On Entitlements

Entitlement:  Noun.  The right to a particular privilege or benefit, granted by law or custom.

Conservatives hate entitlements. They lump Social Security, Medicare and many other government programs into the entitlement box. They hate them all. Conservatives in Congress want to privatize both Social Security and Medicare, and abolish Food Stamps, Aid for Dependent Children and any other program that helps people. They label them all ‘Socialism,’ and that is definitely a dirty word to conservatives.

Now here’s the ironic part of that: Conservatives are big beneficiaries of entitlements. The vast array of business subsidies and tax deductions are entitlements with a different name. How about tax-exemptions for churches and tax deductions for individuals contributing to them? Those are huge government privileges and benefits handed out to special groups that are largely conservative-owned and/or sponsored. They are entitlements, but you will never hear a conservative refer to them as such.

Conservatives have hijacked the word ‘entitlement.’ A worker who paid FICA taxes for thirty or forty years is absolutely entitled to his monthly Social Security check when he retires. He has earned it and is entitled to it. He also contributed to Medicare, and continues to do so as a deduction from his Social Security check, so he is entitled to Medicare coverage as well. Entitlement is not a bad or evil word. But conservatives have tried to trash it, and they have succeeded, just as they have with that other word they love to hate.  ‘Liberal’ used to mean open to new ideas and tolerant of others with differing opinions. Conservatives have successfully, at least in their eyes, given the term a connotation somewhere between ‘unpatriotic’ and ‘treasonous.’ They call us ‘libs,’ usually accompanied by a sneer. I just smile and say yes, I am a liberal and proud of it. They just shake their heads, and probably wonder if I am deranged or just inherently evil.  I don’t have any trouble deciding about their motives.  They are not crazy at all.

I must add that I admire their ability to load such positive words with so much negativity. It’s a skill that liberals have not bothered to develop, and it’s time that we responded in kind. I think we should call conservatives ‘cons.’  They seem to be against everything progressive, especially now that Congress is controlled by conservative Republicans who have admitted that their main goal is to stonewall anything that the Obama administration tries to do.  They have been called the “NO” Congress.  

Here’s a suggestion.  Instead of calling ourselves liberals, we should re-label ourselves as ‘progressives,’ and shorten that to ‘pros.’

Pros vs. cons.  That is an accurate description of the politics in this country.  Progressives are in favor of government actions that help and protect people.   Conservatives are against most government actions.  Some of them seem to actually hate government, especially “big” government, meaning one that has ambitious ideas to improve the lot of its citizens.  Grover Norquist, a prominent conservative, once said “I don’t want to abolish government. I simply want to reduce it to the size where I can drag it into the bathroom and drown it in the bathtub.”  Even in jest, his animus toward government is clear.

In fairness, I must admit that conservatives support some things that government can do.  They are always in favor of  cutting taxes for the wealthy and corporations…and I am sure they like those subsidies.  Business deductions limit tax revenue, giving them a perfect argument against social programs:  We can’t afford them because they drive up the deficit.  Does it ever occur to them that all those subsidies and deductions do the same thing?

There is another reason they should be called ‘cons.’  They have conned our government into making “investments” in the wealthy and in huge corporations, instead of investing in the people.  They definitely deserve to be called ‘cons.’ They have earned it.  You could even say they are entitled to it.

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