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No entitlements? Careful what you wish for

Carlton Fletcher

Carlton Fletcher

Greed, give me everything that I need.

— Ice Cube

While the term “entitlement culture” has become for many in places like Albany — sadly — a euphemism for the poor in the mostly African-American community, perhaps the insensitive souls who use such code should rethink their rally cry of “No more entitlements!”

The sentiment is obvious: Cut out funds to poor families who find themselves entangled in a welfare culture, one that all but eliminates the longstanding American value of gainful employment. But do these people really want to do away with all entitlements? And just where would they propose the cutting begin?

Perhaps they’d like the government to start with farm sudsidies. Even though the 1996 Freedom to Farm Act was purportedly passed to wean America away from subsidized farming, the government has handed out $261.9 billion in ag subsidies from 1995 to last year.

As a matter of fact, farm subsidies are a $5 billion-a-year handout used as a price hedge for American farmers. And, incidentally, this entitlement is not going to those family farmers struggling to scratch out a living from the land. Less than 1 percent of that massive sum is going to such growers.

No, the overwhelming majority of this money is going to large corporate farms.

Or maybe the new-age reformers would like to take a whack at the Social Security Tax that is capped at $106,000. If you’re one of us in the unwashed masses, those of us who make $105,999.99 or less — some of us a lot less — a year, every penny you make is subject to the tax. If, however, you’re one of the lucky ones who makes the big bucks, you get a free ride — an entitlement, as it were — on anything above $106 grand.

If you’re one of the real lucky ones who makes the extremely big bucks — that cliched 1 percent — your government is allowing you to pay taxes on 1 percent of your income (nice symmetry) while the rest of us are taxed at a 100 percent rate.

Maybe while we’re doing away with entitlements, we could put an end to the estimated $100 billion in Medicare benefits that are going to the wealthy each year, or perhaps we could eliminate the Capital Gains Tax that allows rich folks to pay only 15 percent on the gains they make from their real estate deals. And how about all those government-sponsored college scholarships and grants that go to students whose parents can afford to buy a dorm or two?

Heck, while we’re taking a crack at all these entitlements, let’s see if we can’t cut out the practice of putting American-earned money tax-free into Swiss bank accounts, a practice that the IRS estimates costs the country’s coffers in excess of $100 million a year.

A hundred mill here and a hundred mill there, and it really starts to add up.

If we’re really serious about all this entitlement elimination talk, maybe we ought to look at the biggest plum of all, Social Security. The former “veterans, widows and orphans” fund has become something of a boondoggle in a class all its own over the years as everyone demands his or her piece of that now dwindling pie.

I understand the frustration of the no entitlement crowd. I really do. It cheeses me off beyond words printable in this newspaper to know that a portion of my hard work ... well, work ... is going to buy groceries and pay for other necessities for able-bodied individuals who have figured out a way to game the system. It burns me up to have to check my bank account balance before I buy a couple of oranges, some grapes and a bag of those little white doughnuts at the grocery store only to have to wait in line for 30 minutes while the person in front of me uses my tax money to pay for her buggiesful of Twinkies, cigarettes and Cheesy Poofs.

But as much as that galls me, it eats me up even more to think that there are millionaires and billionaires who are getting their share of that same ill-gotten pie.

So, if you’re serious about doing away with entitlements, let’s take it all the way. And let’s start at the top, with the people who don’t need them in the first place.

Email Metro Editor Carlton Fletcher at carlton.fletcher@albanyherald.com.

Comments

Cartman 2 years, 5 months ago

I'm for it. Cut welfare; farm subsidies; and SSI limits. It is simply not the government's role to provide these things. We could drastically cut taxes and then this nation would thrive. It will be enormously painful at first. If a way could be found to do it gradually - then all the better. Maybe just grandfather those on the system now and allow no more. Let's do it. Because what we are doing now is simply not working. The more we pay out - the more dependents we have. In short, we are spending money to create poor people. We have robbed them of their incentive to achieve. It is unAmerican. Let's stop it now.

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waltspecht 2 years, 5 months ago

Now I have been paying into Social Security since I was thirteen and rode a delivery bike for Key Food. There hasn't been a year since that I haven't paid in. Many of my recent years I have approached, but never reached the stop point. So there is a pile of money I have contributed. That is why I don't consider it an entitlement. It is an owed benefit. Yes, there are many programs that out there that seem to benefit only the rich, and they need to be looked at and changed. However, if there were good management of the programs, and the fraud, deception and theft were stopped, there would be a considerable savings also. Why we allow people to game the system is beyond my comprehension. We all know it is being done, and funds are going where they were never intended to go. The in your face blatent abuse of the State Cards is sometimes all to obvious. I watched an individual check out an order that looked like a restaurant order on a State card, and then load it into a Humkvee and drive off. There was definately something wrong there.

