They’re not "entitlements," they’re a promise

I posted a diary a while back on why it’s important to frame same-sex marriage as “marriage equality” instead. Not because “same-sex marriage” isn’t factually true — it is. That’s what it is. Framing the issue as marriage equality, however, presents it as a matter of basic equality. Which it also is. The same issue comes to the fore when we on the left discuss Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. I freely admit there’s something vaguely Orwellian about these sort of language games; yet, like it or not (I don’t), this is the way postmodern politics in the United States work.

Frankly put, we on the left must and absolutely must work our hardest to change this concept of “entitlements.” This is the right’s language. They’ve employed it with welfare reform and have been using it for years now to demonize the concept of a social safety net. Why it works so well: there’s this concept surrounding the word “Entitlement” suggests getting something you haven’t earned. It’s been racialized with anti-immigrant hysteria and lingering hatred toward the African-American community on the part of white politicians and white right-wing media types. Beyond that, however, “entitlement” has been used by the right quite effectively to demonize what little social safety net we have here.
As if those benefits are things you and I haven’t paid for out of each and every paycheck we’ve been fortunate enough to earn.
This is a classic political language game, and it’s one defenders of what the preamble to the Constitution would call “the general welfare” have been losing on multiple fronts. The way forward is to stop — for all time — the use of the word “entitlement.” It may not be right that that particular word has acquired the negative association it has, but as we’re a fact-based community, we deal with it and move on. Instead, we refer to “the social safety net” or even “programs that promote the common good.” Or “the bedrock of the New Deal.” Because that’s what those particular programs are — the assurance that we, as a society, will sacrifice as a whole to protect our elders and the poor. The most vulnerable. Beyond that, Medicare, Social Security, and Medicaid represent the idea that in the United States, the most vulnerable among us will not be left behind by the least vulnerable. To do so is not only ethically reprehensible, but frankly un-American — another Orwellian term I don’t use lightly.
Anything that refutes the notion that Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid are somehow programs that are unearned is incorrect and equally reprehensible — the fact is that every working American pays into them. And as far as cuts go — we do not accept them in any form. We march, we protest, we call our representatives and senators, and we let them know we’re as mad as hell and we will not take this anymore. I have no expectation of enjoying Medicare or Social Security, and as a 26-year old, I think that says more about the America we live in than it does about my natural pessimism. Ladies and gents, we fight. Otherwise we’re all screwed, young and old alike.
(Originally posted at

~ by Benji on July 25, 2011.

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