BY WILLIAM C. HENRY With all the controversy surrounding “entitlements” reverberating throughout the body politic lately, perhaps the time has come for a battle-hardened, been-there-done-that, professional bullshit detector like myself to weigh in on the subject and hopefully help explode the meritocracy myths the American Right has been relying on to protect the legacies of the wealthy and bolster the anti-social welfare, pro-greed and self-interest free will belief system they have cleaved to for over a century.
First things first: 1) My comments are intended to correlate with the 2nd Merriam-Webster definition of “entitlement,” namely: a government program providing benefits to members of a specified group; also: funds supporting or distributed to such a group; and, 2) I’ll be using the Right’s very own most universally advantaged entitlement to counter said myths and prove the point that there’s bound to be at least one hypocritical needle hidden in every Right Wing haystack.
Inasmuch as the Right side of the political spectrum believes so vehemently that the term “entitlement” is such an anathema it should be expurgated from the lexicon, they are left with an almost insuperable dilemma: how to explain away their near fanatical fight-to-the-death efforts to preserve and strengthen that most anti-meritocratic of all “entitlement” programs, INHERITANCE!
The Right can’t have it both ways. They can’t on the one hand advocate the abolishment of all entitlement programs, while on the other be willing to fall on their swords to protect their favorite. They can’t say out of one side of their mouths that need doesn’t entitle the have-nots to a portion of that which has accrued to the haves, while out of the other that a mere accident of birth by all means should or does. So, let’s take a look at how this granddaddy of all “entitlement” programs entails far more than just “last will and testament” and why some of it’s most unavoidable bequests are the least “deserved” of all.
I.Q. = You inherited it as a result of the genes your forebears passed along and the environment into which you were born. It’s simply the fortune, good or bad, of one’s conception. For better or worse–and, believe me, both are dead-on applicable to the subject at hand since a tilt of the scale either way has everything to do with your eventual outcome in life–you damn sure didn’t have a choice in the matter.
Education = There are two significant ways inheritance slants the education playing field and consequently one’s opportunity for ultimate success in life. The first is something called “legacy preference” (dad went there so you go to the front of the admission line as a result) and it’s one of the principal means by which the wealthy and influential insure a continuation of the caste. The other is the simple fact of mom and dad being able to afford (or not) the cost of a better education for you in the first place. In either case, there’s little or nothing you could have done about it.
Race/Religion/Ethnicity = For better (if you’re white, Christian, and of western European stock) or worse (if you’re other than white, other than Christian, or of other than western European stock) these inherited (yes, religion is inherited in that it’s passed along from parent to child) “characteristics” have altered your opportunities in America from the get-go. That’s right, fortunately or unfortunately as the case may be, you started out appearing on the outside, and believing on the inside, of a body whose built-in biases against you you damn sure could have done without. Talk about the luck of the draw!
So, as anyone with even a modicum of compassion or intelligence should plainly be able to see, much of what we don’t have was and remains beyond our reach or control. And it’s because of that irrefutable truth that whenever I hear the Right talk about how we all start out on a level playing field, or that there’s a reason Lady Justice always appears with a blindfold, or that in a bounteous it’s-all-out-there-for-the-
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Fed up early stage septuagenarian who has actually been most of there and done most of that. Born and raised in the picturesque Pocono Mountains. Quite well educated. Very lucky to have been born into a well-schooled and somewhat prosperous family. Long divorced. One beautiful, brilliant daughter. Two far above average grandsons. Semi-retired (how does anyone manage to do it completely these days?) and fully-tired of bullshit. Uncle of the Editor-In-Chief.
1,822 = The number of Americans killed in action in Afghanistan
18,342 = The number of Americans wounded in Afghanistan
0 = The number of financial industry kingpins indicted for having committed the most massive FRAUD in American history and wrecking the global economy, plunging untold millions into lives of misery and deprivation.