THE SIMPLE TRUTH ABOUT “ENTITLEMENTS”

Walter Willams is a doctor of economics and nobody, not even Thomas Sowell, is better at explaining –in layman’s terms — what’s wrong with our “entitlement” programs and why they need to go away.

“The language Congress uses to describe their spending is corrupt beyond redemption. Think about the term entitlement. If one American is entitled to something he didn’t earn, where in the world does Congress get the money? It’s not Santa or the Tooth Fairy.

The only way Congress can give one American a dollar is to first take it from another American.

Therefore, an entitlement is a congressionally given right for one American to live at the expense of another. In other words, Congress forcibly uses one American to serve the purposes of another American.

As such, it differs in degree, but not kind, from that uglier part of our history where black people were forcibly used to serve the purposes of their slave masters.”

  • Mike from Boston

    Someone here posted earlier that there are several government programs that could never have a private sector counterpart, and cited NASA as an example. I know for a fact that is false.

    A good friend of mine graduated from Penn State with a degree in mech. engineering and interned at NASA, where he felt he was wasting his time being buried alive in bureaucratic red tape. Now he works for SpaceX in California, which is building re-useable rockets to send to the international space station at FRACTIONS OF THE COST that the government would be spending. SpaceX’s cost of operations is a whole order of magnitude lower than that of NASA. NASA’s existence is a continued necessity as a regulatory body, but as far as actual space vehicle assembly and launch missions go they are obsolete.

    And with regards to entitlement programs, here’s a thought-provoking article from Reason about how entitements do more harm than good, and create more racial discrimination instead of combating it.

    http://reason.com/archives/2011/06/02/government-against-blacks

    Be sure to also watch the video interview with Walter Williams.

    • http://justwatchthegame.com JohnSteigerwald

      Mike, you really are a subversive– reading Reason Magazine and listening to Walter Williams. My niece starts her internship at Reason next week…she may be contributing here this summer.

  • Mike from Monroeville

    Quit whining and sign the check.

  • franji1

    I’ve been saying this – if you’re on the government dole, you lose your right to vote due to “conflict of interest”. That means that the people who PAY taxes are responsible for deciding who gets an Entitlement.

    Hence, those that receive Entitlement can’t vote for a guy who promises them MORE Entitlement money.

    If you want your right to vote back, all you have to do is get off the government dole, or depend upon those who are giving it to you. It’s your choice.

    • http://justwatchthegame.com JohnSteigerwald

      That would take a constitutional amendment, but if they followed the constitution we wouldn’t have any federal entitlements.

      • franji1

        When Bush-W started sending people $300 checks, then $600 checks, then Obama started doing the same – I thought “oh, I’ll run for President and offer people $1,000 checks if they vote for me (and I win)! Yeah, that’s the ticket! Wait, how about a MILLION dollar check!.” Didn’t George McGovern promise a $100 check back in 1972 and we all laughed?

        All those Americans getting unemployment checks FOR DOING NOTHING. At least in Communist Russia, you had a GOVERNMENT JOB to go to. Imagine that, in America, it would be a CRIME to ask unemployed people to work 20 hours at their local government (pick up trash, clean buildings) in order to get their unemployment check. Oh, the days of Mother Russia, where you had to work for the government to get your government check. In America, you just get your check without having to work! As Yakov Smirnoff would say, “What a Country!”

        • Gary M

          unemployment benefits are important. Your employer pays into it and you need a ‘tide over’. I lost my job at USS in Homestead and needed that help. But, I didn’t get 2 YEARS worth of benefits and the government didn’t have to use BORROWED money in order to pay me.
          But unemployment is more of a national issue and hey, there’s votes in them ‘thar benefits…..
          And remember, Nancy Pelosi said, before signing the extension that your grandchildren will be paying for, ‘It’s the best way to stimulate the economy’
          A despicable, vapid, person who not only doesn’t have a clue, she doesn’t have any suspects.

          • franji1

            How about this – the first 3 months are normal. After that, you have to work 20 hours per week, or lose your benefit. You work 10 hours, that week’s check is HALF. Oh, and after a year, you’re done. You know this up front.

          • Donald

            Gary, if the gubmint didn’t take your money and make you jump through a hoop to get it back (unemployment compensation)… a person could simply save for a rainy day. Just like grandma used to do.