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blacksheep 2 years ago

I see that Humvees have replaced Cadullacs now.,

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gotanyfacts 2 years, 5 months ago

Carlton points out a major problem faced in discussing practically every political or social topic today. Get five random people together to discuss entitlements and you will likely find that the group is working with five different concepts of what an entitlement is. For the sake of forming public opinion, swaying poll numbers, or flat out misleading the masses, significant parts of our vocabulary have been mangled to the point of being useless. For those who are looking for solutions such confusion is highly frustrating. Others, who may see clarity as an obstacle to their goals, view confusion as a very desirable ally. What better tool for separating a nation into antagonistic groups. The fate of the tower of Babel would have been the same if only a few architectural terms were used differently by the builders. The lead up to its demise would have been more subtle, but its failure would be just as certain.

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dingleberry 2 years, 5 months ago

Once again, Carlton has shown that he and the Christmas turkey share one attribute--both are full of it. So, let there be class warfare-after all it is an election year. Managed to bring the downtrodden black community into the fray in sentence one--good show! . You and many others don't seem to realize it is the social "entitlement" awarded by Congress--as opposed to an earned, paid entitlement--that is ruining this country. Look no further than Albany to see how social programs are destroying it just as with the country--we are now creating a fourth generation of non-working people who are viewed by our leaders as a mindless favored group voting to keep them in power--the goal of the political process.

Much of the farm program, perhaps 80% as pointed out by Gary Black recently, is really for embedded social programs. This is not to say, however, that the big "farmers" aren't eating too much at the public trough. Medicare? Yep, rife with fraud and poorly structured but at least partially funded through "buy in" while its social cousin Medicaid, strangely not mentioned, is totally a, drum roll please, social entitlement.

And my goodness, let's kick those who are fortunate enough to make more money than you. Galls you doesn't it? If we went to the "fair tax", your perceived tax inequity would go away but as long as Congress can reward its friends and punish its enemies through the tax code, it won't happen just as term limits won't either. So, your goal of punishing the wealthy to care for the slackers won't be reached.

If someone can make more money than you or I, I am happy for them. After all, this is America--or what is left of it.

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agirl_25 2 years, 5 months ago

Well I am going to keep my two cents quiet about enjoying my Social Security, military retiree and private retirement benefits from my husband because I don't want to be jumped on again.... but will say one thing about the farm program...I do own a farm...a small one I bought in 2010, and I do rent out the land (it is small as I said, only 105 acres, and I do get farm income only from it and nothing subsidized) and I do have a complaint. A lady I used to work with and her husband farm and get farm subsidies. Big ones. They used to get the peanut subsidies, just as this farm I bought used to get, and she recently told her co-workers that they had such a wonderful year and made so much money that they had so much money left over from what Uncle Sam had given them (approximately $70K leftover) that her husband had to go out and buy a new piece of farm equipment so they would be sure and get as much if not more money for this year. I don't know if this is a true story or not but I have heard stories like this before. I did look up how much money they had received in subsidies over the past few years once and it was a tremendous amount. I remember in the 80's NBC News did a story on an Early County farmer who did something similar to this. He got super greedy tho and I don't think his story had a happy ending.

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veritasthorn 2 years, 5 months ago

Carlton was trying to point out how bad eliminating every single one of these programs would be. Me, I see nearly every single point he made as a good thing. (Main one I disagree on: People should be able to put their money anywhere they want it. It is theirs, not the government's, and the government has no right to track it in any way.)

Unfortunately, for all the talk about entitlement "reform", all any of the Big Government Party means is that they want to give more money - in ever larger sums - to their preferred receivers, be that poor minorities for Democrats or rich white guys for Republicans. The Tea Party is no better - they are simply GOP 1.02.

Even more unfortunately, we could eliminate every single entitlement program currently running - and STILL barely make a dent in the deficit, much less the debt. To do THAT, we have to eliminate all entitlements AND cut the Dept of Defense by 43% (back to 2003 - when we were already in Iraq and Afghanistan and conducting active wars in each - levels) AND end the War on Drugs (which would reduce law enforcement spending by at or above 50% nationally) AND probably even completely eliminate at least a couple other Cabinet level Departments.

But there is only ONE MAN running for President talking about doing all of that - and his name is NOT Ron Paul. His name is Gary Johnson, former Governor of NM who vetoed more bills than every other Governor of his era (including Mitt Romney!) combined.

For all their talk - and I admit, they DO talk about it quite a bit - NO ONE else is serious about the number one National Security issue we have: the debt and the deficit.

