Tag Archives: Semantics

Take it to the White House

Last night was one of a long series of Joint Appearances by Presidential Candidates (thanks to whoever tweeted JAPCans months ago) for the GOP. There was a portion of the “debate” in which candidates were asked what they would bring with them to the White House if elected. Michele Bachmann said she would bring the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, prompting many jokes on Twitter.

It is more than just semantics to understand what an amendment is. The Constitution of the United States has been amended 27 times – the first 10 simultaneously. Each and every one of these changes is an addendum to the document. The Bill of Rights are indeed part of the Constitution. But it’s important to remember that so are the other ones.

Just because they aren’t written on old paper with a menial ‘s’ doesn’t mean that other amendments are any less important. You can definitely make your own hierarchy, to be sure, but I think the authors of the Reconstruction amendments hold a similar place to the authors of the Constitution. The end of slavery, the authority to tax income, the popular vote of senators, the definition of citizenship, the suffrage of blacks, women, and young adults – these are all as important as the right to bear arms and enjoy privacy and protest. It’s a shame that these latter amendments are often ignored in favor of the glory of the Bill of Rights.

So, if for some reason the White House doesn’t have its own copy of the Constitution – every President should print out the original with all 27 amendments and keep it in his or her pocket. Keep in mind that that means you have the founding Constitution, the Bill of Rights, and 17 other important P.S.s – even two that negate each other – all in one handy document called the Constitution.

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Why I Don’t Like the Term “Entitlements”

There’s a thing that a lot of Western liberal countries have. They use taxes to pay for services that are provided to anyone who needs them. In some countries programs include unemployment and retirement, in some there is healthcare or paid maternity leave. These have a lot of names. Welfare. Social Security. Entitlements.

The word entitlements has always kind of irked me. When I was teaching my high school government class, we broke down the federal budget and kept coming back to this word. This word that encapsulated Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid along with other welfare programs. I explained what I thought was a misnomer. Feeling entitled to something has the implication that you feel that you are owed something, without having earned it – that you are undeserving of the thing you think should be yours. Does this really describe the programs which are being lumped under the umbrella term “entitlement?”

When did we start calling things "entitlements"? The 80s, apparently.

As Americans, most of us pay quite a bit to one government or another. Between the federal government, state government, and various local forms of government, my money is spread around through a variety of taxes. That money goes to pay for things like my primary and secondary education, the roads on which I drive, the Post Office I use to mail things, and – yes – food stamps if I need them and retirement when I get to that point. All of these things are the same type of service, and it’s not me being spoiled or feeling entitled. It’s me getting my money’s worth (although not really, if you break it down, but that’s another story).

My father has worked pretty much endlessly from high school graduation until now. Being self-employed since the 1980s, he hasn’t had health insurance in years, and as he’s getting closer to retirement he’s pretty excited about medicare. Having paid into America’s Social Security Administration for over forty years, is it really a sense of entitlement to say that he wants healthcare for his remaining years?

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