The United States is a divided country. Much of the limited discourse that does take place is poisoned by divisive rhetoric. Rational thought is cast aside and ridiculous arguments based on unintelligible talking points rule conversation on any important issue of the day. Those talking points can be reduced to several core ideas, believed to be originated by the founding fathers of this country, but instead bastardized by politically motivated think tanks and shyster wordsmiths. To better understand the damage being inflicted upon our nation by these contemptible entities these core ideas will be examined in a series of essays, each focusing on one of the base terms that find their way into our national dialogue, attempting to find greater understanding of the idiom and those who use it as a shield. This post was originally written for a friend’s blog, published there in April, but, in retrospect, should be part of my own blog as well.

Thomas Jefferson believed that government was a direct reflection of the people, and if the people were ignorant of the issues the government would not be representative of the common need. With this reason in mind, I’m going to begin a series in which important terms, repeated in the media and used to frame issues, are fully explored and explained in way to help people understand the issues that much better.

As we arrive on the eve of the much talked about shutdown of the federal government, we have to wonder what is to become of this country? Not because a bunch of egomaniacal politicians, bought and sold by corporate interests, have decided to hold hostage the citizens of the country in a game of ideological chicken over budgetary table scraps, but because of the sheer stupidity that the common person displays when trying to discuss the details of the issues. All too often people are easily deceived into believing the misinformation floated in the mass media simply because they are confused (no, baffled is the better term) by the terminology dreamed up by spinmeisters like Republican pollster, Frank Luntz. Until people can cut through the obfuscation and understand the language being used against them this country is heading in the wrong direction.

Today’s term is Entitlement Program, and is brought to you by Medicare/Medicaid, Social Security, Unemployment Insurance, Education spending (Pell Grants), and programs that supplement the poorest in our nation.

Republicans and Democrats are having a very public hair-pulling session over budgetary cuts. They try and tell you that these are important to the future of the country, but they aren’t being honest. The Republicrats are arguing over what amounts to somewhere between a .8% to 1.7% cut in spending, and much of that scheduled to come from entitlement programs. The politicians argue that cutting in these areas is important because it is spending we can’t afford. On the surface this makes sense, until you actually start to drill down into what they are saying and begin to see what their real motivation is. We need to cut through their obfuscation and really see what they are proposing.

First, what are entitlement programs? We hear so much about them, but the average guy on the street doesn’t know what they are. Entitlement programs are those institutions of government which provide personal benefits, either through financial or social means, to each and every taxpaying citizen of the country. Unfortunately, the context used to describe these programs has changed over the years and taken on a whole new meaning. The term has become a euphemism for giving benefits to the undeserved, completely altering the meaning altogether.

As previously mentioned, entitlement programs come in many shapes and forms. The big ones are Medicare, Social Security and Unemployment Insurance. These are the ones that Americans really need to get their head wrapped around because these are the ones that should hit home the hardest. These programs are not a giveaway of taxpayer money. They have a specific purpose and provide specific long term benefits. These are mandatory programs that taxpayers have contributed toward for generations. These are entitlements that you and I are currently paying into. When you get your paycheck stub there are line items which outline how much is taken out for each of these programs. This tells you the amount you contribute to this pool every two weeks. These are long term benefit programs, underwritten by the government, guaranteed to payout in the future when you need them. The only “entitlement” I see in these programs is that we are all entitled to receive benefits because we have paid into them our whole lives. I will repeat this, because it is the money shot.

We are entitled to these benefits because we have paid into them our whole lives!

This is like being forced to carry automobile insurance. You pay into the pool knowing that if unfortunate circumstances arise you will have access to the resources to pay for damages to your car or the property of others you may have damaged through your negligence. The major difference is that you may never use your automobile insurance and may never gain benefit from that coverage. With these entitlement programs you will, unless you die prematurely, receive benefits in the future. The money you pay into these programs will be returned to you in your later years through Social Security payments and Medicare benefits. You will be getting back the money you paid into the program as long as you live long enough to collect!

So why are politicians attacking entitlement programs? Because there is a massive pool of money there to be exploited! Think about it. Every working stiff in the country has been paying into these programs since the 30s. That is a lot of coin. That much money can buy a lot of power and influence.

There currently are two streams of thought focusing on limiting these entitlement programs. One is to restrict payments while the other is to privatize. Both are nothing but pure power plays and a way to allow corporate interests to dip into that big pool of money.

If politicians can delay or reduce payment of benefits it gives them an incredible reserve of free money to play with. This liquid capital can then be moved around to where it can influence and buy greater power, or just siphoned off into corporate welfare programs. The money that the likes of GE, Exxon, Boeing, Bank of America, Microsoft, CitiGroup and Google get back in tax rebates (all of these companies paid less taxes than you did last year, and most of them paid none) have to come from somewhere, and it is most likely coming from the pool of entitlement programs you and I pay into every two weeks. This is why the age and requirements keep changing, and not to our benefit.

The other popular entitlement elimination strategy bounced around is privatization. Some of the deep thinkers in our political world actually think that Americans should be given private accounts where their retirement savings are gambled in the stock market. Yeah, we’ve seen how that has turned out, time-and-time again. How many Wall Street scandals and collapses of investment firms do we need to see to know that this has disaster written all over it? Now, this doesn’t stop these pointy headed idiots in Washington from pushing this concept forward. Why? Because they get grotesque amounts of money from Wall Street lobbyists who want nothing more than to get their hands on the trillions of dollars in these systems. These parasites make money by gambling yours, and they make money whether they win or lose. To them, it doesn’t matter if they lose your life savings, because the money isn’t theirs to begin with. The only thing this idea proves is that politicians don’t don’t really care about you or I and they are only in the public sector because it provides access to power and money.

You know, the reason why Social Security is such an important and successful program is because it is government run and underwritten. Once you pay into the system your money is guaranteed. There is no potential to lose it because the government has a social contract to pay these funds back to you in your retirement years. There is oversight and regulation in place to safeguard these monies. This is as safe an investment you can make, as long you continue to hold your representative’s feet to the fire and make him protect your money!

So as we ponder the shutdown of the federal government, we need to better understand the issues these so called representatives are using against us. Only by understanding the language and how it is framing the issue will we be better prepared to protect our individual investment in our country and protect ourselves from the real transfer of wealth that is taking place. The money you pay in taxes should be going to help people like you and me through the long established entitlement programs and not to aid corporations who make billions in profits. We are entitled to these programs we pay into because it is our money and we have the pay stubs to prove it!