Entitlements for Whom?

Posted April 26, 2011
By Clay Cerny

Today’s USA Today featured a claim that over 18% of Americans are relying on “entitlements” to survive. There’s just one problem: working people paid for these alleged entitlements.  Because of the Social Security reform enacted under President Reagan, some of us have paid for our parents’ generation as well as our own.  Now, alleged reformers want to transfer the money we have paid into these programs to insurance companies, banks, and financial services firms.  They also want to introduce limits and means tests.  This is a joke.  No, it’s not a joke.  It’s a crime.

It’s a crime that has happened before.  Both private and public employers have failed to make their contributions to pension funds.  Workers made their contributions, which were deducted from their paychecks.  However, when a pension fund fails because of an employer’s failure to meet an obligation, it is the worker who receives a smaller pension.  How is this a matter of entitlement?  A contract was made and broken with no consequences to the party that failed to live up to its obligation.

Too many working people in America are first class suckers.  People who will lose their retirement income and health care cheer Paul Ryan’s plan because it is labeled “conservative.”  Please tell me what is conservative about cutting Medicare and transferring funds to insurance companies?  What is conservative about giving greater tax cuts to the most wealthy individuals and corporations?  Ryan’s plan is a redistribution of wealth, and it is class warfare.  Bernie Sanders has put it best in calling it “Robin Hood in reverse.”  Ryan’s plan takes from the poor and gives to the rich.

Don’t buy this Frank Luntz-inspired nonsense about “entitlements.”  What about the entitlements for companies like GE or BP that make billions and pay no taxes?  What about entitlements for billionaires who manipulate the tax code so they pay a lower tax rate than a person making $50,000 a year?  (Yes, my good conservative friends, the rich do pay more taxes.  But they are paying less on a dollar than they have in decades, and they are often paying less per dollar than middle class and working Americans.) 

Whenever you hear a word being repeated again, again, and again, it’s time to ask why this word is being repeated and who is behind the message.  Our political leaders are weak, and they owe their existence to special interests that want to transfer public funds to support private interests.  We as working people have paid for Social Security and Medicare.  We are entitled to what we have paid for.  Let’s send a simple, direct message: Hands off!