Jan 17, 2013 - Issue 500

From “Entitlements” to Telescreens and

No Principles in Between!

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Change does not roll on the wheels of inevitability, but comes through continuous struggle. And so we must straighten our backs and work for our freedom. A man can’t ride you unless your back is bent.


-Dr. Martin L. King, Jr.


Some months ago, I was on the phone discussing with a friend the availability of social programs to those of us over 55 years of age. At some point I brought into the conversation a discussion about people’s perception of these social programs, particularly Social Security and Medicare. My friend responded without hesitation: “we’ve paid into Social Security and Medicare! We worked!”


I worked since my first summer in high school. Both of us have worked. We have had to work. Neither of us married, for one. My friend worked for the government as a social worker and later, past retirement age, she worked for a major producer of computers. As workers, we have paid into Social Security, Medicare, unemployment compensation, and even into the education of other people’s children. Neither one of us had children.


My local neighborhood store claims to offer three “free” items every week: a dozen eggs or a gallon of milk, or liquid detergent. But “free”? No! A clerk told me to see how many points I have accumulated to see if I could get something free. But each item will cost you “points.” That is, you must have a store key card that is scanned every time you make a purchase, and each time, you receive so many points. I believe a customer receives 5 points for every dollar spent at the store. If you then have 1500 points, you can take home the gallon of milk or the liquid detergent or for 600 points, the dozen eggs. But each item is not “free.” You paid for it!


I am not entitled to the eggs, milk or detergent otherwise.


Here in Wisconsin, customers of a particular gas and electric company also pay into a program that allows families, seniors, anyone to request help (once a year) with their bill. A neighbor told me about the program to help with paying a gas and electric bill. What she did not say, because she may not have known, is that this “help” was paid for by the customer seeking help. In other words, as I was told by the intake specialist that day I sat across from him, “you already paid into this program.” In other words, the “help” is not a give away. “Go home and take a look at your bill. Each month you pay into this program.”


Everyone understands and has no objection to the neighborhood store’s “free” products campaign or with the gas and electric company’s “energy service” program. But Social Security - well that is different!


Most who believe this “free” give away program or any similar such program, unfortunately are the same people who celebrate the holidays by spending big at the malls and the Wal-Marts of our world. They are the same people - referred to affectionately by politicians as the American people - who hear from the U.S. government that (as a “beloved” people) they are entitled to a system of labor which delivers to them things relatively “free” from the drudgery of production. That American jobs lost to this “free” system of cheap labor and cheap gadgets and clothing means high unemployment rates in the U.S. is acknowledged but, acknowledged as an inevitable good for the accumulation of U.S. wealth and U.S. status and power in the world. Bangladeshis women, for example, work and pay into this entitlement program for Americans to experience the pleasures of being consumers!


Regardless of the efforts of fellow Americans to educate the Americans people about the banking industry’s and corporate war profiteers’ sense of entitlement to government (taxpayers’ funds), the 99% still stash what little they have at these same banking institutions who, in turn, charge and surcharge with impunity, and sons and daughters, husbands and wives in uniform sacrifice their limbs, their mental health, and even their lives for the “safety” and “freedom” of the American people.


Along with troops of foot soldiers and aircraft pilots, telecommunication companies, weapons manufacturers, oil and a host of other corporations are entitled to assist the government in maintaining the safety of the American people from “terrorists.”


Corporations are entitled to personhood and to the right to free speech!


So it is no wonder that there is a persistent effort by the ruling class to “cut” “entitlements,” that is, social programs. What the American people seem not to hear is the boardroom chant: Only we, the 1%, are entitled to entitlements, and social programs do not make an Empire invisible!


Cut Social Security!


First, Social Security is not an entitlement! As union activist and writer, Roland Sheppard points out in his editorial titled, “The Big ‘Entitlements’ Swindle: Workers Wages Are Not ‘Entitlements’ - We Earn Our Benefits!”:


An Entitlement is the condition of having a right to have, do, or get something. The feeling or belief that you deserve to be given something (such as special privileges) or a government ‘entitlement’ program that guarantees and provides benefits to a particular group. (“The Big ‘Entitlements’ Swindle”) [1]


The reality that workers paid into these social programs was conveniently “missing from the whole ‘financial cliff’ debate,” replaced with the fantasy that Social Security is something given away, undeservingly, “free” to the American people! “If one does not work, money is not deducted from one’s pay to purchase Social Security or Medicare Benefits… Most workers pay more into these funds than they will ever live to collect.”


In the 1930s and 40s, continues Sheppard, “the movements lead by labor and the Socialist Party brought forth the current social programs, which the media and the government now call ‘entitlements.’” What the media and the government calls “entitlements” “were won by economic and political action independent of the ruling class.”


