This is the first of three posts about entitlement:
Today – “Entitlement(s): Attitude and policy”
07/19 – “How I became homeless”
07/26 – “When needs are met”
Let’s get rid of (the term) entitlements
“In 2012, Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid alone represented 44 percent of spending; all entitlement programs were 63 percent. But it’s hard to control entitlement programs because their constituencies are so large.”
It makes sense to me that, as Samuelson proposes, we should discard the term “entitlements” as naming portions of the federal budget that are untouchable. No program should be sacrosanct.
But when I hear the term “entitlements,” I don’t hear reference to Social Security or Medicare. Instead, I hear reference only to programs that provide resources to the poor, which the Tea Party therefore wants to abolish; like food stamps.
The word “entitlement” also speaks to me of an infantile attitude towards life, prone to create poverty no matter who displays it. The Tea Party, for example, feel entitled to take away all that the poor possess; to, as it were, re-possess it.
It begins in infancy.
An infant is entitled to the immediate gratification of its every desire. There is no differentiation of wants and needs; for the infant, it’s a matter of survival. Right and wrong are defined by whether or not immediate gratification obtains. Right is a matter of justice. If you deny what the infant wants, you do it an injustice.
And if the infant doesn’t get justice, you may not have peace.
Normal human development entails growing out of infantilism. We are fortunate as a society that most children move from the state just described, into a mode of learning to satisfy one’s needs for oneself; learning to delay gratification; adopting a less self-centered notion of justice.
The “truly needy” are those who, for whatever reason, have never grown out of it.
We meet such people as adults. Specifically, they feel entitled to whatever you have; and they have the right that you give it to them; and if you don’t, you’ve done them an injustice.
And if they don’t get justice, you may not have peace.
They’re entitled to whatever you’ve got in your pocket. If you don’t give it to them, you do them an injustice.
From “Cut loose the losers:” My custom used to be, after computer time at the library, to buy a cup of coffee at the wi-fi cafe. One day I had to break a $5, and went to the cashier. The man behind me, who did not appear to be in any state of need, said, “Give me a dollar.” I answered, “I don’t have it.” He said, “You’ve got five ones right there.”
They’re also entitled to whatever you don’t have in your pocket. The fact that they want it, means you have an obligation to have it in your pocket. If you don’t have it, you do them an injustice.
NOTE: I’ve felt this way myself, on occasions when I wanted amounts from my patron that he was not in a position to give.
So on the one hand, when I hear demonstrators chant, “No justice? No peace!,” I recognize a collection of adult infants who are offering to throw a group tantrum.
On the other hand, my pastor has noted to me well-off neighbors, and my therapist well-off patients, who they say display the entitlement mentality.
Related: [A perfect example.]
The puzzle for me, from the October ’13 publication of Samuelson’s article till now, has been (as mentioned here) how to help infantile persons make the transition from taking whatever one wants, what one thinks one needs, [away] from others, to making good things for oneself.
A transition I also must make myself.
Related: A MUST-READ CONCERNING JUSTICE AND POVERTY
(Originally posted 04/19/14.)