            But see, that would require people being responsible for themselves. And as we all know, that doesn’t sell. Far better to trade away some liberty for some security. Ben Franklin was correct on that one.

          • http://justwatchthegame.com JohnSteigerwald

            If the government got out of the unemployment insurance business…private companies would fill the void.

          • howard

            That’s quite the assumption considering the mess deregulation of the banks did to our economy. I love how the mythical private sector will fill the void for every government agency. It’s a wonderful notion…severely flawed however.

          • http://justwatchthegame.com JohnSteigerwald

            So, now the private sector is a myth? That’s scary. The economic meltdown was caused by government interference in the real estate market.

          • howard

            No, the myth is the assumption by fiscal conservative that the private sector will pick up the slack and fill the gaps by cutting government endowed programs. Your last sentence is you being a revisionist historian blinded by your own bias, but I will agree with you. However, the government interference started with the deregulation. Period.

          • http://justwatchthegame.com JohnSteigerwald

            Name me a federal government program (not counting defense or law enforcement) that can do a better job for you than you can do for yourself.

          • howard

            Fire Department. Parks Services. Nasa.

          • howard

            Surgeon General and the FDA have done some good…Fuck the FCC though. (Sorry, I’m a Howard Stern fan)

          • http://justwatchthegame.com JohnSteigerwald

            The FDA allows thousands of people to die every year while they’re protecting them from drugs that might harm them. I have a feeling a private company would do just as well if not better than most govt. fire companies and I’m a big fan of the space program but it would have been done better by a private company contracted by the government. It’s also a legitimate function of the federal govt because it plays a major role in defense –which means it’s sort of an extension of the military. The federal govt. should do what it was intended to do which is almost nothing beyond provide for common defense, regulate interstate commerce and provide appeals courts.

          • howard

            Yeah, the FDA has done tons of bad with their protections of consumers and citizens. Millions upon millions(including you) live because of the regulatory practices put in place by the FDA.

          • http://justwatchthegame.com JohnSteigerwald

            Thousands and thousands of people have died or suffered over the years waiting for FDA approval. A good example is aspirin. Bayer was forbidden for years to claim that aspirin could reduce the possibility of a heart attack. There’s no way to count the number or people who might have avoided heart attacks if not for the FDA. If a thousand people die because of the side effects of a drug that’s easy to count. But, the hundreds of thousands who might have lived because of using the same drug are unaccounted for. They’re just dead. Drug companies are discouraged from creating new drugs by the ridiculously long time that it takes to get FDA approval. Why would a drug company want to make a drug that would harm people and result in billions of dollars in law suits?
            ******************************************************
            “Without going into detail, the researchers (at M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston) calculate that the clinical trial regulations cost $2,700,000 per life-year saved. In contrast, dialysis costs $43,000 to $104,000 per life year saved; statin drugs cost $19,000 to $25,000 per life-year; and colorectal cancer screening costs $14,000. The regulations appear to save about 16 life-years over the course of drug development. On the other hand, the authors conservatively estimate that increased regulatory delays in drug approvals results in the loss of nearly 300,000 life-years in the U.S. Sixteen life-years versus 300,000 life-years! The authors conclude, “The current regulatory situation is unacceptable and seems to be unethical.” A similar story of pervasive government failure holds for drug development aiming to treat other diseases.”

            http://reason.com/archives/2011/01/25/government-pills

          • http://justwatchthegame.com JohnSteigerwald

            Your boy Obama, based on the people he has hired, seems to be a big fan of the “Fair”ness Doctrine.

        • howard

          Where is this $600 check from Obama? I didn’t get one.

          • franji1

            It was in your tax refund. I did not even know it existed, so my IRS refund check came back $600 higher than I had calculated. That was last year, actually the 2009 tax year.

          • http://justwatchthegame.com JohnSteigerwald

            Isn’t it nice when the govt. gives back to you your own money that it confiscated?

  • Dannyboy

    John,

    Nice post.

