scared before the onslaught of teabag-wielding irrationals
on the right, most politicians are willing to speak of cutting
“entitlements” from the federal or any other budget they
can get their hands on.
what do they mean by “entitlements?”
programs they want cut as entitlements invariably are those,
which help or support people, human beings and citizens.
Usually, they start out with Social Security, Medicare,
and Medicaid. They want to slash and burn those programs.
That is, they want to privatize them.
entitlement hunters will not be satisfied until half the
money that is paid out to real people in Social Security
benefits are transferred to corporations, that is, the private
sector. They want that money in Corporate America’s coffers.
Same for Medicare and the same for Medicaid.
if you are paid $800 a month in Social Security benefits,
how would you live on $600 a month? What we’re talking here
are cuts that are sure to send millions to the poorhouse,
if we had poorhouses. Instead, we have homeless shelters
that are only good until 8 a.m.
“entitlements” are slashed, the home foreclosure debacle,
in which millions of homes are being taken from wageworkers,
will look like a holiday. People won’t be able to afford
even subsidized apartments. Cuts to Medicare will have older
people suffering their illnesses and injuries in silence
(so many already are). Cuts to Medicaid will have the poor,
mostly women and children, wandering their cities on buses
looking for a free clinic. And there just aren’t very many
of them, even in the most enlightened cities.
right wing Republicans want to cut can be renamed “entitlement,”
and then it can be attacked relentlessly as a program that
only throws money at the undeserving. That’s how it goes
with so many social programs, if not most of them. There
are too many Democrats who agree with the GOP and the Tea
Partiers or, if they disagree, they are keeping their mouths
end result is, of course, that it looks like there’s consensus
on the issue of cutting entitlements as a way to reduce
budget deficits and to reduce the overall debt of the country.
the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform
, a presidential commission, co-chaired by Erskine Bowles,
a Democrat and former Republican senator Alan Simpson, from
Wyoming, who never saw an entitlement that he didn’t
want to cut or eliminate.
Clinton, in his tenure as president, stole the Republicans
issue and pushed through arguably the most profound attack
on one “entitlement,” welfare, which probably would not
have been possible for a GOP administration. He ended “welfare
as we know it,” setting a five-year lifetime limit on welfare
benefits and changing welfare to make it much more difficult
to obtain and keep benefits. It worked well, since millions
disappeared from the rolls around the country and no one
seemed to know where they went or what happened to them.
Bowles and Simpson’s debt commission declared that nothing
was off the table, including defense, they dealt with the
latter issue separately. Since defense and military (along
with veterans’ services) take up much of the annual national
budget, it should be the focus of a national discussion
and debate, and we should have all the facts. We don’t have
all the facts about defense and military spending. For example,
the Bush-Cheney wars in Iraq and Afghanistan were not paid for out of any current
budget. These were “off budget” enterprises and the people,
in general, know little about how much they have cost in
blood and money and how (or when) those bills will be paid.
can be no robust debate on war-making in America
and its social costs, because the information has not reached
“we the people.” Social Security has been depicted as an
“entitlement” program, while defense and military spending
has not. That has to change. While Social Security is a
system into which most of us have paid, defense and military
spending is not. In fact, hundreds of billions of dollars
go to Corporate America every year and, once it gets there,
there is no tracing it.
and weapons contractors get paid untold sums from the taxpayers
for things that are untraceable: spent bullets, worn out
vehicles, exploded bombs, and crashed aircraft. Once they
are gone, what to do? Simple, just manufacture more of them.
With a constant supply of wars, there is no end to the profits
of the people who make the ordnance. War and “defense” have
become Corporate America’s “entitlement.”
have come to expect this largesse from taxpayers and the
politicians deliver every time. And it is not just the defense
and weapons industries that lobby politicians for a share
of the pot. You can add to this list the insurance, financial,
and banking industries, the pharmaceutical industry, and
the so-called farm subsidies that mainly benefit giant agribusinesses,
not the farmers. They all arrive in Washington, laden with bags of money for (legal)
political campaigns and other perks for our 535 members
of Congress. Very few of them completely avoid the lure
of big money from Corporate America and, for all that money,
they expect to have the full benefit of their “entitlements.”
our children is an entitlement; therefore, school aid can
be reduced or cut. Health care is an entitlement; therefore,
Americans can be kept from being treated when they are sick
or injured. There are many other programs that are considered
entitlements for the cutters.
hunters can blithely refer to programs for people as entitlements,
because that is the way the media, academics, and right
wing think tanks all refer to social programs. It has become
who need these “entitlements” do not have the bags of money
that Corporate America sends to Washington via its minions (lobbyists or “legislative
representatives”). If the people want to change the way
we think about and discuss these things, they have to begin
calling them out.
and weapons industries have come to expect their “entitlements”
in the form of hundreds of billions of dollars every year.
The entitlement hunters need to focus on the incredible
waste of weapons and empire. Until that happens, the disparity
between the top 5 percent of the populace and the rest of
us will continue to grow. The economic suffering of a third
of our people will continue to grow. We will continue to
fall behind other nations in educating our children and
providing decent housing and health care.
America will not
take less and they won’t allow themselves to be taxed fairly,
so it remains for the people to change the way we think
about entitlements. Those on the right, like the GOP and
their Tea Partiers, are not going to challenge the powerful.
The people are the means to their own good health and welfare.
Columnist, John Funiciello, is a labor organizer and former
union organizer. His union work started when he became a
local president of The Newspaper Guild in the early 1970s.
He was a reporter for 14 years for newspapers in New York State. In
addition to labor work, he is organizing family farmers
as they struggle to stay on the land under enormous pressure
from factory food producers and land developers. Click here
to contact Mr. Funiciello.