Let’s drop the whole notion of “entitlement.” Just eliminate it. Politicians, pundits and academics who talk about entitlements would then have to name the actual programs and argue their merits and demerits. This would encourage clarity and candor. Of course, that’s why it won’t happen. Generally, Americans don’t want clarity and candor in their fiscal debates. We blame our leaders for budget brawls — this latest was a doozy — but forget that our leaders are largely governed by public opinion, which is awash in contradictions.
So the government is “open” and the immediate threat of default has lifted. Great. But the political stalemate remains. Americans oppose excessive government spending and persistent deficits. Yet they also support the individual benefit programs (a.k.a. “entitlements”), led by Social Security, that drive spending and deficits.