Takedown: Nobody Owes You Anything

There are certain words that, in and of themselves, are polarizing. Jargon that is used by either side of a debate, and once somebody utters one of these words, it’s almost always a good idea to back away slowly, as the conversation is not likely to go anywhere. One example is “Obamacare.” President Obama has attempted to embrace it in a positive way, but I’ve yet to hear it coming from a mouth that is not sneering, and the instant that it is said, I know that the person has dug in their heels and meaningful conversation won’t be possible. On the other side of things, much as I hate to admit it (since I use this phrase), “the War on Women” is a clear signal that the speaker is pretty far left of center and if you want to argue with them about abortion, you probably won’t be changing their mind.

One such word has been repeatedly coming up in my conversations lately, and I’m tired of it. Maybe you’ve guessed it: “entitlements.”

Entitlement
Photo from "The Liberty and Freedom Foundation" Facebook page, which, as you can probably guess, is a bastion of tolerance and love.

The photo comes with a block of text, just in case you can’t figure it out from the picture:

CONTRARY TO BELIEF….NO ONE OWES YOU ANYTHING!!!

Yet Liberals seem to think that everyone else owes them something. They are owed this entitlement and that entitlement. Guess what. No one owes anyone else anything. When you work for something you get rewarded, no one hands you anything for free in business, why should the taxpayer hand over entitlements just because someone thinks they deserve it. NO WAY! That is not how America was built, that is not what America stands for. We stand for hard work and earning what you have!

Okay, I need to get something out of the way from the get-go: the saying is “contrary to popular belief.” Now, maybe the creator of the graphic is trying to make a point that the belief isn’t popular, because only silly, silly liberals think it, but then what’s the point? I think it’s more likely that they just aren’t familiar with common idioms in the English language. Totally acceptable, if they are second language learners, but don’t forget! The far right has no love for immigrants, so probably not.

Now, onto the content. “Entitlement” has become a GOP codeword for any sort of social support programs: Medicare, Medicaid, food stamps. Entitlement technically just means “the fact of having a right to something,” but in the current political climate, it means “when a lazy, lazy, lazy greedy person takes money from the hardworking people just because they think they deserve it.”

A friend of mine recently posted on his wall that he thought it was hypocritical for people to complain about social programs while taking farm subsidies, and one of his friends replied:

Entitlements
See - farm subsidies are okay. It's the entitlements that are not.

In these comments, it is clear that “entitlement” has taken on a different meaning than its dictionary form: farm subsidies are not included in this new definition of entitlements, because they generally go to (Republicans/white people/male people/”hardworking” people/people like me). Entitlements, on the other hand, go to (lazy people/brown people/poor people/stupid people/people not like me). In other words, it has little basis in reality, and is instead a way for a person to make themselves feel superior. No matter who you are, entitlements refer to something other than what you are getting (lest we forget, just about everybody is getting something), and they are something that you think the other person doesn’t deserve.

Another example showed up on my feed this week:

Entitlement
Ugh. Ugh ugh ugh.

I’ve written about this type of crapdate before, but it deserves a rehashing, not because of the picture itself but because of the commentary that happened after it. I replied to the posting that I didn’t think that kind of thinking was right, but I was quickly shouted down. And then this, from the original poster:

Entitlement
The problem isn't food stamps, it's other people on food stamps.

In reality, these arguments, these fights against social programs, have nothing to do with the social programs themselves, nor do they have anything to do with helping or not helping those in need. What is really happening is a need to prove superiority, a need to justify the entitlement that you feel. Because remember, entitlement just means having the right to something. You deserve what you get, and you appreciate it when you do, and so your entitlement is legitimate. The social help that is going to other people, though – well, those people are below you in some way, and one way to increase the distance is to be disdainful.

Which brings me back to entitlement. Entitlement has come to mean lazy people gobbling up the government money, but the biggest entitlement of all is never mentioned. This was my response to the woman who was talking about entitlement above:

Screen shot
Surprise! Susan is my real first name.

Yes, the country is full of entitlement. The country is full of people who think that the government owes them something simply because they were born here – only this type of entitlement isn’t based on anything tangible such as demonstrated need, but instead, the absolute coincidence of place of birth. If people are truly tired of entitlement, if they are sick and tired of people feeling they have a right to something, the first step is to throw open the borders and legalize all forms of immigration.

Say that at the next party you go to, and watch people shrivel in horror. Yes. Entitlement. We all feel like we are entitled to things, and the only entitlements that anybody has a problem with are those that don’t help them.

There is another, final aspect to this that goes unsaid. “Yet Liberals seem to think that everyone else owes them something.” I do think the government owes me something. I gave two years of service to the Peace Corps, I’ve paid taxes my entire life, I am part of the human capital that makes this country strong. By nature of being a part of this country, I also give up a portion of myself to this country. In return, I expect some benefits from the government. The government without the people is nothing. The people absolutely should expect things in return. The Right is opposed to big government, but to say “the government owes me nothing” is writing a blank check for oppression. The government owes us all something, and all of us need to keep that in mind, especially those who are opposed to government becoming too strong.

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Susan

I am old and wise. Perhaps more old than wise, but once you're old, you don't give a shit about details anymore.

19 thoughts on “Takedown: Nobody Owes You Anything”

  1. What’s wrong with entitlement? What’s wrong with having a society that says, “Yes, we want every person in our country to be entitled to things far beyond what they might be able to achieve by themselves.” What is WRONG with that? Honestly? If being entitled means that people get to the point where they think a human should by default have their illness treated, be able not to live in poverty, have a home and food and enjoy life, then I will be entitled as fuck until the day I die.