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whattheheck 2 years, 5 months ago

"The unwashed masses". Wasn't that one of Harry Reid's descriptions of those who visited the Capitol in the summer and stunk up the place before the new visitor center was built? Isn't socialist Harry one of those making the big bucks at our expense--makes over $106,000 a year? Why don't you beat up on the politicians who create a lot of the "ills" you talk about? Wait, you will only address those who are "right wing nut jobs", so cancel that one--Harry will get a free ride by default.

No one ever talks about cutting out "all" entitlements--except a liberal of course as they try to create panic among poor and senior voters in upcoming elections . There are good programs. But the problem is there are just too many that aren't, or at least aren't at the level we have reached. Are taxpaying citizens upset and do they have a right to be upset? You betcha'.

Look no further than the Albany you can see from your Lee Co abode. The "entitlement class" you always rush to the aid of combined with elected officials who don't understand what is happening, or don't care, have reduced Albany to a Detriot-like status from which it will never recover. All a result of government and its "entitlements" of every kind one can imagine--don't blame the wealthy for what we all should see.

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dingleberry 2 years, 5 months ago

Carlton, when you were taking a shot at the greedy farmers, you forgot to mention the Pigford settlement where more African American farmers than ever farmed got over $1 billion from the treasury. Let's put some of these, in the thousands, on the "greedy list" also. Can you say "handout"? Beat the drum from both sides please!

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Sister_Ruby 2 years, 5 months ago

Fletcher has done it again....it's what he lives for: to create a "piece" filled with rumors, lies, and tall-tales based on no research and on mixed metaphors. He has one objective....to rile people up and he usually achieves that objective. He even riled up himself this time. Prior posters have said much that I wished to say earlier today when I first read this "piece". Bottom line: something you are forced by the government to contribute to for a promised benefit could most accurately be called an "entitlement" because you contributed and you are entitled to something back. That would be social security, medicaid, etc which comes out of anybody's pay check whenever they get paid. Same should be said for those who have served our country in the military. A welfare handout (which most of us usually incorrectly refer to as an "entitlement") is something for nothing. No contribution but more and more hands out who will exchange their self esteem for undeserved income (from a thousand sources) in exchange for a lifetime of votes. That's the "entitlement" mindset: I'm entitled to it because of what happened to my great-great grandfather etc etc ad nauseum.

The real sad fact is that neither political party today has the BRASS to address any of these issues. Very, very sad. Next stop on the USA's journey through history: Greece.

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dingleberry 2 years, 5 months ago

It is government that created the present bastardized usage of "entitlement" to mean what it never was intended to mean. Remember. this is the same government that, when "negative income tax" was proposed by liberals who crashed and burned in the '70s, merely changed the name to "earned income credit" and it passed like salts through the goose--redistribution of wealth at it finest.

Yes, Sis, the politicians won't face the issues starting with Albany through the Congress. It is no longer a matter of whether we become full blown socialists--it is merely a matter of which party takes us to the goal the fastest in its quest to remain in power.

I agree with what you wrote in total--looks like one of mine-- except "medicaid" is the give away, "medicare" is the true entitlement by virtue of contribution. Have to cut some slack for you on that one since there are more social programs than any of us can possibly remember.

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Sister_Ruby 2 years, 5 months ago

Thanks db.......there are so many ways that money is being peed away that no one person can know them all. My mistake. Thanks.

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gotanyfacts 2 years, 5 months ago

In my earlier post, I attempted to point out that that Carlton's concept of an "entitlement" is deliberately flawed. The flaw is not his creation but he does choose to make use of it for the same purpose as those who did. It allows one to argue that it's unfair to kick the fox out of the henhouse because, by a contrived definition, the fox is part of the flock.

Carlton does a good imitation of Obama in a couple of passages, where he borders on dishonesty. (Phrasing something in such a way as to make someone come away with an incorrect understanding). Mr. Fletcher’s comment makes it seem as though the wealthy will draw from social security based on their income. Like payments, Social security benefits are also capped so the rich person gets benefits only on his first $106.000. He is "entitled" to what he "purchased". If the limits are raised so he pays more, he would be entitled to larger checks when retiring. This too would likely make Carlton bristle.

" ...your government is allowing you to pay taxes on 1 percent of your income (nice symmetry) while the rest of us are taxed at a 100 percent rate." 100 percent rate would be taking all of the income. Honest goof, or being Obamaistic?

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Sister_Ruby 2 years, 5 months ago

Carlton doesn't need facts to support his opinions. Never has......never will. Methinks he's still working to come back down to earth after last weekend's "weed-fest".

"Gollum have contact high!"

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justme 2 years, 5 months ago

Repub/Dem. makes no difference, the week after election and every week following will be the same, the winners party the losers go home. Your paycheck stay about the same and life goes on.

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agirl_25 2 years, 5 months ago

That's exactly right......so make the most of it..be thankful for what you have and hope for the best..I know I do. I quit worrying about things a long time ago. Life goes on......like you said.

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