Friday, March 17, 2017

Liberal America's "Entitlement Problem"

Go ahead and do a Google search for Liberals and Entitlements.  I'll wait....

Did you get it?  Not pretty, is it?  Apparently we liberals just LOVE to give away the store to all those lazy, fraudulent, and whiny people out there who just won't work for themselves.  Which, obviously, is why we liberals also LOVE taxes.  Okay, I fess up; you got me.  I just thrive on laziness, fraud, and taxes.

What a crock!  I mean, what an absolute, steaming pile of myth!

First of all, there's the word: Entitlements.  In conservative parlance, they take it to mean "free stuff" or, worse, "freeloading".  But an entitlement is, by definition, something you earned.  Social Security and Medicare are programs we all pay for.  7.6% of every single paycheck goes to pay for these programs for your entire working life.  When needed, basically, you withdraw against that balance.  I'm pretty sure every American feels like they are owed (or entitled, if you will) a part of those benefits when the time comes.

For the record, these programs alone comprise half of the federal budget.  And there isn't one politician out there willing to jump on the third rail of Social Security reform.  No other program, including Defense, comes close.

The conservative rant against so-called (but mis-named) entitlements seems to focus on a few specific programs:  unemployment, welfare, and food stamps (SNAP).  These are the punching bags of the "laziness narrative".  Conservative forces want you to think of a fat, lazy alcoholic sitting on his porch, eating Pringles and drinking a beer on your dime while you work your butt off.  This fictional sloth slaps on a phony back brace every time he waddles out to collect his next check and laughs all the way to the bank.  I'm sure there are a few of these characters out there, but that's not what most welfare recipients look like.

What's really interesting is those same interests that like to attack these low-income assistance programs are also the ones that are fighting tooth and nail to keep the minimum wage where it is.  If you want to look at assistance programs, wages HAVE to be a part of the conversation.

Here in Arizona, the living wage for a household of three where both parents work is about $52k per year.  And living wage ain't "living large".  That's enough for a basic apartment and a reliable used car that you both share (which is fun when you both work).  The MEDIAN wage in Arizona is $51k.  You're reading that right.  At least half of the people living here earn less than the minimum needed to sustain a basic normal lifestyle.  Quite a few make a LOT less.  And minimum wage (which we FINALLY passed a measure to increase) doesn't come close to cutting it.

What's you're point, Mike?
Just this:  If you're going to talk about limiting assistance programs, then you HAVE to talk about wages.  People work to support themselves and their families.  If you don't pay people enough to do that, then they are going to need help.  Period.  The math simply doesn't add up any other way.  And that is to say NOTHING of the need for people to save for retirement, their kids' education, and just everyday emergencies that hit us all.  46% of Americans can't absorb a $500 hit to their budget on any given month!  70% have less than $1,000 in the bank.

"There is one thing we are all entitled to: the simple dignity of a means to survive."

Free markets can't be "empathy free."  And individual responsibility can't be "sucks to be you."  We are more than a governmental system.  We are more than a capitalist system.  We are a society of citizens.  There is one thing we are all entitled to: the simple dignity of a means to survive.  It's time for the conservative think-tanks, Super-PACs, and bumper sticker factories to put up or shut up.

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