service, huge paid staff members, free franking privilege (postage), and subsidized everything. We pay their salaries and all the other "entitlements". We should be able to vote them a cut in pay, have them lock onto the ACA, and get a job when they leave. Pay them while they are there, but no congressional "golden parachute". Maybe then we'll talk about reform.

  • m.g. scott clearfield, UT
    Oct. 23, 2013 8:12 a.m.

    The word entitlement has always sounded to me like something given to someone for nothing in return. However, if a student going to college on someone elses money now were to return it later by paying for a new student, then that is not so much an entiitlement as it was a "pay it back". All of our government services are paid for by all the tax payers. I suppose the only real entitled people in this country are ones who never pay any taxes and get a lot of government services. The real argument in America is not over "entitlements" but over what programs to fund, and how much to spend on them. Maybe cynical, but I believe that there is not a possible program (other than military) that a Democrat/liberal would not agree to fund with tax dollars. Republicans on the other hand do, (some anyway) think that not every program needs to be funded by government.

  • Tekakaromatagi Dammam, Saudi Arabia
    Oct. 24, 2013 9:27 a.m.

    It is nice to help people in need. It is NOT nice make other people help people in need.

    Decades ago I learned that social security is a scam where they take money from workers and they give to well to-do retirees who receive back 50 to 100x more from social securit than they paid into it. I recognized that if I have additional income in my retirement besides social security and if I still received social security I would be taking food from the mouths of children.

    If I could see that, then why is that so many other people my age are thinking, "I paid into it, I am entitled." I pay taxes, but that does not make me entitled to food stamps. I pay taxes that pay for food stamps so that people don't starve. Not having poor children starving is the benefit I receive.

  • cns St George, Utah
    Oct. 24, 2013 9:28 a.m.

    re: recipients are entitled to social security because they have paid into it. i agree they are entitled to recoup their contributions plus a reasonable increase for lost interest. in st. george there are many who will receive payments for 20 or 30 years and will receive benefits many times their contributions plus interest. what is their entitlement ?

  • RFLASH Salt Lake City, UT
    Oct. 24, 2013 3:41 p.m.

    Republicans focus on what they call entitlements as being the problem in our country! What a bunch of hogwash. They act like they are innocent when it comes to our debt! How absurd! Do republicans spend less than democrats? NO! This whole thing is absurd! ON one side you find all the elite of our nation, and they have 90% of everything and on the other side is the rest of us! Now, according to the good old Republican party, the people causing all of our nations financial problems are among those who have the least! Yeah, isn't that something! This country is full of succers!