Posted by: sweeneyblog | July 26, 2011

Entitlement Reform?

Dear Everyone who keeps describing Social Security as “Entitlements”, 

      Somehow the word “entitlement” has taken on a  negative connotation in American politics. Dictionaries, as they’re apt to do, add to the confusion by offering multiple definitions from “a right to benefits specified especially by law or contract” to “a belief that one is deserving of or entitled to certain privileges.”  So an entitlement under the first definition could mean my constitutional right to vote, bear arms and write this blog. The latter definition of “entitlement” suggests that I am owed something no matter if I earned it. A feeling of entitlement has associations with elitism and inheritance.

Earned, not freely given

     Sadly, its this connotation of “entitlement” that pundits and politicians, on both sides of the aisle, conjure when they describe  Social Security as an “entitlement”.  I take great offense to this and so should anyone who works for a paycheck. Social Security is not something you just get handed by the government. It is something that you and your employer pay into most of your working life. Social Security benefits are earned. You have to work 10  years (40 quarter credits) in Social Security covered employment just to be vested. You and your employer have to pay  into the system and the amount of your benefit at retirement is determined by your earnings and number of years worked. That’s not entitlement or a birthright; it’s a fund managed by our federal government and paid into by working people and their employers.  

     And yes, the fund isn’t being managed well enough at this time to give me confidence that it will be there when I retire in 40 or 50 years. But when I hear someone telling me we have to tackle entitlement reform and they mean Social Security, I get more than a little wary. I get downright pissed. When they say entitlement in this context, it’s as if they’re saying  “I want to steal the money out of our savings account because the working people who paid into it don’t have a right to it.” Let’s do reform if there is the will to so. I recommend we start by remembering that Social Security is an earned benefit and not something entitled by residential status, birthright or citizenship.


The Political Junkie



  1. Good work.
    Now – take a couple of moments and post your comments on John Bohener and Eric Cantor’s web sites. Apparently, neither legislator understands that Medicare and Social Security are insurance programs that we have paid premiums for our entire lives.
    P.S. We held up our end of the bargain, now we expect the government to hold up to its end of the bargain.

  2. Well, you are um… allowed to your opinion.

    Hmm. That wasn’t quite the right word. brb.

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