Everywhere you look today people are assessing their individual situations and the one striking thing is what might be best characterized as their sense of Entitlement. If you spent a good part of your life working for a union or as a government employee you expected that there would be a pension waiting for you when you retired. Your expectation is the entitlement to that pension. Another individual that either has to rely on social security, disability or government assistance feels entitled to receive those funds. Even corporations, farmers, other individuals that benefit by government programs feel entitled to those programs especially after years of receiving them.

The unfortunate thing about all the entitlements is that someone has to pay for them. There may not always be enough funds to continue these programs. Underfunded programs accumulate over time to create huge deficits. There seems to be no responsibility to determine how all programs collectively will be funded, especially over the long term (decades). Another characteristic of underfunded programs is “crowding out”. This is the process of where other necessary investments or programs can not be adequately funded and the future is compromised against the present. The infrastructure (bridges, roads, transportation systems, sewer lines, water treatment, etc.) is not maintained, education goes underfunded hurting the skills needed in the future to keep the country strong and prosperous.

What is even more concerning than the problems just described are the attitudes of people on a personal level. The sense of societal responsibility is a higher level of concern for others that we feel beyond ourselves and our family. If we do not care about about our own future it is highly improbable that we care about others, especially a bunch of strangers that we don’t even know. The sense of entitlement is an innate attitude that we all have to varying degrees. Its a comfort zone that we put ourselves into that basically says, “someone cares about me”, or “someone owes me something”. Parents have a natural desire to want the best for their children. That is either manifested by a parent giving things to the child or by teaching them to take care of themselves. The more a child is given things the more they feel entitled that society, everyone should give me “things” also.

The more a child is taught to be responsible for their own future, the less dependent they will on society as a whole and they will be less likely to develop an attitude of Entitlement. However, entitlements are seductive. We all want to crawl back into the womb and have someone else take care of us.The greater the challenges of life, the more we all want to have a break from reality. The sense of Entitlement also grows significantly when we watch others get more entitlements. We resent others that get welfare when we work two or three jobs to make ends meet. We resent anyone that gets over paid when our salaries keep getting cut back. On the flip slide our sense of Entitlement goes up and we care less about others’ situations.

Honestly, its a paradox. At the time when people need to be more charitable and care about what happens to others, is the time we are under the most stress and want to feel more entitled. Life in the U.S. Is going through a transformation. Before World War II till the early 1970’s, there seemed to be a general feeling that we needed to advance societal goals – Medicare, Social Security, greater benefits for workers, a minimum wage, pensions, welfare, subsidies for corporations, etc. However, things started to change during the Nixon administration. Inflation got so bad that rent controls and pay freezes started to become legislated. Workers benefits peaked about this time. Do you remember how delighted you were when dental and vision care was added to your health insurance? Even better, workers didn’t have to contribute to their health insurance.

Ohh for the old days. We have been on a steady slide since. Health care on the whole has been running twice the rate of inflation and employers started making employees contribute more and more to their coverage. It is very hard to give someone something then take it away from them. But that is exactly where we are at now. And there appears to be no end in sight to how much we have to give back. The battle-lines are forming. The ugly part of the debate is that the poorest people are being attacked for not contributing to society and being a massive drain on our resources. At the same time the richest people have been given greater tax breaks and influence over the political process. Taking a stance that taxes can not be raised one dime while expecting massive cuts in social programs is a divisive cruel attitude.

Again, on an individual level we are watching the depersonalization of our neighbors and alienation of co-workers from each other and the institutions that employ them. All corporations want to be more efficient, more productive and creative. Try to imagine having this expectation while at the same time squeezing employees more and more for concessions. At the family level parents love to be able to send their kids to college, helping to pay for part or even all of it. Now think of the same scenario where the parents’ future for retirement looks bleaker and bleaker. Pensions are either eliminated or they are under attack to be reduced. The demographics to support Social Security, Medicare and Government pensions are easily projected to drive the country towards bankruptcy. Very few families can afford to adequately save for retirement when they help their children with college expenses.

We are past the time where serious action needs to be taken to just mitigate the imbalance we have in the equation that is causing financial deficits. Further the deficit in our optimism about the future are growing greater.

The very first step that we need to discuss is the whole concept of Entitlement. Everyone needs to stop feeling entitled to special treatment. As previously discussed, it will not be easy. Many children were raised in an Entitlement environment. Families, living for generation under welfare, are no different than children being given everything during their formative years. Farmers and corporations expecting subsidies feel equally entitled. We are competing against other countries that have a much lower cost structure. Like it or not that is the world we live in now. We all enjoy the benefits of cheaper goods and services, but the wage disparity and cost of doing business in different countries is having a profound impact on the number and nature of available jobs here in the U.S.

The second step is to join the team. Either you believe that a coordinated team has a better chance at winning or you don’t. Having a sense of Entitlement destroys our team spirit. Therefore if we expect to having a winning team in the future then we need to attack the problem at its root. Hopefully you see it the same way. Stop feeling entitled; teach your children about self responsibility; and work together to bring fairness back to our discussions about our future.

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