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3 words killing America today: ‘I am entitled’

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POSTED June 25, 2014 11:55 p.m.

Editor’s note: Dennis Wyatt is on vacation. This column first ran in December of 2010.

 

It was the ultimate defining moment for the out-of-control culture of entitlement.

And as such it helps explain why getting out of our government budget mess — especially at the state and federal levels — will be extremely difficult.

I was in the foyer of the Boys & Girls Club 15 years ago. I had been volunteered to act as the troubleshooter for Operation Christmas that the Manteca Chamber of Commerce had undertaken for a number of years. It involved rounding up 300 individuals willing to take $100 out of their own pockets and shop for clothes and a toy with one of 300 kids selected as the neediest in Manteca by a number of agencies including the school district.

Some people gave money and asked for volunteer shoppers as they had scheduling conflicts. There was one 13-year-old who had been saving money since the previous Christmas so he could help a needy kid. And there were several elderly people on limited income who said they had pooled resources with others their age because as children of the Depression they knew how tough it was on a kid to be without at Christmas.

It was organized pandemonium. There were 300 excited kids from ages 5 to 13. There were 300 “shoppers.”

As I was going over questions some of the shoppers had, this lady — and I use the term extremely loosely — barged in the front door and demanded to see who was in charge.

She then proceeded to rip me apart, the chamber apart and everyone else she could think of because she was angry that her children hadn’t been selected.

The phrase she kept using repeatedly was “they were entitled.”

I was able to get her to leave the building without responding directly to the inflammatory remarks she made about the chamber and my manhood.

When I got back inside, I was mortified. Here were people generously giving of their money and time. They were under no obligation.

I was apologizing on behalf of the chamber when one lady interrupted. She said there was no need to and that she understood what it was like to volunteer to help and be criticized unjustly. She added that she appreciated what the chamber was doing noting that everyone was thanking them — the donors — when someone should have been thanking the chamber for going to the effort and devoting time and energy to helping kids.

I never had thought of it that way, although I really believe the ones who open their wallets and hearts deserve the most thanks for extremely unselfish acts.

But even so, we need to keep the rude lady’s “entitlement” comments in mind as this state and nation wrestles with our economic future.

Everything government does has become an “entitlement” to someone so therefore it can’t be reduced or eliminated. That attitude is prevalent today more than ever.

One reason is we allowed — strike that — we encouraged government to take care of not just necessities we can’t do as individuals such as police, fire, streets, sewer, and so on but we have grown accustomed to believing the government should meet all of our needs and wants.

The mess in Sacramento is a prime example.

There is a $9.9 billion current year deficit plus a combined projected budget shortfall of $25 billion over the next 19 months.

A post-election survey by the Los Angeles Times/USC Poll found that 70 percent of state voters believe the budget can be balanced by cutting waste. Yet 75 percent thought eliminating the deficit will not require cuts in “key” programs.

Two in every five respondents believed incoming Gov. Jerry Brown’s top priority should be protecting education and health care for children and the poor from any cuts and — in many cases — they favor putting even more money toward those programs. That simply can’t be done as those programs account for about 70 percent of the general fund. 

As an added bonus 40 percent of Californians oppose tax hikes to pay for state provided services.

In essence we are all — to some degree — acting like that woman 15 years ago screaming that she is entitled. 

And until we all have an attitude adjustment as to what we should realistically expect government to do things are just going to get worse.

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