Talking past each other

One of the hard things about having a political discussion (besides the fact that a lot of people tend to go crazy whenever the general subject comes up) is that far too often we're operating from different notions of the facts and even speaking what amount to different languages.

Example: A lot of people seem to think that "entitlements" refers to aid for the poor or disadvantaged. Actually, in policy circles it means benefits that people are entitled to as a matter of law (which if you think about it makes sense). Entitlements include Social Security, Medicare, many veterans' benefits, military and federal civilian retirement pay, and so on,

Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) (what people used to call "welfare") was an entitlement, but that program was eliminated 15 years ago and replaced with a more restrictive set of block grants to the states. It's no longer an entitlement, and in fact recipients have a lifetime limit on the number of months they can use the program. (The limit varies from state to state, but the maximum is 60 months or five years.)

The is not to say that there are no entitlement programs aimed specifically at the poor. Medicaid is one that is. It's worth noting, however, that many Medicaid beneficiaries are former members of the middle class whose life savings have been eaten up by medical expenses and who are now in nursing homes. In fact, the majority of Medicaid spending is on behalf of the elderly poor.

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