But, in order for the 1% to sustain the capitalist system, it needs to reverse the economic and political gains of the working class.


Sheppard continues: ever since 1968, “when LBJ and the Democratic Party” began appropriating social security funds to “balance the budget during the Vietnam War,” the Federal government has been “systematically ‘borrowing,’ (plundering), our money to fund the wars in order to establish a ‘New World Order.’” Furthermore, Sheppard writes, “what they took from these social funds is what they call ‘our’ debt. But it is owed us.”


What is the inconvenient truth? Sheppard writes, the Federal government “owes $4.7 trillion,” currently, to Social Security, Medicare, and other such funds, according to Federal Debt Basics [2] “In reality it is owed to us!”


How much sense does it make to turn over 4.7 trillion to the American people when there is still a world to conquer!


Conquer the American people and you conquer the world! The blitz is on! The government (relying on the corporate propaganda machinery) must start with the workers and retirees themselves! Workers’ wages paid into Social Security must be understood by the consumers of doublespeak, as an entitlement.


Entitlement, Entitlement, Social Security, Entitlement…


Repeat something often enough, Bush II said, and the American people will learn a new reality.


If the 99% are the willing, then democracy and freedom will flow for and among the haves. At the bidding of the Haves, the Have-nots, on the other hand, will continue to assist in the annihilation of each other.


In this case, the Have-nots are those lacking in principles.


Former boxer George Foreman once said of Mohammed Ali that Ali was a man who “found something to fight for other than money and championship belts” (Facing Ali, film, 2009). Ali found what has been lost among the American people in the last 40 years because, similar to their mentors and idols, the 1%, the American people have grown comfortable pursuing the values of the Market.


Take away wage-based benefits; take away the right to protest the take away. It is the practical outcome, since, as Roland Sheppard notes, the ruling class mean to “plunder and end these funds,” earned by and due to the American people in order to maintain capitalism.


Why do the American people, in turn, support the military endeavors when a little more than 50 percent of the budget is turned over to the Pentagon to operate invasions, occupations, regime change, surveillance and spying, and rendition programs? Why is it that the American people do not ask why it is necessary for the 1% to make its profits from the suffering and death of others - and not just people in foreign lands but also those of us citizens, the “beloved” American people, who are left with no option but to walk away from medical treatment or pull the plug on a loved one or live on the streets or in cars, eat less, and expect to educate their young adult through loans for a college education? The American people do not ask why, in a democratic society, “exclusive” schools for children living in “exclusive” neighborhoods leaves most public school children attending schools comparable to those in “underdeveloped” countries.


The capitalist system, the system most Americans want to maintain, requires its participants, both the 1% and the rest, to link definitions of democracy and freedom to the values of the market. The American people are no less in love with the system of relations (humans to humans, humans to nature and things) than are those of the ruling class in love with the dehumanizing sacrificial mechanism of capitalism. It does not help the institutionalization of capitalism if the 1% and the American people reject the value of the dollar and pursue the marginalized principles necessary to resist the tyranny of a corporate world order.


The ideas of fairness, equality, love and peace, for example, are corrupted by the logic of the Market. Competition, greed and accumulation of capital, materials, land, and labor are held close to the heart of those in the 1%. The American people may complain, but by their actions or inaction they are willing to accept the logic of the Market.


A man can’t ride you unless your back is bent.


If holding close to the heart the principles of fairness and equality, democracy and freedom seem as outdated as a floppy disk, if individual activists such as WikiLeaks founder, Julian Assange, or whistleblower, Bradley Manning, or Mumia Abu Jamal, Leonard Peltier, and Assata Shakur or Malcolm X are vilified, if communities of young and old, communities of all races, communities of working class and poor and the middle class come together as the Occupy Wall Street Movement, and the government, under the leadership of a “Black” president, Barack Obama, wants to label these activists “terrorists,” then it must be understood that what is under attack is ideas that jeopardize the establishment of a tyrannical State.


In U.S. history, it has never been peaceful for the poor and working class to resist the corruption of the ruling class! It will be unlawful to protest against those who label Social Security and Medicare “entitlements!”


Principles! The Haves do not need it when they have the Have-nots without it!


The narratives of something “free”, an “entitlement,” go hand in hand with the practice of a variant of McCarthyism more sinister and lethal than the original campaign. If you believe Social Security is an entitlement, then you will believe the U.S. government is entitled to expand its surveillance program and deliver to your living room, a Big Brother Telescreen - a complementary gift from your favorite corporation!

BlackCommentator.com Editorial Board member and Columnist, Lenore Jean Daniels, PhD, has a Doctorate in Modern American Literature/Cultural Theory. Click here to contact Dr. Daniels.