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As with many words, over the years and with the help of professional deception artists like Frank Luntz, the word "entitlements" has been successfully turned into a pejorative to be used in the never ending fight conservatives wage against social progress. Even though the word "entitlement" means...1) the act of entitling...2) the state of being entitled...and 3) the right to guaranteed benefits under a government program, as Social Security or unemployment compensation......the word-perverters in corrupt media and within movement conservatism, have worked hard to instill a different meaning into the word. To conservatives who use the word "entitlements" as often as they can.....the definition has changed from an earned benefit....to "a mind set of feeling entitled" to something you haven't earned.
This is not by accident. For example: the word "liberal" has been so twisted and abused by conservatives over the past few decades that now fewer Americans than ever realize that the policies which have made America great have come from liberal and progressive initiatives. Truth is, it's difficult to find any historic conservative policies which have significantly changed America for the better. That being said, the one strength of modern conservatism in America is their ability to monotonously repeat phrases and words in order to imbue them with brand new meanings.
That's what has happened, of late, with the word, "entitlements." The word "entitlements", in the minds of many, now means "welfare."
And so it's necessary to ask: Why is it that Americans are entitled to guaranteed benefits under Social Security, Medicare and unemployment compensation? Because, except for a tiny minority, those Americans have EARNED those benefits through payroll deductions and/or employer-share contributions. These Frank Luntz-styled "entitlements" are really "earned benefits", and if you are a progressive or a liberal, that is what you should call them..."earned benefits"....because that's what they are.
Entitlements which some claim they deserve are not only not deserved, but not earned either....
For the past six months, the (U.S. Conference of Catholic) bishops have complained very publicly that the (Obama) administration is anti-Catholic and biased against religious groups because it refused to renew a contract with the group to provide services to victims of human trafficking. The bishops had been administering virtually all the federal money allocated for such services, about $3 million a year, doling it out to subcontractors who served victims all over the country. The USCCB had prohibited the contractors from using the federal funds to pay for staff time to counsel victims on contraception or abortion, or to refer them for such services. (Federal money can't be used to pay for abortions except in the most extreme instances, but it can pay for contraception.)
This story is important because it's being replayed in the Catholic sense of entitlement over contraception. Did the Catholic Church earn the $3 million per year from the government? No. Was the $3 million per year the Church's money or taxpayer money? Taxpayer money. For all intents and purposes, the taxpayer money handed over to the Catholic Church to provide services to victims of human trafficking, was government welfare to the Church. The Church had done nothing, whatsoever, to earn that $3 million...and the money used was not Catholic money.
Yet, the Catholic Church acted as if they were entitled to these taxpayer monies. The Church's sense of being entitled is seen in the fact that the Church believed they could take this unearned taxpayer money, money they did not earn, and also violate the restrictions government placed on the use of those unearned dollars. It's an "unearned cake and eat it too" mentality. We want those unearned taxpayer dollars and we'll do whatever we want with those dollars, government cannot restrict us because we are entitled.
But last Friday, U.S. District Judge Richard Stearns in Massachusetts exploded this false sense of entitlement which the Catholic Church embraces....
"To insist that the government respect the separation of church and state is not to discriminate against religion; indeed, it promotes a respect for religion by refusing to single out any creed for official favor at the expense of all others....This case is about the limits of the government's ability to delegate to a religious institution the right to use taxpayer money to impose its beliefs on others (who may or may not share them)."
Stearns also cited an earlier Supreme Court ruling that found that the Framers "did not set up a system of government in which important, discretionary governmental powers would be delegated to or shared with religious institutions."
Now, here comes the false sense of entitlement....
Sister Mary Ann Walsh, the USCCB's spokeswoman, said in an email, "The USCCB is disappointed by the decision and is likely to appeal. The decision seems to ignore the right of free expression of one's religious beliefs."
The arrogant sense of being entitled to something entirely unearned just oozes out of that last sentence. And strangely, or not, the words of Sister Walsh are the same words being used by Catholic Bishops in the contraception discussion. If the government insists on compliance to their rules when handing out unearned taxpayer dollars, "free expression of one's beliefs" are being infringed. It's bunk...and always has been bunk. No one is forcing the USCCB to take government funding. When the USCBB decided to take government money they gave up all rights to use that money to advance their specific brand of religion. If the USCCB could not abide by government rules, then they should have not taken the money. Entitled-feeling Catholic Leaders want to do both. I guess they believe they are uniquely special and, therefore, privileged.
The lesson here is that when you take unearned monies from the government.....no matter who you think you are....you must abide by the rules the government has set up for the use of those monies. Otherwise...don't take the money. If you are the Catholic Church, apparently, you think you are entitled to not only take the unearned government money (welfare), but also disregard all government rules, unilaterally, if you don't like them. That's what a mentality of entitlement looks like.
On the other hand, Social Security, Medicare, and unemployment compensation......are earned benefits.
Note: Computer is back....still adjusting to some problems. For whatever reason, I can't provide links in the same way as I did. Digby's blog and Mother Jones were used as sources in today's posting.