One of the things that some of my readers get REALLY fired up about is when Social Security is referred to as an entitlement. I can understand why. After all, the term entitlement has taken on a demeaning definition that insinuates getting something that you haven’t earned or maybe even deserve. But is it possible we are all being jerked around a little bit here?
Over the past couple of years I’ve noticed that the dialogue about government entitlement programs has gotten really heated. That’s not really a surprise considering the current level of political division. Many of our congressmen and senators have discovered how polarizing the use of the word entitlement is and that they can associate it with words like welfare, or handouts, or charity. Then they can fire up their supporters by loudly proclaiming SOCIAL SECURITY IS NOT AN ENTITLEMENT!
What’s happened here is that they’ve effectively redefined the word entitlement into something that is divisive. How handy. Here’s the truth…The federal government has referred to Social Security as an entitlement program for several decades. On their website, you can see hundreds of uses of the word. In fact, they go so far as to explicitly state “The social security benefit programs are entitlement programs.”
What does Entitlement mean?
So why do they refer to it this way and does it have a negative connotation?
If you examine the definition of the word entitlement, you’ll see there is no mention of welfare, charity or handouts.
The Merriam Webster dictionary defines it as a government program providing benefits to members of a specified group.
The Cambridge dictionary defines it as something, often a benefit from the government, that you have the right to have.
Then, in the glossary of the United States Senate, the word entitlement is defined as a federal program or provision of law that requires payments to any person or unit that meets the eligibility criteria.
The fact is, the phrase “entitlement program” is simply a term for any government program guaranteeing certain benefits to a segment of the population who qualify for them under specific terms and conditions.
That’s exactly what Social Security is. You have to work for at least 10 years with a certain amount of earnings to be ENTITLED to your own benefit. But in the highly politicized world that we live in, what words actually mean and the meaning given to words aren’t always the same.
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Question: Do you think Social Security should be called an entitlement?
Thanks for reading, and have a great day!