I still continue to get heat from a few readers for referring to Social Security as a middle class “entitlement”–a word that implies Social Security is a welfare program, a handout, the dole. Many people are still apparently impressed with the notion that Social Security is some kind of retirement pension plan in which you are paid back out of funds that have been saved on your behalf.
This is a perspective that hopelessly distorts the debate over entitlement reform. As the middle class entitlements yawn wide open to swallow the entire federal budget, it is not an exaggeration to say that this distortion is bankrupting the republic.
Oddly, I’ve seen a similar complaint the other side, from a defender of the welfare state. Ezra Klein points out that much of the welfare state is hidden so that people don’t even realize they are living off of government handouts. While I think that many people would recoil from living off of welfare if they knew they were doing it, his logic is the opposite: that people would love the welfare state if only they realized just how dependent they are on it. More on that argument below.