    But, on a side note….I honestly tried to watch 5 solid minutes of game 1 of the NBA finals last night. Horrible.
    Couple takeways from the game
    -almost everyone traveled
    -no defense
    -no hustle to cover a guy, they just stand their and watch the guy shoot a 3 pointer
    -it seriously looked like a pickup game for 7 footers
    -and when someone actually tried to play defense, a dribbler blantantly charged then flopped 5 feet back on his arse. The announcer then said, “What an acting job to get the call…..”
    …………which was the moment I changed the channel.

    I’d honestly watch the Pirates during a horrible losing streak than an NBA game. I’d watch a WNBA game over an NBA game. At least the women try to play D.

    Unreal.

    Danny

    • http://justwatchthegame.com JohnSteigerwald

      I avoid all three like the plague.

      • Mason

        I gave up on the NBA years ago. The combination of Michael Jordan and ESPN ruined it. it is not a team game anymore – it’s all about the star making a highlight real play. I recently watched an old replay of an NBA finals game of the old Lakers/Celtics. It was entertaining. The passing was tremendous. It is like two different games.

        Before the Jordanaires slam me – he was an amazingly gifted player, probably the greatest scorer of all-time, but it was all about MJ playing one on one vs the old school of 5 quick passes and a shot. Just my personal taste.

    • howard

      Yep…best athletes in the world competing on the biggest stage with the brightest lights. Who would want to watch that?

      • http://justwatchthegame.com JohnSteigerwald

        I agree with Bob Knight, who, when asked why he hated the NBA by David Letterman, said, “I don’t hate the NBA. I just like basketball better.” Be sure to count the dunks for me. Can’t get enough dunks.

        • howard

          yeah you’re right…it was so much more exciting when the shorts were short and the game was played below the rim.

          • http://justwatchthegame.com JohnSteigerwald

            Yeah…who wants to see somebody actually shoot the ball in the basket. Let’s have 7’4 375 pound Shaq shuffle his feet 12 times, back into the lane, turn around and dunk it The dunk is the most overrated “highlight” in sports. Unless Spud Webb is doing the dunking.

          • howard

            Dirk Nowitski is one of the 3 best players in this series. He has a shooting arsenal that rivals Jerry West and Pistol Pete. They got to the finals shooting jumpers and playing defense. Lebron James, for all the misgivings regarding “The Decision” is one of the most unselfish superstars and has modeled his game on Magic and Bird, not the high volume shooting Jordan. Shaq is a dinosaur who retired yesterday, but who’s career has been over for 5 years. You should really just watch the games, and you can see for yourself. Turn off the fox news ignorance machine for one night. I promise you you can catch Hannity’s or O’Reilly’s misinformation talking points on every show on their line up, all day long.

          • http://justwatchthegame.com JohnSteigerwald

            I watched the last few minutes of Game 7 of the NBA Finals last year. That’ll do me until the next time the Final goes to a Game 7. Keep me posted on this series. You might want to drop me a line when you see someone play defense.

          • howard

            Actually, they play more defense now than they ever did in your era, or whatever NBA golden era you consider better than today.

          • http://justwatchthegame.com JohnSteigerwald

            I don’t have an NBA golden era. It’s a matter of taste. Enjoy the Final. I won’t be watching.

          • howard

            90-90 following a 17-2 run by the Mavericks….:57 sec to go. Great game you’re missing.

          • colt

            I don’t know about a “Golden Era” of NBA basketball, but I do know that Jordan and the Bulls would have had a very difficult time beating the Chamberlain, West, Goodrich Lakers of the early 70′s. If I am picking a dream team of all time, and I got first pick, I take Wilt and do not look back. And have present the NBA fans watched tapes of Jerry West? It will be a clinic on shooting.

  • jferretti

    Fundamentally, we have to decide whether there are certain programs and services that should be for profit or not. Should our highway systems be “for profit” or should government spending be involved? Should our medical care be “for profit” or should we attempt to control costs through government and pooling of recipients? Do you want government out of medical care? Then be prepared to turn folks away at the Emergency Room doors because a vast majority of ER patients don’t have the means to pay. If we accept there is a “right” to education, a “right” to basic health care and a “right” to other necessities that cannot be made subject to profit motives, then there has to be some form of government involvement.

