I’m entitled

“Democracy does not guarantee equality of conditions – it only guarantees equality of opportunity.”

Irving Kristol, 1920-2009

American columnist

Undercover Boss is a television reality show in which a company CEO goes undercover in his or her own company, pretending to be applying for a job. On a recent episode, the CEO of Mack Trucks was learning how to put bumpers on the trucks, voicing concern that he was not going to get the job. His trainer offered a fascinating response, “I will give you a good opportunity.” What a wonderful definition of the American promise – “a good opportunity.”

Nevertheless, isn’t it a bit outdated in our entitled society, a society with a government determined to provide everything for everyone. This Mack Trucks’ employee must be referring to our ‘original’ United States Constitution rather than the ‘evolved’ Constitution of entitlements decades of Supreme Courts, Congresses and Presidents have distorted it into meaning.

Did the founding fathers think we were entitled to anything beyond fundamental rights, anything beyond opportunity?

No. They only intended to protect our rights as a free people and outline the federal government’s limited role safeguarding those rights. We are entitled to a government maintaining tranquility among the states, defense of the states, oversight of some common needs (general Welfare) of the states, and protection of our individual freedom (liberty).

Further, to better define our fundamental rights, the founding fathers added the Bill of Rights, the first ten amendments to the Constitution. That’s it. The rest of the brief document limits what the government can do to achieve these objectives.

But, the founding fathers actually did much more with the Bill of Rights than to simply define our rights. They also showed us the constitutional way to change the Constitution – pass of an amendment, not a Supreme Court ruling.

Further, they wrote the Constitution for you and me to understand, not for the exclusive use of legal scholars parsing the words into whatever meaning they choose. Where is the language in the Constitution that allows the federal government to “evolve” the Constitution to meet changing times and needs, let alone language that allows it to collect taxes for the purpose of income redistribution in its many forms?

My grandfather Gerbeling was a second generation American, his father emigrating from Prussia. He was a poor eastern Nebraska farmer who occasionally had to work off the farm to make ends meet. Some of those jobs occurred after Social Security came into being. This new federal program was controversial because it guaranteed you more money than you “voluntarily contributed,” the money provided in a Ponzi-scheme fashion from future generations.

Our Sundays were set aside for a family dinner at the large Gerbeling farmhouse table, usually having chicken grandpa killed that morning. My older brother remembers one Sunday when grandpa’s children were pushing him to apply for Social Security because he was “entitled” to it. Though only a few dollars a month, grandpa knew he would get more money than he had put in.

After politely, and repeatedly, saying he would not accept Social Security, he finally slammed his fist on the table, angrily saying, “That is charity, and by God I will starve before I accept charity.”

How times have changed. Do we still have an aversion to accepting more than we have earned, or do we now take pride in voting ourselves more than we have earned?

Columnist Dick Feagler summed up our options well when he wrote, “Equality of opportunity is freedom, but equality of outcome is repression.” It’s our choice. It’s worth some thought.

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