A Candidate to Cure the Nation of Our Entitlement Notion
The field of GOP nominees for president is getting a little crowded. The candidates, along with President Obama, have varying ideas and strategies to get this country back to work. I’ve been thinking that, despite how already crowded the field is, I might just know the perfect person for the job. My Mom. Yup, that’s right; I think she’s got the goods, the right stuff to turn things around. She has a commodity that seems in bafflingly short supply in Washington these days: common sense.
Years ago, when I was a kid, at Christmas my siblings and I each had a section under the tree where Santa would place all our gifts in one neat pile. When we woke Christmas morning and rushed into the living room, the first observation would be to see who had the biggest pile. We learned early on that the largest didn’t always mean the best stuff so, without judgment, we’d start ripping paper and ogling the goodies. One year, the pickings were slim. I was beyond the Santa stage, around 10 at the time, and I was tragically disappointed as were my brothers and sisters.
“Mom, last year’s gifts were so much better,” I wailed. “These are stupid gifts. They’re cheesy and it’s not fair! We were good and all and didn’t fight too much and this isn’t fair!” I protested loudly with great indignation. My mother looked at me and said calmly, “Last year, your Father and I did the best we could for all you children just as we did this year and just as we will next year. You have always received the best possible gifts that we could afford.” Now, I wasn’t always the brightest bulb in the bunch so let me tell you that this concept hit me like a ton of bricks. It had never dawned on me that the caliber of gifts mirrored my parents’ financial health at any given time. Like an epiphany, I realized that these were gifts, not entitlements.
See, there’s that word. That concept that has this whole country all flummoxed about spending and taxing and searching for a solution to our debt crisis. I say give my Mom a crack at it. The first thing she’d do is stop using the word “entitlement.” People collect far more than they contribute to Medicare and to Social Security, a program designed when the average male lifespan was 58. Medicaid, unemployment compensation, food stamps, low-income housing, etc., are all programs that were designed to give people a leg up—a temporary helping hand in a time of need—and have now become so engrained in our consciousness that an entire generation of people have become mistakenly confident that they are entitled to something by virtue of the fact that their parents got it and it’s all they know. Mom would stop calling them entitlements. She’d call them “Programs generously funded by the humane dignity of a caring community, sustained only through the financial magnanimity of the collective.” Well, maybe she wouldn’t use all those words exactly; she’s from the Midwest, so maybe it would sound more like this, “You can’t spend what you don’t have. Live with it.”
Mom’s got my vote.