  • Blasto

    I find the articles by this man to be informative and well written. This one is common sense. The question/comment I have is who is going to do something about it.? For some reason people believe the GOP will adress these issues. They have not and will not as was proven by the first 6 years of the Dubya administration. We also can’t have people dying in the streets while eating cat food. It’s very easy to point out that “entitlements need reformed and aren’t fair”…no sheeeit….How to do it while making sure a 45 year old like me gets out what I put in..making sure those that are ACTUALLY disabled are taken care of….and not having people rotting on main street causing even more cost….that is the real problem.

    • Gary M

      First, they took money out and put in IOU’s, both Democrats and Republicans. IOU’s don’t draw interest.
      Then, they decided to give out benefits to people who never worked a day in their life.
      Then, people started to live longer and taking out more than they put in.
      You want what you put in Blasto? Go ask your parents and grand parents to put BACK what they took out beyond what they put in.
      Then ask floppy ears in the White House to quit lying to people by saying the system is solvent by using fuzzy math. (He counts the IOU’s as assets; he thinks your an idiot)
      Easily the most inept, lying president since Jimmy Carter.

      • DormontDirtBag

        Couldn’t agree more about Obama (and Reid, and Pelosi) telling people Social Security is solvent. But the math isn’t fuzzy, IMO. It’s an absolute and pernicious lie. And it makes me wanna puke when these scumbags say, endlessly and with a straight face, that they’ve selflessly dedicated their lives to “public service.”

  • Mason

    Great link John.

    I noticed that the Governor of Florida signed legislation that requires a drug test for anyone applying for welfare – of course, on cue, the democrat reps from the state started screaming that it is unconstitutional.

  • Tim

    I’m confused, John are you arguing for all entitlement programs to immediately go away?

    • http://justwatchthegame.com JohnSteigerwald

      As soon as the people who have been forced to pay into them get their money back.

      • Tim

        And who pays you back? Certainly it wouldn’t be fair for the younger generation to be forced into paying.

        • http://justwatchthegame.com JohnSteigerwald

          The younger generation might want to think about not voting for socialists like Obama. It has to stop somewhere and, if it stops now, your taxes will be much lower down the road when the older generation dies off.

          • Tim

            Then implement a voucher system for everyone. If Ryan thinks vouchers are so great and will save Medicare and reduce costs it only makes sense to implement them for everyone, not just those under 55.

          • http://justwatchthegame.com JohnSteigerwald

            If the numbers work, go for it. Although, I’d prefer NO government involvement in anyone’s health care.

          • Tim

            Seniors hate socialism, but are too in love with their Socialized Medicare to let it go without a fight.

          • http://justwatchthegame.com JohnSteigerwald

            They had their money confiscated from them. They had no choice. Every politician who tried to privatize even a small portion of it was demonized.

          • Tim

            That’s why Ryan’s plan protects current seniors because his reforms would force them to pay more out of pocket for health care and they won’t take that.

          • oksteelerfan

            I don’t blame Seniors for wanting their Social Security, they paid into it and weren’t given a choice.

  • Sarcastic Sword

    John,

    Maybe you can educate me. Walter Williams calls Medicare and Soc Sec entitlements. If I am paying into the program through a payroll deduction and then when I am old enough, use the program, how is it considered an entitlement when the definition used in the article is getting something they didnt earn? To me, an entitlement is welfare or food stamps – a “handout” if you will.

    • http://justwatchthegame.com JohnSteigerwald

      You’re not entitled to either SS or Medicare. The government could say tomorrow that the payments will be stopped and there’s nothing you can do about it. So, the payments come because of the good will of your federal govt.

      • oksteelerfan

        However, the government forced us to pay into it all of our life. So shouldn’t they have to pay us our money back with interest?

        • http://justwatchthegame.com JohnSteigerwald

          That would be the morally right thing to do but then it’s morally wrong to take money from one person and give it to another.

    • DormontDirtBag

      They’re called entitlements because a person has an enforceable right to the benefits of the program simply because of that person’s status (for example, attaining the age of 65; having a certain disability, etc.). Congress doesn’t really budget for these programs. Instead, if 1 million people qualify in a given year, the Treasury pays out X dollars times 1 million. If 200 million qualify, it pays out X dollars times 200 million. It is irrelevant whether tax revenues in a given year are enough to cover the payouts. If revenues are short, the government just borrows the difference.