Entitlement vs. Entitlement
What do Mitt Romney and the "entitled" 47% of America have in common? How about entitlement?
Here are the two useful definitions of entitlement from Webster's Dictionary online.
- a government program providing benefits to members of a specified group
- belief that one is deserving of or entitled to certain privileges
I don't disagree with Romney that too many people are on welfare, food stamps, unemployment, etc. I would love to hear solutions to this problem instead of complaining about the "takers" who are somehow stealing from the "makers", which this debate has become. We also have an issue with too many people being reliant on social security and medicare in retirement, which are the largest portion of this 47% Romney complained about.
But when I sat back and thought about it again, isn't Romney acting awfully entitled? Not by the first definition, but by the second. Romney was born into priviledge and leveraged that into a very successful career. For that I do not begrudge him. But does his success mean that he deserves to pay a smaller percentage in taxes than most Americans? Does he deserve to own multiple homes because of the career he chose while someone who chose to be a teacher struggles to meet ends meet and therefore falls in the 47%? Did he deserve the loan his father gave him to buy his first house? Does he deserve the right to judge those with less as people who don't "take personal responsibility and care for their lives"? I don't begrudge him for getting these things, but did he deserve them?
(the next paragraph is filled with gross generalizations, but you know what I'm talking about)
My problem is with an attitude that "successful" (ie. rich) people have somehow done it on their own and owe no one anything for their success. They don't want to pay taxes, don't want to follow regulations built to keep the whole of society safe, and heaven forbid they have to deal with lowly workers who organize themselves into a union as their last resort in negotiating with the powers that be in business. How is an attitude of "I earned it, it's mine" with no regard for social responsibility somehow not viewed as entitlement?
Rex Nutting may have said it best on MarketWatch.com yesterday saying, "Mitt Romney is running for president of an America where hard work only counts if it leads to success."
I'm not a religious person, but I do remember a line from my Bible school days that seems appropriate. From Matthew 19:23-24 - "I tell you the truth, it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God."
When I read this I think of the responsibility those with the most have to those with the least. It begins with not judging those with less as somehow lazy, inferior, or stupid. Sure, those people exist, but let's not lump 47% of America into this boat. For heaven sake Mitt Romney's own father benefited from the government's programs to support the poor.
I pay taxes like most Americans and by the nature of my job I have to actually write a check every quarter. It makes you appreciate how much you pay when you have to do this. But I never do it begrudgingly. I drive on the roads that my taxes pay for, I went to the schools my taxes pay for, I live in the America my taxes pay for and for that I am thankful. I wish things were different, sure, but we live in a society where everyone should be considered and the good of all is better than the good of one.
We have challenges ahead, there is no doubt about that. But somehow dividing us into "makers" and "takers" isn't the way to get over these challenges. Mitt Romney is a successful man but I would bet everything I own that there thousands of workers around the country who did much of the hard work that made that success possible. Many of these workers no doubt fall in his reviled 47%. Instead of blaming them, he should thank them for everything they have done for him. He should thank the state of Michigan for the education that provided a framework for him to build success. He should thank those before us who built our interstates, our power grid, our military, because without those his success would not be possible. I don't think Mitt was entitled to this infrastructure he built his success on, he was futunate to begin life in the position he did and he took full advantage of it.
I wish he would understand that those who don't reach the same success aren't always at fault for their failures. Businesses fail, disabilities happen, and sometimes people reach a stretch of bad luck. A society as successful as America has a responsibility to build those people up, not knock them down. What exactly that role is... well that can be debated, but I'd like to start from a position of mutual understanding and not a position of condemnation.
Don't get me wrong. Obama doesn't have all of the answers and this isn't an endorsement of him. I'd like to be able to debate the positive merits of Mitt, I'm just finding that challenging as we find out how little he can relate to those of us who have been laid off, been on government assistance, and have managed to find success even after life handed us challenges.
For someone judging those on entitlements Mitt Romney is sounding a awful lot like an entitled person. He just has different entitlements than you and I.
My two cents,