You Are Entitled to Nothing

I know “House of Cards” character Frank Underwood is fictitious, malicious, and evil.

But even an evil fictitious character can hit the nail on its head occasionally.

We might not like his prescription, but he diagnoses America’s chief problem more concretely, more accurately, and more honestly than any American politician ever has. Ever.

We’ve been crippled by Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, by welfare, by entitlements.
And that is the root of the problem: entitlements.
Let me be clear.
You are entitled to nothing.
You are entitled to nothing.
America was built on the spirit of industry.
You build your future.
It isn’t handed to you.
And the problem with Washington is that we haven’t given you the tools to build it.
The only way for us to serve you is to give you the means to serve yourselves.


Nine sentences that summarize the entire Tea Party movement. You are entitled to nothing. Too-big-to-fail companies are entitled to nothing. Nature provides us with an abundance of what we need to live: food, air, water, work, and friends. We have the capacity to build shelters, preserve food, care for the less able, learn, and tell stories so others benefit from our experience.

“Entitlements” merely alleviate our guilt over failing to live our lives to the fullest, which includes helping those in need and providing for ourselves. (On this point, I am no better than any and worse than many.)

We will never change the minds of Boomers and older generations about entitlements. The WWII generation invented the concept, at least as a pop culture truism. They won’t let go.

But Millennials might. So might Gen Xers, who never believed government promises to begin with.

The idea of entitlement destroys lives, especially the lives of the entitled. As Eric Greitens says in his new book, Resilience:

In the most prosperous moment in human history, tens of millions of people fail to flourish for lack of noble work to do, for lack of meaningful, hard, struggling engagement with the world.

Greitens, Eric (2015-03-10). Resilience: Hard-Won Wisdom for Living a Better Life (Kindle Locations 364-366). Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. Kindle Edition.

If we don’t change the popular misconception that people are entitled to other people’s money, it won’t matter whom we elect to Congress or the White House.

“Entitlement” is a terrible word. Let’s exorcise it from our culture. Never miss the opportunity to remind your fellows, especially those you care most about, you are entitled to nothing.

Author: William Hennessy

Co-founder of St. Louis Tea Party Coalition and Nationwide Chicago Tea Party Persuasive design expertLatest book: Turning On Trump: An Evolution (2016)Author of The Conservative Manifest (1993), Zen Conservatism (2009), Weaving the Roots (2011), and Fight to Evolve (2016)I believe every person deserves the dignity of meaningful work as the only path to human flourishing.

6 Comments on “You Are Entitled to Nothing

  1. I have been supporting the idea of making Social Security voluntary for years. I truly welcome the proposals by Paul Ryan to make it a system where you control your money and not the government. I have never heard anyone say that SSN should be eliminated but it must be changed. People under 55 should not be chained to this failed system. Unfortunately, it is too late for many of us that now depend on this ?&%#$!! but younger people should have the option to choose.

  2. Social Security and Medicare are not entitlements. They are programs people put money into. SSI and Medicaid are entitlements, because the Government, through these programs, give out taxpayers money to those who did not put into the system.

    1. Thanks, Greg. I agree that Social Security and Medicaid vary from some other entitlement programs, they are still entitlements under the law.

      From Auburn University:
      > The kind of government program that provides individuals with personal financial benefits (or sometimes special government-provided goods or services) to which an indefinite (but usually rather large) number of potential beneficiaries have a legal right (enforceable in court, if necessary) whenever they meet eligibility conditions that are specified by the standing law that authorizes the program. The beneficiaries of entitlement programs are normally individual citizens or residents, but sometimes organizations such as business corporations, local governments, or even political parties may have similar special “entitlements” under certain programs. The most important **examples of entitlement programs at the federal level in the United States would include Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid, most Veterans’ Administration programs, federal employee and military retirement plans, unemployment compensation, food stamps, and agricultural price support programs**.

      1. How come when the government threatens cutbacks, it’s always to social security benefits to people who paid into it all their lives, and never to handouts like food stamps and other welfare programs?

        1. Mike, the clip is fiction. I don’t think anyone is actually proposing what the character Frank Underwood proposes in the clip.

          On the other hand, I have proposed abolishing Social Security, but everyone who’s paid in would get every dime they paid in, with interest. Demagogues twist any reform talk and use people’s ignorance to block ideas, though. So most people never hear or consider the “get every dime” part. They only hear the lies.

          It’s important to note: whether people paid into Social Security or not, the system is insolvent and bankrupt. And it’s a morally repugnant system that steals earnings from future generations to benefit the present. Without reform, Social Security and Medicare will eventually issue rubber checks. Maybe Social Security will outlive you and me, but some generation will get screwed unless another generation finds the courage and creativity to fix the system.

        2. Many people, including politicians’ solutions to the problems facing Social Security are to raise taxes, cut benefits, means test, and raise the retirement age or a combination of them all. A “Conservative” answer would be privatization over Government running the plans. Retirement should be up to the individual when they have enough money to live the lifestyle they can afford.
          Many of those same people apparently do not know that Social Security was never meant to be paid out. It was meant to be a slush fund for the Democrat/Statists when it was set up by the Democrat/Socialist President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, FDR. Nevertheless, people paid into the Ponzi scheme of Social Security and Medicare and they should receive benefits from it.
          Some people make the point that people receiving Social Security get back more than what they contributed. Are they saying something is wrong with that? How would you explain a 401 k plan or other types of investments where people earn interest on the money they invested? They would be receiving more than what they contributed. It’s called compounding interest, look it up. The problem is Social Security is based on workers in the work force contributing to pay for retired workers. That is why the so-called “payroll tax” cut that Barack Hussein Obama is pushing is depleting the Social Security system ever further.
          The solution to the problem regarding Social Security is to privatize it. A similar solution should be done with Medicare. However, both parties, Republicans and Democrats are against privatizing Social Security, because they want control of the money. The Republicans and Democrats solution to Social Security is to raise the retirement age, raise taxes or cut benefits or a combination of all three and that frustrates me.
          It frustrates me when these fat bureaucrats say to raise the retirement age as a solution to Social Security problems. My question to them is, “Who are YOU to tell someone when they can retire.” Retirement should be up to the individual when they have enough money to live the lifestyle they can afford. It should be left up to the individual and everyone should have their own account. That is why the system needs to be reformed where everyone is eventually weaned off of the system and everyone would eventually get their own private accounts. It took us 75 years to get to where we are at today with Social Security, so I say have a 75 year plan to wean everyone from the current system to a private individually owned and controlled system. This is what should be done to reform Social Security. Anyone who says the solution to reforming the Social Security retirement system is to raise the retirement age, raise taxes or cut benefits should just STFU!

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