Over at least a decade, there’s been debate about entitlements and about a younger generation that may or may not feel “entitled.” Almost always, the use of the phrase is derogatory and suggests individuals or groups who feel they deserve something without paying for it. Although the actual meaning of the word “entitled” means that someone has been given the right to receive something, Americans have a problem with those whom they believe do not deserve that right.
My problem with all the debate is that it’s not inclusive enough, that all too many groups and individuals are receiving societal/governmental benefits for which they either have not paid anything or for which they have paid a minimal amount in comparison to the value of what they have received. Now… in the United States, there are certain benefits to which law-abiding and tax-paying citizens are or should be “entitled.” We deserve fair and impartial laws and a justice system that supports them. We should have a government that protects us from attack by other countries and by terrorists or by law-breakers within our own society. We have decided as a society that part of the role of government is to support highway systems and air transport systems that benefit us all, and to regulate businesses and organizations so that we all have clean air, safe food, and various safe products. For these and other services we pay taxes.
The entitlement problem comes when people are perceived to receive services and benefits out of proportion to what they have paid. When people receive welfare benefits of various sorts for long periods of time, with some families receiving them for generations, people get angry, even though statistics show that most welfare recipients don’t receive benefits for nearly that long.
Likewise, often business owners or professionals in a field get angry when younger people express the idea that they are “entitled” to a job, especially a particular position, even when they don’t have the requisite education and/or experience.
Those are the well-known examples of “undeserved entitlement,” but what about those that aren’t so well known? For example, isn’t the corporation that receives the overall services, legal system, and national market provided by the government, but which pays no taxes on billions of dollars of income, receiving an undeserved entitlement? Or the Bundy family, which is supposed to pay $1.70 per cow and calf for federal grazing rights [a fee less than a tenth of that charged on private land], yet hasn’t paid any of those fees for almost a decade and claims that the land belongs to them through what amounts to squatters’ rights? What about a company that “bargains” for tax breaks from states when relocating a new facility [which effectively places more of the burden for state services on other taxpayers]? Are oil companies and others investing in oil and gas development entitled to a “depletion allowance,” which can reduce taxable income by as much as fifteen percent, simply because it’s possible they might run out of oil and gas to extract? Why are homeowners entitled to deduct their mortgage costs from their taxable income [perhaps as a subsidy to the construction industry?], but renters can’t deduct their rent payments? Then there are the unnecessary military bases that the Defense Department can’t close because senators and representatives insist their constituents are entitled to the remaining jobs at those facilities – which means the rest of us end up paying for those entitled jobs.
So… when people start complaining about entitlements, perhaps they should consider how many they enjoy that they haven’t considered. But then, those are always the exceptions that are deserved.