Tag Archives: Welfare

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┬áto 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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