Do Entitlements Kill the American Dream?

Entitlements (Photo credit: wstera2)

Right Fears Entitlements Are Killing American Dream : NPR.

National Public Radio (NPR) is running a series on the status of the American Dream as we move into the general election. The series is balanced to a great degree, something that I am certain requires some effort on the part of the Morning Edition team.

The program frames the disagreements between Republicans and Democrats as a difference between “opportunity” and “entitlement.” That may be the case, but if it is, it misses the point.

I haven’t taken any polls recently, but anecdote and experience suggest that the only liberals who disagree that the path toward prosperity is paved with opportunity are on the far left of the American political spectrum. In the same way, those who oppose any form of government assistance to Americans in dire straits sit on the furthest right extreme of that same political spectrum. What we need to do is to agree upon principles that will guide government’s approach to both opportunity and entitlements.

Ours are these:

1. Equal opportunity, not corporate welfare. Government should work to ensure equality of opportunity for all, without favor. Government should not be in the business of bestowing opportunity or of denying it, but of ensuring that neither government nor private entities can either bestow or deny it.

2. Entitlements should be a safety net, not a hammock. Government should provide entitlements only to the extent that they are necessary to ensure against the impoverishment or destitution of the citizen. Government should not be in the business of providing a comfortable life to its citizens, and the focus should be on ensuring that citizens are can provide for themselves.

The question, then, is how do we ensure equal opportunity and a social safety net, and stop both parties from spending tax dollars bestowing opportunity on politically connected corporations or politically powerful defenders of entitlements.

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