  2. Because nothing taste more ridiculous than a bunch of people using the word entitled who come from a legacy of colonialist who found someones house, took over, kidnaped and enslaved people,  built a country that was skewed against everyone but property holders, which could only be rich, white men, made women property, and basically have been fighting against every single social change to bring fairness and equity to others since ever.

  3. That is not how America was built

    I’d like to see a completely independent source (Ha Ha, those don’t exist!) to back this up. Clearly America was a fool-proof, corruption and nepotism-free country, build by unicorn tears and Phoenix-hair.

    And I hate the word entitlement. It smacks of undeserved satisfaction and smugness.

  4. To me, “entitlement” means how kids today, a.k.a, special snowflakes, have parents who give them every little thing they whine for–iPhones, etc. Many people are so caught up with appearances and better, faster, more, now, consume, buy, use, throw away, and don’t think about the long-term consequences. That is entitlement.

    Also, the posted Facebook comment (below) is beyond asinine, for more than one reason.

    I myself dont get foodstamps anymore and when i did have them it all went to food

    One can use food stamps for only food. I know because I’m on them. I guess I’m “entitled”–it’s fantastically entitled to be mentally ill and depending on public assistance for my basic needs, let me tell you.

    1. I was gonna say… Food Stamps are on a card dohicky now, and at least at the grocery store I worked at the card could tell the difference between decorative gourds and squash you could eat. Food stamps really only work for food.

      But I think the problem with the entitlement issue is that people are lumping those who complain about the government not providing the things that it should with the kids who cry about not getting iPhones as if the two were somehow one and the same. Wanting health care is totally the same as wanting an unnecessary luxury good.

  5. I love this, yes! The Government DOES owe us stuff–lots of stuff! That’s the function of government. Other countries don’t kill me, my neighbor doesn’t come steal my stuff, the fire in my house gets put out, I can go to the hospital, the road I drive to get to work doesn’t have too many pot holes, my kids can go to school, there are means for my food and gas and other stuff to get to me, and currency in place for me to buy that stuff… etc. etc. etc. AND ON AND ON! It’s not an entitlement, it is the whole system of people living in a society. As ever, you’re brilliant at these things.

  6. I think you’re spot on about the government owing us something. We are its people. We support the infrastructure that keeps the government in place. A government needs its people, and the people need their government. This is a symbiotic relationship, not a parasitic one! And also, the entitlement factor in the US is found all across the board on all strata of the economic scale. (I feel like I’m mixing metaphors here…) In fact, most of the entitlement that I have witnessed in this country comes from those with more money, not from those with less.

  7. I am SO EXCITED for the day to come when entitlement is no longer a buzzword. Currently in Canada Quebec students are striking and demonstrating due to a $1200 tuition increase over 4 years.While I am against the strike personally (for reasons that have to do with knowing how cash-strapped universities tend to be, understanding  how screwed over universities are in Canada by major cuts to all federal granting agencies,  and being annoyed at the picketers for blocking fellow students from attending class if they want to), a lot of the rhetoric has been “aren’t these young people SO ENTITLED” and that gets my hackles up.When my generation complains about the status quo, it’s because it leaves us with more expensive education, fewer jobs, more debt, and a longer time working than our parent’s generation, that isn’t entitlement, that’s hopelessness and a loss at what else to do.  Everyone I know 30 and under has that hanging over their heads.  People aren’t entitled if they don’t legitimately see any means to improve their lives and need help to have any chance of making it.

  8. I’m just addressing a tiny part of your brilliant piece here, but I can’t let the comment about nothing happening for free in business pass without flapping my piehole about it.

    Let’s start with American behemoth GE, who cleverly avoided paying any taxes at all a year or so ago. Taxes that, all things being equal, should have been on some $30 billion dollars of profits. Now GE has lots of extra money to spend on TV spots telling us how awesome GE is. If we followed the rhetoric that we need to start taxing all the people we’ve previously deemed too damn poor to pay taxes, and all of those people DID pay taxes, the total amount collected would be a drop compared to the gallons owed by GE.

    On a smaller scale, I live near the former site of an international airport. (It moved five miles to the west.) Any business that was started within a few miles of the old airport received a tax abatement for no less than ten years. The airport has been gone for years, yet I’m still paying much higher property taxes so the businesses in the airport development zone (now nowhere near an airport) don’t have to.

    Our local football team threatened to leave if they didn’t have a brand new stadium built for them. We built it, then we had to pay the football team several million dollars because building them a new stadium changed their contract. We’re still paying 1% sales tax in our state to pay for the old stadium, which has now been torn down. We’ve paid that tax for 30 years.

    Amazon.com is moving some warehouses to my home state because we won’t force them to collect/pay state taxes.

    If the government doesn’t owe it’s poorest citizens a safety net to keep them from starving to death, it certain doesn’t owe the football team, Amazon, GE and airports that don’t even exist anymore anything either.

    1. Oh, oh! Several years ago, my city’s citizens voted down by 2/3-majority the building of a new basketball arena, but it was built anyway. We already had an NBA team that left, namely because they couldn’t sell enough tickets to the games. Well, lo and behold, they can’t give away sell tickets to the games for the new team in the new arena now. Shocking.

      Now “they” (city/county commissioners?) want to build a baseball stadium for a national league team, all in the name of “tourism”. There’s already a minor-league team just over the state line, about a half-hour away.

      Meanwhile, our libraries have had to close several branches, terminate employees and severely cut back hours at remaining open branches. Priorities, we have them.

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