From Truth Out: http://truth-out.org/news/item/13130-entitlements-are-fundamental-human-rights-not-political-poker-chips-to-be-bargained-away
By Salvatore Babones
Wednesday, 05 December 2012
The basic necessities of life are not for government to give or withhold based on its current budget situation. They are things we are entitled to have, no matter how inconvenient it may be for our neighbors to pay for them.
In September 1974, Gerald Ford’s Office of Management and Budget (OMB) introduced a new term into the English language: “entitlement program.”
Journalist Edwin L. Dale Jr. (who later joined Ronald Reagan’s OMB as budget spokesperson) explained in the September 22, 1974 New York Times that the term “covers all those cases where the law creates a formula of some kind that entitles individuals or, in a few cases, state and local governments, to qualify for federal payments.”
Since Richard Nixon had just resigned on August 9, the nation may not have been paying much attention to technical briefings from the OMB.
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Ford’s OMB divided the federal budget into four categories, a basic division that is still used today. First came contractual obligations like interest on the debt. Interestingly, the OMB placed corporate welfare programs like federal mortgage insurance and farm price supports in this sacrosanct category.
Second came “entitlement programs” like Social Security, Food Stamps, Medicare and Medicaid. The OMB assumed that these could not realistically be cut because the people receiving them would raise hell if they were.
These were the programs that Nixon wanted to get rid of, but felt he couldn’t. He left Ford in no position to pursue an ideological crusade against them. Ford needed every vote he could get.
Third came defense spending, ring-fenced as always.
Last on the list, and first on the chopping block, came domestic discretionary spending – in other words, “government.” According to OMB data, domestic discretionary spending has fallen from 21.3 percent of all federal spending in 1974, to just 16.1 percent today. Under the Budget Control Act of 2011 domestic discretionary spending will suffer disproportionate cuts due to sequestration in 2012.
Of the four categories, Nixon prioritized interest payments to investors first, subsidy payments to individuals second, the military third and government last. The only major change to this formula came with election of Ronald Reagan, who moved the military up from third place to second. Subsequent presidents have followed Reagan’s lead.
Now that domestic discretionary spending has been eviscerated, anti-government forces have turned their attention to entitlement programs.
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