"The democracy of to-day hold the liberty of one man to be absolutely nothing, when in conflict with another man's right of property. Republicans, on the contrary, are for both the man and the dollar; but in cases of conflict, the man before the dollar."
-- Abraham Lincoln, 1859
The above quote of President Lincoln's discusses the Democrats (democracy) and Republicans of the mid 1800's. The parties are very different now than they were back then, but the principle of the message remains: that there are those in America who feel the liberty of one man means nothing when it conflicts with another man's right of property (including money). And still there are those who feel the necessity of balance between humanity and money while also realizing that humanity must come first. I place myself in that latter category of Americans.
Social Security and Medicare make up the two biggest "entitlement" items by budgetary outlay. The $1.25 trillion in mandatory 2015 spending for Social Security coupled with the $986 billion in mandatory 2015 spending for Medicare totals 87% of all mandatory, legislated spending.1 That does not include discretionary health spending.
Both of these spending categories are lumped in to this "entitlement" perspective, one that feels people are "entitled" to money or aid from others in society. As I've stated before, humanity and all the unalienable Rights that come with us must be the foundation for America. These Rights require a certain level of general welfare, a sharing of the burden in today's modern age. No longer are we as citizens to be self-sufficient- building our own homes on our own land, raising livestock, farming for food, and participating in trade of goods and services for mere survival. Instead we're cogs in the great economic machine of industry, providing time and effort in exchange for wages which can then be used for goods and services. I don't think there is anyone in America that could live a healthy, happy, safe, fulfilling life without aid and/or interaction with others.
This is an important point to understand. We are all in this together as both human beings and Americans. In this regard, everyone deserves an equal opportunity, a chance to reach their potential, a chance to move through the difficulties of life with the aid of modern advances in healthcare. We could easily save $900 billion on Medicare if we scrapped all medicines. We'd also see a rise in debilitating injuries, sickness, and death. You'd have more money to spend, but you'd also likely die much younger because health insurance costs would be unbearable without Medicare and other assisting programs. Not to mention the crippling poverty that would exist among senior citizens. Who wants to work all their life and then be broke at 70, unable to buy even cheap noodles at the grocery store due to lack of income?
Some call this entitlement. I call it a caring, civilized society.
So let's discuss real entitlement. Even though I just discussed trillions in budgetary costs, I do feel entitlement is a real problem in America. This kind of entitlement, the negative connotation of the term, plagues millions of America and a huge plethora of businesses. Basically, America's problem with entitlement is America's problem with selfishness.
- If you believe that you shouldn't have to pay taxes, you're entitled.
- If you think Congress should pass legislation to ease some burden on your business, legislation that removes benefits to consumers (like clean water), you're entitled.
- If you want lower tax rates else you'll move yourself and/or your business to another country, you're entitled.
- If you feel the person in line at the fast food joint is ordering too slowly and your time is more valuable than theirs, you're entitled.
- If you feel you can drive like a maniac on the highway, swerving in and out of traffic while cutting people off, you're entitled. Especially if it's not for a booty call.
- If you think you deserve that toy at Christmas more than any other American, you're entitled.
- If you park in a "reserved" spot because you feel it's ok to deprive someone else of their parking space since you'll only be in Starbucks for five minutes, you're entitled. (this happens multiple times per day where I work)
- If you think your broken tibia needs to take precedence over that woman having a heart attack, you're entitled.
- If you think about government in terms of the word "I," you're entitled.
Entitlement is selfishness. It is greed and vanity. And it exists all over America. Corporations knowingly skirt tax law because they feel entitled to not play fairly.2 People think babies should never be allowed on planes because the crying might disturb them. NFL quarterbacks demand flags thrown should they get touched by another player. Drivers feel hanging out in the left lane on the highway while doing five miles below the speed limit, ruining everyone's ability to pass is perfectly acceptable. Anyone who walks diagonally across a parking lot in front of traffic, preventing other cars from moving forward, clearly sees themselves as the center of the universe. We all have our selfish moments. Most of them are completely undeserved. We need to be less selfish, less entitled.
When entitlement reform gets brought up, ask about businesses that feel entitled to tax deductions. Ask about the uber rich wanting to write off mortgage interest on their sixth home. Ask about the executives that decide to take multi-million dollar bonuses instead of giving their employees even a $100 bonus of their own. Entitlement is far more than just "welfare" programs meant to aid in the preservation of our unalienable Rights and equality of opportunity; entitlement is ego run amok.
I want to combat the culture of entitlement. We don't need an enlightened monk-like society where the concept of the self doesn't even exist, but we really do need to curb the practice a bit. This is done through the philosophical shift I'm pushing in my campaign. That foundation for America has honor built in to it, automatically requiring a lesser degree of selfishness than I feel currently exists. Pushing this message even more will slowly bring about the cultural change necessary to move beyond certain senses of entitlement.
Don't get me wrong. I'm not saying certain programs shouldn't have built in checks and balances to ensure Americans are legitimately trying to participate in society. Individuals who want to collect unemployment, food stamps, and other government benefits without even bothering to look at the classifieds and while also getting drunk and high on a daily basis are just as "entitled" as the CEO who would rather take an excessive multi-million bonus than raise salaries of deserving workers or offer employees a nice holiday bonus of their own. Entitlement, selfishness, and ego is a characteristic of humanity: it doesn't care about your age, gender, income, race, religion, or sexual preference. Excessive ego is excessive ego.
- See Federal Spending: Where Does the Money Go.
- "Play fairly" presents an interesting philosophical question here. If you are able to avoid paying your fair share of taxes because you gamed the system, finding deductions and loopholes you weren't meant to take but are somehow allowed to, is that really unfair? Or is it playing according to the hand you were dealt, one that allows you to bend law for the sake of profit?